0 Comments Published on 10.26.2010 by Brian Harrison
Good to see you again. It's been a while.
I was wrong. I am completely fine with being wrong. All logic dictated that Syracuse should and would lose in Morgantown this past weekend. Syracuse had not beaten West Virginia since 2001. West Virginia was ranked the 20th best team in the country. By all measures West Virginia had more talent than Syracuse. None of it mattered. The Syracuse defense, and the team as a whole, did just enough to beat West Virginia, get back to second place in the Big East, and beat the #20 team in the nation. They earned respect and a statement win of this program in the Doug Marrone era. West Virginia falls to the Orange 19 to 14.
This really isn’t the offense’s fault. Syracuse was facing one of the toughest defenses in the country. Delone Carter was knocked out in the second quarter with a bruised hip. Syracuse faced a lot of adversity in this one, and still somehow managed to play a smart, grinding football game that really put a premium on field position. Ryan Nassib (5/15, 63yds, 1 TD, 0 INT) did not dazzle anyone with his effort on the day. But he managed to do what Syracuse needed. He held onto the ball and did not give it away to West Virginia. Delone Carter finished with 75 yards on nine carries before he left, and then Antwon Bailey took over nicely, earning 94 yards on 19 carries. Syracuse again needs to improve its third down conversions as they only had four of 14 as well. They only earned 246 yards on the day, which was a problem as well. Syracuse failed to earn seven points on several red zone trips, having to settle for field goals. Granted they were facing a tough defense, but Syracuse needs to find a way to score in those situations. Overall an average day for the offense, but it was enough, which against this tough a team is pretty astounding.
The defense is the reason Syracuse won the game. Syracuse held West Virginia scoreless for the final three quarters of this game. Not only that, but Syracuse intercepted Geno Smith three times, one of which from inside the end zone. Smith was held to only 178 yards and a touchdown as well. The Syracuse secondary, on occasion, would allow a somewhat big or important pass play in this game to allow drives to continue. They also received some costly personal foul penalties, most correct, some not. However, West Virginia only went 6-17 on third down conversions, 1-2 on fourth down conversions, and only gained 284 total yards on the day. For a defense that was essentially outmatched on paper, they sure got to the quarterback, pressured him, and after his second interception, Smith was clearly shaken the rest of the day. This was an excellent effort from Doug Hogue, Chandler Jones, Mikhail Marinovich, and the entire front seven. And the secondary held when they needed too as well.
This grade should be lower. Max Suter gave West Virginia a free possession well into their own territory, which is still unacceptable. However Ross Krautman kicked four field goals (28, 19, 33, 22) and an extra point on the day which gave Syracuse the scoring edge. Additionally, Rob Long finally proved he deserved to be mentioned as the best punter in the league after some marginal games. He kicked six times for a total of 310 yards, two of which were inside the 20, and one that landed on the six yard line that was brilliantly covered by the team. Additionally, the punt coverage, and even kick coverage this game, were excellent.
How perfect was the defensive game plan from Scott Shafer? You saw various coverages in this game that we have not seen before, including showing false blitzes and then dropping back in coverage. And Geno Smith looked bewildered by the coverage on several occasions. You saw this after an adjustment as well. In the first few series Geno Smith and the WVU defense moved the ball with relative ease. After scoring their second touchdown West Virginia failed to score again. That was huge and excellent coaching on the part of Syracuse. While the offense couldn’t really adjust, they still got some key first downs when needed, and the calls were good, they were simply getting beat by an excellent West Virginia defense. A very solid day from the standpoint of the staff though.
“The defense played lights out today. There’s no arguing that.” That quote from QB Ryan Nassib sums up the day perfectly. Football is a team game, and the 11 players on defense deserve a hell of a lot of credit for this win. West Virginia, due to their long, sustained drive at the end of the game ultimately to no avail, gave WVU the time of possession edge. The Syracuse defense held strong, and in four down territory provided the coverage needed to prevent a Geno Smith pass, but also the pressure to get to him and sack him twice in a row to end the WVU drive and assure Syracuse the victory. While there are still some problems with the offense in a game like this, you cannot be too upset by beating the #20 team in the country through field position, physical defense, and being smart with the football.
Syracuse next takes on Cincinnati. The Orange are 2-0 on opponent’s Homecomings. It is Cincinnati’s Homecoming this upcoming weekend. Additionally, Cincinnati is coming off a weeknight loss to USF, a team that looks to have its act together. Cincinnati has been, like every team in the Big East, pretty bi-polar. On occasion looking good, other times looking bad. Either way, it should be an entertaining game and another opportunity for Syracuse to show what they are capable and demonstrate that this is a solid football team and that they simply had a bad game against Pittsburgh. Either way, should be an entertaining one.