We are eight days away from the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl match up between Syracuse and West Virginia. Here is a perspective from the other sideline with a few questions for Kenneth Durbin, editor of Hail WV.
ITLH: First thing’s first. A lot of Syracuse fans are not happy that the Schwartzwalder Trophy isn’t up for grabs in this game. Doug Marrone has come out and said that it is because the focus should be on the George Steinbrenner Trophy, and not the rivalry trophy. The Pinstripe Bowl has also seemed to embrace the rivalry leading up to the game. Are you buying it, or do you think there were outside influences for this trophy not being on the line? What is the vibe throughout the West Virginia fan base in regards to the Schwartzwalder Trophy?
KD: West Virginia fans are irked by the decision to not put the Schwartzwalder trophy on the line. The perception on this side of the fence is that the Orange are not interested in taking a chance of surrendering the trophy without a scheduled future re-match. WVU fans have gone so far as to start online petitions to demand that the Schwartzwalder trophy be part of the Pinstripe Bowl bounty. I doubt the petition will work, which is a shame. What good is firing up an old rivalry if you cannot play for the rivalry trophy?
ITLH: The Mountaineers started off hot and looked like they were going to compete for a national championship. They had a nice win against Texas on national TV before going on a five game skid. What went wrong? Has WVU fixed these issues?
KD: The Mountaineers had issues well before the Texas win on the defensive side of the ball. The weak defense was clearly exposed by the Baylor Bears when the Mountaineers surrendered 63 points. When WVU hit the 5-game skid, it was due in large part to offensive struggles. To that point in the season, the offense played flawlessly, but when they came back down to earth, the defense could not keep the team in the win column. The offense is certainly not back to where it was at the start of the season, but the defense had made major strides and is fairly competitive now.
ITLH: Last year in the Carrier Dome we saw the Syracuse pass rush dominate the line of scrimmage, getting to Geno Smith a number of times. While Syracuse does not have an equivalent pass rush this season, they will still look to blitz Smith throughout the evening. What adjustments will West Virginia make to slow down the pass rush?
KD: West Virginia has enjoyed the play of an excellent group of offensive lineman this season. They have done a great job of keeping Geno upright for most of the season, especially against the top defensive fronts of Texas and Oklahoma. If Syracuse manages to find their way into the backfield early, they should be weary of quick slants and draws to the electrifying Tavon Austin. I expect that Austin’s explosive play will be a good deterrent to a blitz-happy defense.