BRONX, N.Y. - Syracuse looked right at home in the frigid elements this afternoon, defeating West Virginia, 38-14, in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
The Orange (8-5) used a power ground game that produced a 200 and a 100-yard rusher, and was able to take advantage of the slippery conditions to slow down the Mountaineers’ sixth-ranked passing attack.
Prince-Tyson Gulley ran 25 times for 208 yards and two touchdowns and Jerome Smith added 157 yards on 30 carries to become the first duo to crack the 100-yard barrier against a Mountaineer defense this season. Syracuse had 369 yards rushing for the game.
“It wasn’t tricky, it was split-zone over and over and over again,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “Any time you get out-rushed by 300 yards (281) you’re going to have some problems.”
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith
came into the game ranked sixth in the nation in total offense (346.5 ypg.) and was the first quarterback in WVU history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, but the senior will finish his career winless against Syracuse.
Smith’s Mountaineer teams lost 19-14 to Syracuse in Morgantown in 2010 and dropped a 49-23 decision to the Orange in the Carrier Dome last season.
Today, West Virginia was chasing points from the moment Syracuse nose tackle Jay Bromley tipped Tyler Bitancurt
’s 46-yard field goal attempt on the game’s opening possession.
Syracuse led 12-7 at halftime behind a safety, a Ross Krautman 25-yard field goal and a Gulley 33-yard touchdown run. The Orange erupted for three second-half touchdowns, scored another safety when Smith was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, and added a second Krautman field goal from 36 yards, giving Syracuse a satisfying victory over its former Big East rival.
A key moment in the game occurred early in the third quarter after Syracuse had taken a 19-7 lead on a Ryan Nassib-to-Beckett Wales 10-yard touchdown pass. On the ensuing possession, the Mountaineers used a 59-yard Smith-to-Stedman Bailey
screen pass to get the football to the Orange 36. Three plays later, on a fourth and two, it appeared as if Andrew Buie
was going to score a 28-yard touchdown run, which would have closed Syracuse’s lead to five with a successful PAT, but the Mountaineers were penalized for holding – one of 10 flags thrown against West Virginia today.
“Not going to comment on that,” said Holgorsen of the holding call. “It all falls into one category, you get behind the chains, you get calls, you get called back, but you have to keep continuing to play and we did a poor job of overcoming.”
West Virginia was forced to punt after the penalty and immediately got the football right back when linebacker Isaiah Bruce
stepped in front of a Nassib pass at the Syracuse 25. But the Mountaineers gave it right back to Syracuse when the football slipped out of Smith’s hand as he was attempting to pass, and Dyshawn Davis jumped on it at the 33. On the very next play, Gulley broke the game wide open with a 67-yard touchdown run, going untouched down the West Virginia sideline for his second TD run of the afternoon.
Then three minutes later, Gulley tallied his third score on a 10-yard pass from Nassib to give Syracuse a 33-14 lead.
Both West Virginia touchdowns were produced by Stedman Bailey
, who broke free on a screen pass for a 32-yard TD in the second quarter and then beat Syracuse defensive back Braddon Reddish down the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown with 5:41 left in the third quarter. Bailey’s score closed Syracuse’s lead to 26-14.
Today’s loss represents a disappointing ending to the fabulous careers of Smith, Bailey and Tavon Austin
Smith completed 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns to end his career with 11,658 yards passing and 98 touchdowns – both WVU records.
“The weather obviously had some effect (on Smith’s performance today),” said Holgorsen. “They didn’t throw for many yards, either, but it’s hard to pinpoint one thing. We did a poor job of overcoming adversity and there was a lot of adversity. The surface was not good; it was sloppy out there and wet and you just can’t sit there and point out Geno.
“The O-line had a hard time of sitting down and the receivers had a hard time running routes. The team with the best running game was going to win and they clearly had the better running game.”
Bailey caught seven passes for 126 yards and the two TDs, giving him 113 catches for 1,627 yards and 25 touchdown receptions for the season. Bailey, who announced earlier this month that he will be entering this year’s NFL draft, ended his Mountaineer career with 209 receptions for 3,223 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Austin’s 2012 season totals include 112 catches for 1,280 yards and career totals of 286 catches for 3,404 yards and 29 touchdowns. Austin led West Virginia with 54 yards rushing and finished the game with 150 all-purpose yards, giving him a school-record 7,284 all-purpose yards for his career.
“Our seniors, each and every one of them, have overcome a lot,” said Holgorsen. “They overcame coaching changes and they overcame conference changes and they mean a lot to me and the coaching staff, and we appreciate what they have done and they can always come back.”
West Virginia concludes its season with a 7-6 record.