The West Virginia Mountaineers were unable to mount a comeback in the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl, falling to the Syracuse Orange by a score of 38-14.
In their 11th straight bowl game, the Mountaineers were unable to stop an impressive Orange ground game, while their own offense struggled to take off until late in the game. Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey had their contributions felt, but the Mountaineers ground game could not match the 376 yards gained by the Orange. Defensively, Terence Garvin had a tremendous game but the defense as a whole had few answers for the Orange.
Let's take a look at the Mountaineers' final postgame grades and evaluations.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Geno Smith’s final game with the Mountaineers did not end the way he had hoped, and did not match the type of high scoring affair that the team had seen throughout the season.
The first quarter saw Smith, and the rest of the Mountaineers offense, have to adjust to the snowy weather conditions at Yankee Stadium. Smith threw for just 17 yards, and had completed just three of six passes for eight yards early in the quarter. By the end of the quarter Smith had a nine-yard completion, but was throwing to receivers who also had to adjust to the conditions, leading to a few dropped passes early.
Smith was able to connect with Stedman Bailey for a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but the score came after Smith was sacked in the end zone for a safety. The second quarter saw only one drive for the Mountaineers go for more than 10 yards, as two drives resulted in negative yardage.
Smith again found Bailey in the third quarter for a deep gain, this time connecting for a 59-yard completion. Both of Smith’s passes to Bailey were for short gains, but Bailey was able to pick up extra yardage after the catch. Smith hit Bailey for another touchdown for 29-yards, but the score came between a fumble by Smith and another safety.
Unfortunately, Smith and the Mountaineers offense had the ball for just a few minutes in the fourth quarter. Smith completed a pass to Tavon Austin on a play in which a holding penalty was called against the Mountaineers, before hitting Bailey for minor gains late in the quarter.
Despite the slow start, Smith was able to complete 16 of 24 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Smith hit five different players with passes, with the largest gains going to Bailey.
Smith averaged 7.8 yards per completion, but the Mountaineers lack of a rushing attack as the game continued made it difficult for the offense to establish a passing game. However, Smith managed to find a rhythm in the third quarter and bring the Mountaineers to within two scores of taking the lead.
Smith did his best to help the Mountaineers offense keep up with the Orange, but a slow start made it difficult to match the Orange’s scoring.
Overall Game Grade: C
The Mountaineers ground game was never quite able to match its first quarter performance as the game continued.
Tavon Austin, Andrew Buie and Stedman Bailey helped the Mountaineers rack up 60 total yards in the first quarter, but the team finished with just 100 total rushing yards in the game. By the end of the second quarter, the Mountaineers had already seen their first quarter rushing total cut in half.
However, if wide receivers Austin and Bailey are taken out of the equation, the Mountaineers running backs rushed for just 49 total yards.
Sophomore Andrew Buie rushed for 33 yards on seven carries, while Shawne Alston added 16 yards on nine rushes. Between the two, only Buie had a rush of at least 10 yards.
The Mountaineers averaged 177.6 rushing yards per game during the regular season, but were not able to match that total against Syracuse. The Orange, meanwhile, nearly doubled the Mountaineers number of rushing attempts, rushing yards and yards per attempt.
If not for Austin picking up 58 yards on the ground, the Mountaineers would have had a rushing total nearly four times less than their season average.
After the first quarter, the Mountaineers tried to establish their passing game and relied less on the rushing attack. However, the defense was unable to keep the Orange out of the end zone for long, forcing the Mountaineers to continue relying on the passing game to get on the board rather than going back to the rushing attack. The mix of play calls led to less usage of the ground game, causing the Mountaineers to rush for more yards in the first quarter than they did during the remainder of the game.
Overall Game Grade: B
Stedman Bailey continued with his outstanding season, and caught both of quarterback Geno Smith’s touchdown passes.
However, the Orange were able to limit Tavon Austin’s receptions, as well as the Mountaineers offense as a whole.
Bailey caught eight passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns giving him an average of 15.3 yards per reception for the game. Even more impressive was that some of Bailey’s biggest receptions came on short passes from Smith in which he was able to pick up major yardage after the catch.
Senior J.D. Woods caught four passes for 36 yards, while freshman running back Cody Clay also had a catch for nine yards.
