MORGANTOWN — Guz Malzahn is officially in uncharted territory.
UCF’s third-year head coach is going through something he’s never experienced before, a four-game losing streak.
“I know it’s the first time in college I’ve lost four games in a row, so it’s a little new territory with that,” Malzahn said Monday.
Malzahn, who had successful tenures at Arkansas State and Auburn previously and is coming off of back-to-back nine-win seasons with the Knights, said despite not winning in over a month, his team is as confident as ever.
“As far as our locker room, it’s strong,” he said. “Our guys are not flinching, they’re ready for the next game.”
Part of that confidence comes from the Knights’ (3-4, 0-4 Big 12) game last week in which they took No. 6 Oklahoma down to the wire in a 31-29 loss. The other part is that they have their starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee back.
“I could tell a media days, he’s the leader of their team,” said WVU coach Neal Brown, who will face Plumlee and UCF this Saturday. “Those guys feel confident with him out there, as they should.”
Plumlee, a fifth-year senior, was injured in the team’s second game of the season against Boise State. He returned in limited action two weeks ago against Kansas, but returned full-time last week against the Sooners, throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
“When he’s on the field, we’re a better team,” Malzahn said. “John Rhys is our leader and it’s just a different deal when we have him on the field.”
Plumlee still wasn’t 100% against Oklahoma, evident by the fact that he finished with negative rushing yards. A dynamic ball-carrier, Plumlee rushed for 862 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and had 163 yards and two scores in the first two games this year.
Brown said Plumlee reminds him of his own starting quarterback, the dual-threat Garrett Greene.
“It’s a lot of the same things I say about Garrett, talking about arm angles and quick releases,” Brown said.
Plumlee is also a dual-sport student-athlete. He started 58 games for the Knights’ baseball team in the spring, hitting .286 with 10 home runs.
Backup Timmy McClain played admirably while Plumlee was out, throwing for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns, but the team still hasn’t beaten an FBS team since Plumlee was fully healthy.
With Plumlee back in the starting role and nearing 100% health, Malzahn knows now is the time for the Knights to win again.
“Every week feels that way,” Malzahn said. “Every week we’ve got to win, that’s where we’re at right now. That’s what our guys are committed to doing.”
West Virginia and UCF will kick off from FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Fla. at noon on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on FS1.