MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A young and aggressive Syracuse defense will greet No. 11-ranked West Virginia when it rejoins the fray from an off week Friday night at 8 in the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse has the Big East's Conference's worst-ranked pass defense, but the Orange is aggressive and will try to blitz and pose problems for prolific quarterback Geno Smith.
"To say they're not going to pressure is the same as saying that we're not going to pass the ball," said coach Dana Holgorsen.
"It's what they do, and they're good at it.
"When they bring it, we'll have to be able to recognize it and block the guys that are coming."
One linebacker in particular jumps off the page from a young but improving group.
"The freshman kid, No. 35, has some big-play potential to him," said Holgorsen. "They'll blitz him a bunch."
That "freshman kid" is weak-side linebacker Dyshawn Davis, a 6-foot-3, 213 pound force that is closing in on the Orange record for freshman sack leaders.
With four sacks, seven tackles for a loss of 38 yards and 15 solo tackles, Davis is expected to be a constant issue for the Mountaineers offense.
"I've seen it. Those guys do a great job disguising coverages and getting after the quarterback, sometimes [it's a] four-, five-, six-man rush," said Smith.
"My job is to eyeball it, see it, make my reads and deliver the ball on time."
Holgorsen said Smith will need to be acutely aware and make quick decisions.
"Geno will have to recognize it and know when he has to get rid of [the ball] or when he can hang onto it," said Holgorsen.
The Orange has allowed 293 passing yards per game this season, worst in the conference and 111th in the nation.
On the other hand, the Orange is ranked No. 4 in rushing defense in the Big East, allowing 104.3 yards a game.
NOTES -- West Virginia linebacker Doug Rigg will return to the lineup this week after missing two games with a wrist injury. His presence, said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, will provide more and needed depth.
The last time Holgorsen played in a dome was at Tulane a year ago, when he was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. The Carrier Dome tends to get quite warm, but Holgorsen said his experience at Tulane was the exact opposite. The difference is that at Tulane it was about 25, 30 degrees inside," said Holgorsen. "They had the air-conditioner set at 20 degrees because the Saints and Cowboys were playing the next day. They tried to get it as cold as they possibly could, so, when they put all the people in there, it wouldn't be so hot. It was cold."
Players left campus on their own for the first time since the season this past weekend, some going home to visit families, or friends in neighboring states. "I hope it was," said Holgorsen. "We didn't want them to go to Florida or Texas or any of that, so, if they were close like Ohio, some guys went up to Pittsburgh, Maryland that was fine. We checked their classes on Friday, but it was fine if they left Friday afternoon and came back Sunday morning. I was the only one late. I was a minute late, coming in at 3:31 p.m. Actually 30 seconds late."