Austin, meanwhile, had just two catches for 21 yards, as Shamarko Thomas and the Orange defense were able to limit his effectiveness as a receiver. Austin was still able to have his contributions felt as a rusher and in the return game.
Similar to Smith, the receivers also had to adjust to the weather conditions early on, but were unable to come up with big catches with the exception of Bailey.
Nevertheless, the Mountaineers were still able to out gain the Orange in passing yardage 187-136.
Overall Game Grade: C-
Quarterback Geno Smith remained on his feet for much of the game, but two safeties and a decrease in running efficiency greatly hurt the Mountaineers chances.
Jeff Braun made the start at center, his first time playing the position since 2009, and botched a snap on a fourth-and-one play that led to a turnover on downs in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Josh Jenkins and the offensive line did their best to open up lanes for Andrew Buie, Tavon Austin and Shawne Alston, but were only able to help the run game pick up 40 yards following the first quarter.
The Mountaineers also finished the game 0-10 on third-down conversions, and 0-2 on fourth-down conversions following the botched snap.
Overall Game Grade: F
Will Clarke, Shaq Rowell and the Mountaineers defensive line gave up 376 rushing yards to the Orange, a team that entered the game averaging 171.8 rushing yards per contest.
Prince-Tyson Gulley had an outstanding game, rushing for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, while Jerome Smith added another 158 yards.
Gulley, Smith and quarterback Ryan Nassib were all able to have rushes of 12 yards or more. Gulley’s longest rush came for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Furthermore, the Orange were able convert half of their third- and fourth-down attempts. The defensive line also had their work cut out for them once Nassib was able to limit any pass rush effectiveness through screen passes.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Terence Garvin did all he could to help the Mountaineers turn in a strong performance on defense, as he had an outstanding game making plays all over the field.
Garvin came up with a huge sack that knocked quarterback Ryan Nassib out of the game for a play, his first of two sacks in the game. He also forced and recovered a fumble in the second quarter, quickly giving the ball back to the offense after their first touchdown of the game.
Isaiah Bruce came up with an interception in the third quarter, giving the Mountaineers another opportunity to climb back into the game.
The linebackers, however, struggled getting to the edge to stop screen passes, especially from Nassib to Prince-Tyson Gulley. The unit also struggled against the run, giving up gains of more than 20 yards to two different running backs and allowing an average of 5.3 yards per rush.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Karl Joseph and the Mountaineers secondary challenged Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib early, using different looks to hold the Orange offense to a field goal in the first quarter.
As the game wore on, Nassib was able to hit five different players with passes and throw two touchdowns, one to Tyson-Prince Gulley and the other on a tipped ball to Beckett Wales.
However, the Mountaineers managed to hold Nassib to a 50.0 completion percentage, his second lowest mark of the season.
The Mountaineers saw Terrell Chestnut go down with an injury early, but managed to force the Orange to utilize their ground game and short passes. Unfortunately, this was not a major challenge, as the Orange were able to use a mix of play calls to get into the end zone and hold the ball for nearly 13 more minutes than the Mountaineers.
Overall Game Grade: C+
Kicker Tyler Bitancurt missed his only field goal attempt, from 36-yards. He managed to rack up 153 yards punting, but only one punt landed within the 20-yard line. His longest came for 38 yards.
Tavon Austin tried his best to ignite the Mountaineers scoring, despite the Orange trying to keep the ball out of his hands. Austin and Stedman Bailey did, however, misplay a kickoff that led to the Mountaineers having to start a drive from within their own five-yard line.
Overall Game Grade: C
Dana Holgorsen’s staff had their work cut out for them heading into the game, but it was the Orange rushing attack that gave the Mountaineers the most trouble.
Offensively, the Mountaineers got off to a slow start before Geno Smith was able to find any type of rhythm. However, while trying to establish the passing game, the Mountaineers relied less on the run game that gained 60 yards in just the first quarter.
Defensively, the Mountaineers were unable to answer the Orange ground game, and had no answer for a number of screen passes from Ryan Nassib.
Rather than adjust as the game continued, the Mountaineers were outscored in the third quarter 23-7, and were not able to get the defense off the field in the fourth quarter to give the ball back to the offense.