MORGANTOWN - Simply put, Syracuse beat West Virginia at its own game Saturday at Mountaineer Field.
The Orange weathered an early storm, grabbed a lead, played field position and worked the clock in an effort to maintain that lead.
The West Virginia coaching staff tries to do things like this all the time. The fans hate it, as they all have a 'step-on-the-throat' mentality, but they got a chance to see how demoralizing it can be when their team is on the other side of it.
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said his team's game plan was simply to win, adding he doesn't think there's actually a formula that exists out there that will beat West Virginia.
"Our mindset was to not let them take us out of the game early, and let's get this game into the second half and see where we can go with it," Marrone said.
Well, Syracuse led 19-14 at halftime, then possessed the ball a full 5 minutes more in the second half while playing sticky, pressure defense, ground-controlled offense, and was willing to punt in every instance in an effort to make the Mountaineers go the whole field to score.
"That's what they did to South Florida," West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said. "Get a lead, pound the ball at you and keep the opposing offense off the field. It was very smart on Coach Marrone's part."
You bet defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel noticed it, too. He had to call a defense for 72 plays against the Orange offense, while Mullen was afforded just 53 play calls against the Syracuse defense.
"They wanted to shorten the game," Casteel said. "The way it turned out, that worked for them."
It was a game that featured a ton of failure by the Mountaineers, which certainly helped Syracuse's cause. Quarterback Geno Smith was intercepted three times, once in the end zone. The Mountaineers had their own INT called back by a penalty. They were unable to convert their only forced turnover into points, even though it came on the Syracuse 34. They were unable to contain the Orange's blitz, which led to six sacks of Smith, and sucked all the life out of the passing game. The most damning of all was Smith's feeling that the Mountaineers took a lot of plays off.
"A lot of positives, lot of positives out there (Saturday)," WVU head coach Bill Stewart said. "But the negatives outweighed them."
Still, Stewart insisted, they'll dust themselves off and be ready for Connecticut on Friday night.
"My God. I'm not going to go jump off the Westover Bridge, I can tell you that," Stewart said. "We've won the Big East one time when we were 7-0 since I've been here. Lot of football left, gang.
''There's only two ways to go, we either get better or we get worse. You don't stay the same time. I think they'll fight back, I know they will, because they're Mountaineers."