The Mountaineers gave up 511 yards of offense. They allowed two backs to run for more than 150 yards after not allowing a 100-yard rusher all season. They were shutout on third and fourth down conversions, going a combined zero for 12 in those situations. They amassed 10 penalties for 106 yards. There were three fumbles, two safeties, one interception and a temper tantrum by head coach Dana Holgorsen that caused a burned timeout for the sole sake of continuing to argue with an official.
"We didn't overcome adversity," Holgorsen said. Or anything else in arguably the worst bowl performance for WVU since the 2004 Gator Bowl, when Maryland dominated West Virginia in a 41-7 game that wasn't that close. It was a shockingly one-sided outcome for the Orange, who dominated along the line of scrimmage and played physical, tough football in an environment calling for it to beat WVU for a third consecutive season.
West Virginia might have been doomed from the beginning. The Pinstripe Bowl had an eerily similar feel to the Mountaineers' 48-22 loss to Virginia in the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl. Both WVU teams were passed over by more prestigious bowls and played an underwhelming on-paper foe in a cold weather venue in a minor game. The fan base certainly wasn't excited, and it appears that the feeling seeped into the team's performance as well.
Geno Smith completed 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, but never got comfortable in the pocket or with downfield throws. He was sacked once for a safety and was flagged for intentional groundoing while in the end zone, giving Syracuse a second safety – the first time the Mountaineers have allowed two in one game since 2002 at No. 13 Virginia Tech.
Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin never got going because of poor footing and mediocre – at best blocking by the Mountaineer line. Austin netted 54 yards rushing and 21 receiving while Bailey had 126 yards receiving, most on two big plays.
Hlolgorsen admitted West Virginia left a lot of points and plays on the field. But more than anything, it was simply beaten by a team with far superior execution and blocking ability. Prince-Tyson Gulley continually gashed the Mountaineers (7-6), totaling 208 yards – by far the most allowed by WVU this season. Syracuse's zone runs gutted the West Virginia 3-4 set, and its ability to mix in screens as well kept West Virginia off balance all game.
"I definitely don' think it was scheme," WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "We tried to do some things with the linebackers, move them around (to compensate for Syracuse), but we didn't execute. You have to stop the run to win."
And West Virginia didn't. Syracuse, which won its second Pinstripe Bowl in three years in front of39,098, controlled from the very start, leading 12-0 on the strength of Ross Krautman's 25-yard field goal, Cameron Lynch's safety sack of Smith and Gulley's 33-yard run up the middle. The Orange could have led by more, but
Offensive Player of the Game
126 yards on seven catches
Broke two big plays
were stuffed three times inside the five-yard line on the finest goal line stand of the season for the Mountaineers. The stop seemed to energize the entire team, and West Virginia finally responded with a 32-yard strike from Smith to Bailey to trim the deficit to 12-7 with 3:38 left in the half. Bailey broke a pair of tackles for the touchdown, which really the only pulse the Mountaineers showed all game.
Syracuse steadily pulled away, opening the second half with a touchdown drive capped when Nasssib's pass, tipped by Isaiah Bruce, landed in the hands of tight end Beckett Wales for a 10-yard score. WVU, trailing 19-7, seemed primed to answer when Bailey broke a short pass into a 59-yard gainer. But Andrew Buie's touchdown run was nullified by a holding call that incensed Holgorsen, who called a timeout to continue to berate an officiating crew that denied him the ability to speak with the official he desired.
That possession eventually ended with a punt, and Bruce's interception of a SU quarterback Ryan Nassib on a hook route set-up the Mountaineers inside Syracuse territory. But, once again, the inability to capitalize hurt the Mountaineers as Smith fumbled away a chance and SU turned the miscue into another score on the very next play, Gulley ripping off a 67-yard touchdown run for a 26-7 lead with 6:52 remaining in the third.
Syracuse was finding its rhythm by then, mixing the zone read with screens to keep West Virginia's defense off balance. Even when Smith hit Bailey for a 29-yard touchdown to get the Mountaineers within 26-`14, SU was unfazed, simply getting back to its ground game and churning out another Gulley
Defensive Player of the Game
2 sacks for minus-12
score, this via a nine-yard pass from Nassib that pushed Syracuse in front 33-14 with 2:52 left in the third quarter. The blow was essentially a knock out punch, and the snowball effect continued when Smith was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the next series. The senior held the ball far too long and desperately flung it while falling in the end zone for a 35-14 Syracuse lead. The Orange added another field goal for the final margin.