It's a formula that, when followed, has been uber-successful for West Virginia. A key turnover against Maryland that turned into a score, a touchdown after a missed field goal at Texas, a late forced fumble recovery with which the offense gained the necessary first downs to run out all 3:55 left on the clock. But when the Mountaineers haven't capitalized, either on opponent mistakes or favorable circumstances, it has doomed them to close losses. The lack of ability to defend 94 yards late in regulation against TCU, or get a stop with half the field to cover for Oklahoma – again late in regulation.
"We have to take advantage of every opportunity, no matter if it's turnovers or scoring opportunities," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "You just can't predict a score. You just try to take advantage of every opportunity."
It has been the backbone of Syracuse's recent success, both in beating the Mountaineers and winning five of its last six this season. In the 2010 regular season series game in Morgantown, Syracuse used a 3-0 turnover advantage, all interceptions, for key points in a 19-14 upset. Last year, West Virginia forced Syracuse into 17 third down situations. But the Orange converted 12 on the way to a 49-23 blowout in the Carrier Dome. Consider, too, that of Geno Smith's 21 career interceptions, five have come against Syracuse. If WVU has similar numeric on Saturday, it has little chance to win the Pinstripe Bowl.
"Out offense has been up and down," Holgorsen said. "It's been a combination of things. … Syracuse has a great defense, so picking a score in the neighborhood of 49 or 63 would be ridiculous."
West Virginia will also face another familiar foe: The weather. The Bronx forecast calls for one to three inches of snow, with temperatures in the low-30s. The Mountaineers have missed some chances this year because of weather issues, most notably an inability to turn Texas Tech miscues, including a pair of turnovers, into points partially because of Smith's struggles with the wind. WVU had edges in time of possession, turnovers and penalties, yet got blown out 49-14 because Texas Tech took advantage of nearly every opportunity it had.
"I've become the weatherman lately," Holgorsen said. "Wind and wet are the two factors (that are difficult with which to deal). Snow doesn't bother as much. Ames, Iowa was about the most miserable situation I have been in, 30 degrees and the wind really blowing. But our guys are used to it. You have a game plan, you stick with it.
"We knew practice would be a challenge here," Holgorsen added. "The preparation was really accomplished back in Morgantown. It's been a challenge to maintain a routine, which is difficult to do. We've had a great time and we're anxious to play."