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
The Mountaineers, though, have since regrouped and will surely
be looking to come out strong against a familiar foe at Yankee
Smith concludes his remarkable college career as West Virginia
and Syracuse square off for the 60th time in the Pinstripe Bowl on
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
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.