Orange plows over Mountaineers in Pinstripe Bowl
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith passes in the snow against Syracuse in the second quarter of the Pinstripe Bowl.
Syracuse defenders bring down West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith for a safety in the first half of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York.
Syracuse wide receiver Jarrod West and tight end Beckett Wales begin to celebrate as running back Prince-Tyson Gulley runs for a second-quarter touchdown against West Virginia.
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NEW YORK -- West Virginia's season finale could not have gone much worse Saturday at snow-covered Yankee Stadium.
The Mountaineers got bulldozed, 38-14, by old rival Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl to cap a season in which they started 5-0 and finished 7-6.
The Orange rushed for 369 yards over the baseball-diamond-turned-football field to run away with the game.
"The surface was not good. It was sloppy out there. It was wet. You can't just sit there and pinpoint [quarterback Geno Smith]," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Our offensive line had a hard time of sitting down and our receivers had a hard time running routes. The team with the best run game was going to win, and they clearly had the best running game."
Syracuse got three touchdowns from Prince-Tyson Gulley -- two on runs and a third on a 10-yard reception after a pass was tipped by a linebacker -- to take command by the end of the third quarter.
Gulley finished with 208 rushing yards and was one of two running backs who repeatedly beat West Virginia's defense. The other was Jerome Smith, who gained 157 yards on 30 carries.
"I was surprised. I didn't think they'd be able to run the ball on us like that," said Keith Patterson, recently promoted to defensive coordinator. "Bottom line is they ran the football, and we didn't stop them. I can't give a definite reason without watching the video. ... I think I have an idea, but I don't want to identify that until I have a chance to evaluate."
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib completed 12 of 24 passes with one interception for 127 yards and two touchdowns but had his run game to fall back on.
But the loss also stemmed from a lack of production by West Virginia's offense.
Smith had an unspectacular game in his finale as a Mountaineers player. He was sacked in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter, then gave up another safety in the third with an intentional grounding in the end zone.
He completed 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, but also fumbled to turn over the ball after a big turnover by his defense.
The entire offense -- what this team was once known for -- was so unspectacular it failed to convert any of 11 chances on third down and also went 0 for 3 on fourth.
"Conditions did play a big role in how we were able to execute our offense. Conditions were horrible, but we still tried to do as best as we could. Syracuse did a good job," said wide receiver Stedman Bailey, who scored on pass receptions of 32 and 29 yards. "That's not the way we wanted to go out."
The Mountaineers started slow but were still in the game at halftime, trailing, 12-7.
The Orange scored quickly after the break to take a 19-7 lead when Nassib's pass from the 10 was tipped by a West Virginia linebacker and landed in the hands of tight end Beckett Wales.
On the Mountaineers next possession, Andrew Buie appeared to bust a long touchdown run, but the play was called back on a late holding flag that sent Holgorsen into a fit of fury on the sideline. First, he threw his headset, then his hat.
"That's the way the game goes. Momentum is huge," Smith said.
"We've got to do a better job of handling adversity and getting past that. It did play a key role at that time."
Isaiah Bruce intercepted a Nassib pass on the next possession, but Smith lost a fumble a play later.
Holgorsen challenged the call, hoping forward motion might equal an incomplete pass, but the play stood.
On Syracuse's first play after that, Gulley took a handoff and went 67 yards for his second long rushing score.
From there, the Orange ran away with it, extending their dominance over West Virginia and Smith to 3-0 in the past three years.
Syracuse players said they felt justified with the win.
"It was about us going out there and getting respect," Orange lineman Justin Pugh said. "They didn't give us any respect. We kind of said three strikes you're out. Beat them three straight times, so they really can't say anything now."
"[Saturday] wasn't one of my best efforts but I don't think I did a terrible job," Smith said. "One game does not sum up an entire career. What I do in college has nothing to do with what I do at the next level."
Exactly when these two teams will meet again is unclear with the Mountaineers in the Big 12 Conference and the Orange heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.
First Published December 30, 2012 12:00 am