The West Virginia Mountaineers have been an inconsistent, one-sided football team all season long, and that was apparent in Saturday's 38-14 loss to the Syracuse Orange in the snowy New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
For a game that was supposed to feature a pair of high-octane offenses, the scoring started slowly. Ross Krautman kicked a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter to give the Orange a 3-0 lead, but those were the only points scored in the opening stanza.
The pace picked up in the second quarter, though, starting with Cameron Lynch sacking Geno Smith for a safety to give Syracuse a 5-0 lead. Prince-Tyson Gulley followed that up with his first touchdown of the day to give the Orange a 12-0 lead before Smith was able to hook up with Stedman Bailey to cut the lead to 12-7 at the half.
That's where the disaster began for the Mountaineers. Rather than come out motivated for the second half, Dana Holgorsen's squad imploded in familiar fashion.
Questionable penalties and a lackluster effort allowed Ryan Nassib to lead two-straight scoring drives to start the half, putting Syracuse up 26-7 with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Smith was able to find Bailey for the second time to make the score 26-14 and possibly give the Mountaineers some life, but Nassib found Gulley for the running back's third touchdown on the day.
To add insult to injury, the Orange were able to sack Smith in the end zone with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter for the team's second safety of the day. The safety made the score 35-14 and was piled onto West Virginia's embarrassing effort.
It's impossible to deny a handful of extremely questionable penalties throughout this game, but West Virginia gave a paltry effort nonetheless. The team wasn't in sync and didn't even really seem to care at times.
Syracuse's offense had its struggles too, but Nassib and Gulley commanded more attention than the Mountaineers' below-average defense could handle.
Following a 5-0 start with five consecutive losses, West Virginia's inconsistencies have become obvious. On Saturday, they were put on display for everyone to see.
Let's take a deeper look at this one with some Twitter reaction and by naming a player of the game.
Former Mountaineers quarterback Pat White didn't like West Virginia's effort in the first half:
These guys want to fight during pre-game and halftime but not when the clock is running…— Pat White (@P5White) December 29, 2012
TribLIVE Radio host Daniel Dudley made an accurate assertion about each team's defense:
93.7 The Fan personality Colin Dunlap wasn't impressed:
Uglier story Tom Rinaldi has had to cover -- The Tiger Woods wreck/divorce/fallout or the first half of Pinstripe Bowl?— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) December 29, 2012
The Register-Herald's sports editor Cam Huffman didn't like West Virginia's defensive approach:
No pressure from #WVU on either of those third down possessions. Can't give Nassib that much time.— Cam Huffman (@CamHuffmanRH) December 29, 2012
247Sports.com's Chris Anderson reveals just how good Stedman Bailey is:
Stedman Bailey with TD reception. That's 25 on the year. Extending his BCS-record and now tied with Randy Moss for second most ever. #WVU— Chris Anderson (@CAnderson247WVU) December 29, 2012
The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reporter Michael Carvelli made a point about West Virginia's defensive struggles:
Again, it was just 2 years ago that #WVU had a top 5 defense that allowed just 176 points all season. This year: No. 114, 490 points.— Michael Carvelli (@Carvelli3) December 29, 2012
Carvelli followed with this stat:
#WVU allowed 40+ points in 6 of its last 10 games. The Mountaineers only allowed 40+ points in 6 of the 118 games before that.— Michael Carvelli (@Carvelli3) December 29, 2012
Player of the Game: Prince-Tyson Gulley
Gulley took advantage of West Virginia's poor tackling on Saturday to the tune of 215 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and three total touchdowns.
Not only was the junior ball-carrier able to be a workhorse with 26 carries, but he broke several big plays throughout the game. The Mountaineers struggled to stay in their lanes, giving him plenty of room to maneuver on many occasions.
It doesn't take a Heisman Trophy winner to exploit this defense, but Gulley was impressive either way. He benefited from Nassib's poise in the pocket at times and Jerome Smith's help out of the backfield, but the Orange's success on offense was mostly due to his ability to consistently rip off big plays.