The Orange ended the season on a high note with their 38-14 drubbing of West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. Aside from absolutely dominating the ground game, it’s hard to imagine any more breaks going the Orange’s way. Penalties, missed interceptions, and even questionable referee calls all played a factor in Syracuse’s dismantling of the Mountaineers.
That’s not to say that SU didn’t deserve this game. They kept WVU’s vaunted attack of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and company in check. Seemingly every potential big play was sniffed out early by the swarming linebackers, or each large gain nullified by a holding penalty. It’s a testament to the Syracuse coaching stuff and players for executing a gameplan that they had nearly a month to perfect.
So who are the big winners from the Orange? Clearly, Prince-Tyson Gulley needs to be the first name mentioned. Syracuse’s first 200 yard rusher since Damien Rhodes in 2005, his big-play ability was key to handling West Virginia’s quick touchdowns. Jerome Smith can’t be forgotten either, as he provided power rushes to batter the WVU defense the entire game. Syracuse fans need to be PSYCHED that both of these guys are coming back next year, as having a consistent rushing game is imperative with a new starter at Quarterback.
Speaking of QB, it was a formidable swan song for Ryan Nassib. While his numbers weren’t spectacular, he managed the game perfectly and made all of the right decisions in attacking the porous West Virginia D. Jesse Palmer and Chris Fowler talked about it all game, but his draft stock really has soared the second half of this season. He ends his career with his second Pinstripe (and overall) Bowl victory, and will surely be talked about with the greatest quarterbacks in Syracuse history. Nassib has improved in each of his season’s as a starter and will be remembered for part of the change in culture at SU following the lowly G-Rob years. He’ll be remembered fondly and missed by all Syracuse fans next year.
The cold and snowy conditions couldn’t have worked out more perfectly for Syracuse. West Virginia’s attack relies on the speed and quick cuts of Bailey and Austin, which clearly wasn’t happening with the shape the field was in Saturday. The SU defense was EVERYWHERE, constantly swarming the ball and not really giving up any easy yardage aside from the two touchdown plays. That counts as basically perfect against this offensive attack. The fact that the Orange forced two safeties sums up just how dominant their defense was against a rival.
The 10 play, 80 yard drive right out of the gate in the 2nd half was exactly what Syracuse needed to grab a firm hold on this game. It gave them a 19-7 lead and established a constant pressure that West Virginia felt the entire second half. By all counts, it can’t be overstated how much Syracuse dominated this game. They ran 30 more plays than West Virginia, outrushed them 376 to 100 yards, and possessed the ball for 35 minutes. This was also despite having 2 turnovers to WVU’s 1 (although that doesn’t include the safeties).
The Orange finish the year riding a 4-game winning streak and record of 8-5, with their second bowl victory in 3 years. This generally exceeded everyone’s expectations, with the icing on the cake being a bowl win coming against a Big12 school and former conference rival. While more football recaps will come later in the week, let’s bask in the glow of a great end to a satisfying season!