West Virginia-Syracuse Preview

It’s been a bumpy ride for Geno Smith and West Virginia, who had

BCS aspirations earlier this year before coming undone

mid-season.

The Mountaineers, though, have since regrouped and will surely

be looking to come out strong against a familiar foe at Yankee

Stadium.

Smith concludes his remarkable college career as West Virginia

and Syracuse square off for the 60th time in the Pinstripe Bowl on

Saturday.

While the Mountaineers (7-5) climbed their way to No. 5 in the

country after averaging 52.0 points during a 5-0 start, things

didn’t exactly go their way thereafter. West Virginia lost its next

five games, eliminating any hopes of playing in a BCS bowl.

Coach Dana Holgorsen’s program, however, put an end to its woes

with a 31-24 win at Iowa State on Nov. 23, then blew by Kansas

59-10 in its regular-season finale the following weekend.

“We finished the season strong with two straight wins, and I am

glad our players get the reward of playing in a bowl game,”

Holgorsen said. “This will be West Virginia’s 11th straight bowl

appearance and one more chance for our fans to see the 2012

Mountaineers. Playing in New York City will provide a national

stage and Yankee Stadium will be a great venue for our seniors to

finish their careers.”

Most of the headlines surrounding this game figure to highlight

Smith, who’s shattered school records with 11,461 passing yards and

96 touchdowns. He’s thrown for 4,004 yards and an FBS-best 40

scores this season and completed 23 of 24 passes for 407 yards and

three TDs against the Jayhawks to tie a single-game FBS record with

a 95.8 completion percentage.

“He’s been playing well. He’s played well all year, he’s a great

quarterback, and I’m proud of his accomplishments,” said Holgorsen

of Smith, who threw for 407 yards and six TDs as West Virginia

routed Clemson 70-33 in last season’s Orange Bowl. “He’s a great

kid and he will be remembered around here for a long, long

time.”

While West Virginia and Big East co-champion Syracuse (7-5) met

every year from 1955-2011, the programs didn’t figure to square off

in 2012 after the Mountaineers bolted to the Big 12. The Orange had

dropped eight straight matchups in this series before taking the

last two, winning 19-14 in 2010 and 49-23 last season. Smith has

been sacked nine times in those losses, throwing just three

touchdowns and five interceptions.

“I think we’re gonna be motivated to play based on what happened

last year,” Holgorsen said. “I think there’s gonna be a lot of

familiarity with it. We will revisit that, obviously watch the film

from last year, watch their film from this year and try to come up

with the best plan that we possibly can.

“I think it’s a fantastic matchup, I think the fans are gonna be

excited about it. I think college football in general is gonna be

excited about it.”

While the Schwartzwalder Trophy was introduced to this series in

1993, it won’t be on the line this time around.

“I think one of the things we all have to be conscious of is

that to the right of us is the Steinbrenner Trophy,” Syracuse coach

and Bronx native Doug Marrone said when asked about the

Schwartzwalder Trophy. “That’s what we’re both here for. I think

it’s very important that we all understand that.”

Marrone’s team enters this matchup riding a wave of momentum.

After beating then-No. 11 Louisville 45-26 on Nov. 10, the Orange

pulled out road wins over Missouri and Temple to earn a share of

the conference title.

Syracuse is led by senior Ryan Nassib, whose school-record 3,619

passing yards rank 10th in the country. He could be in for a big

day against a Mountaineers defense thats given up 38.1 points per

game – the nation’s ninth-worst mark.

Starting linebacker Marquis Spruill will not play “a significant

portion” of this game because of his arrest following an

altercation with police Dec. 2. Marrone did not specify how much of

the Pinstripe Bowl that Spruill will miss against a West Virginia

team averaging 41.6 points to rank seventh in the FBS.

Syracuse has also suspended sophomore tailback Adonis

Ameen-Moore and reserve tight end Max Beaulieu for violating

athletic department rules. Ameen-Moore, who was used mainly in the

short-yardage formation, gained 108 yards on 30 carries and scored

five touchdowns in the six games he played.

The Orange will need to be especially wary of Smith’s favorite

target, Stedman Bailey. The 5-foot-10 wideout is averaging 125.1

yards and leads the nation with 23 TDs, and on Dec. 17 announced

he’d forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Syracuse, which is headed to the ACC next season, is 13-9-1

all-time in bowl games. The Orange most recently beat Kansas State

36-34 in the inaugural 2010 Pinstripe Bowl behind Nassib’s 239

passing yards and three TDs.