By Cliff Nichols
Times West Virginian
NEW YORK —
West Virginia University’s defense made a handful of plays during the Mountaineers’ 38-14 loss to Syracuse in Saturday’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
It was not nearly enough, though, on a cold, snowy and rainy day when the offense struggled badly and the defense was gashed by the Orange’s running game.
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen pointed out that WVU, during a 7-6 season that ended with six losses in eight games after a 5-0 start, was generally able to hold its own along the line of scrimmage.
No so against Syracuse, which finished 8-5.
“Our pass defense was bad, but our run defense was OK,” Holgorsen said. “Being a game like this where you have to rely on your run defense to help you win and you’re not able to do it, it’s pretty frustrating.
“I give Syracuse credit. They did a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage, and they did a better job of running downhill.”
Indeed. Prince-Tyson Gulley ran 25 times for 208 yards and two touchdowns. On TD runs for 33 yards in the second quarter and 67 yards in the third, he was virtually untouched.
Jerome Smith added 157 yards on 30 carries for the Orange, which had 511 total yards, 369 running the football.
WVU, meanwhile, finished with 88 rushing yards on 37 tries. With WVU trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, safety Darwin Cook’s smashing hit capped a goal-line stand.
Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith, though, was then sacked for a safety, part of a day when he completed 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked three times and was the victim of another safety when he was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone.