Syracuse storms by WVU, 49-23

Syracuse defensive pressure, poor kick coverage leads to loss for No. 11 Mountaineers


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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- No. 11 West Virginia was humbled Friday night.

Quarterback Geno Smith struggled under constant pressure.

The defense was outplayed.

And kickoff coverage was downright terrible, giving up a 98-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and a 47-yard return that set up another score.

End result: Syracuse 49, West Virginia 23 -- a lopsided pounding by the Orange which looked far more like a nationally ranked team than the Mountaineers.

"It's tough. It hurts. I'm bleeding right now," said Smith, who threw two interceptions and completed 24 of 41 passes for 338 yards. "I've got to move on. I've just got to be a leader and help this team move on and get better. I believe we're going to fight back and come back from this."

Tight end Nick Provo scored three touchdowns for the Orange, his third on a drive that followed Smith's second interception.

Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib got rid of the ball quickly and was incredibly efficient doing so, dinking and dunking passes to complete 24 of 32 for 229 yards and four touchdowns.

"He made the right reads, he was getting the ball out of there so quick it was hard to get to him," defensive tackle Julian Miller said.

Syracuse rolled out 443 yards of offense, including 194 rushing yards -- the most West Virginia has given up all season.

"They physically whipped us from the opening whistle to the end of it" defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. "We have to learn from it. Sometimes you've got to take the bad with the good."

West Virginia drops to 5-2, 1-1 in the Big East Conference while Syracuse improves to 5-2, 1-1.

"We knew what we were getting ourselves into. They beat us on all three sides of the ball," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They outplayed us and outcoached us. It's as simple as that."

It started badly and just got worse.

By the end of the first half, Smith was sacked twice by defensive end Chandler Jones on back-to-back plays, hit after throws several more times, and under the most pressure he has seen all season.

West Virginia trailed, 21-9, by the break.

"They blitz almost on every snap," Holgorsen said. "Even when they didn't blitz their pass rush was better than our pass -locking. That's what really exposed us."

West Virginia's Shawne Alston cut the Orange lead when he muscled one into the end zone from fourth-and-inches as West Virginia started to fight its way back into the game early in the third quarter.

But after Alston's score the Orange returned the kickoff 47 yards to the West Virginia 49, setting up a six play touchdown drive, ending with a 29-yard pass to a wide open tight end David Stevens.

That gave Syracuse a 28-16 lead with 7:21 to go in the third.

West Virginia wentthree-and-out on the next series and the Orange answered with another strike -- an 11-play, 72-yard drive, finished with a 10-yard touchdown reception by tight end David Provo to go up, 35-16.

Smith was picked off on the next series and Provo scored again, this time on a 5-yard reception from Nassib to make it 42-16.

The Orange wasn't done then, scoring again to make it 49-23 in the fourth.

Syracuse started off strong.

Nassib struck first, finding Provo with a 3-yard touchdown pass with 4:15 to go in the first quarter.

West Virginia missed a tackle on second-and-long from the 34, giving Nassib a first down on the 7.

The Mountaineers were held to a 27-yard field goal on the next drive, Smith throwing incomplete under blitz pressure on third-and-goal.

Syracuse took a 14-3 lead on the next series, extended when West Virginia's Bruce Irvin was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Under more pressure, Smith hit Stedman Bailey for a 63-yard touchdown pass that initially was reviewed but stood.

A review showed Bailey's left foot, just barely stayed inbounds as he ran down the sideline to make it 14-9 with Tyler Bitancurt's kick.

But on the ensuing kickoff, the coverage unit gave up a 98-yard return for a score to give Syracuse a 21-9 lead.


Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com .


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