NEW YORK -- Veteran center Joe Madsen was ruled academically ineligible and did not make the trip to New York for the Pinstripe Bowl.
"Disappointed that he didn't take care of business," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said at the introductory news conference Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. "The expectation for our guys is to go to class, get good grades and leave West Virginia with a good quality education. Joey fell short of that, and we're disappointed he did."
Madsen, who had started a record 50 games at West Virginia, only missed one other game -- the Champs Sports Bowl two years ago because of the same problem.
Holgorsen did not reveal Madsen's replacement and quipped, "that's for me to know and you guys to try and figure out" just minutes before quarterback Geno Smith said he has faith that guard Jeff Braun can fill in for Madsen Saturday against Syracuse. Pat Eger is expected to move into Braun's role.
"Braun is a guy who has pretty much started at every position on the offensive line. We expect him to carry his weight as he always does," Smith said. "It's unfortunate that Joey wasn't here to be with us. But that's really his fault.
"He can't blame anyone but himself."
Smith said he and his teammates gave Madsen a hard time about it, but he will always support his longtime center.
"Of course. We gave him a hard time. But we still love him. He's my teammate. I wish the best for that guy," Smith said.
Holgorsen said Madsen's absence will mean the offense will lean on Smith to pick up blitzes and shoulder some of Madsen's role.
Syracuse gave the Mountaineers all they could handle a year ago when the teams met at Carrier Dome for the final time as members of the Big East Conference.
"They're a well-coached defense that plays hard, with tremendous effort. They're gonna blitz us.
"Last year, their first 18 blitzes were all different. That makes it challenging on us, and it's going to be challenging for us up front to be able to handle that," said Holgorsen.
"Probably going to rely on Geno to see some things more so than we have in the past. He can point out a lot of blitzes and get us targeted. ... I think Geno can do that."
Syracuse defensive coordinator Scott Shafer said knowing Madsen will be replaced with a less-seasoned center, doesn't really change the game plan or mean they'll dial up particular blitzes.
"What you do is what you do. You play as hard as you can and don't worry about that," Shafer said.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and on Twitter: @JennMenendez. First Published December 27, 2012 5:00 AM