Syracuse-West Virginia: Orange Looking to Crush Mountaineers

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Syracuse-West Virginia: Orange Looking to Crush Mountaineers
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

When your alumni list includes a sitting vice president (Joltin' Joe Biden), a three-time Pulitzer Prize-nominated author (Joyce Carol Oates), the inventor of the artificial heart (Robert Jarvik), the president of The U (Donna Shalala), an ex-NFL defensive end-turned-NPR-contributor (Tim Green), and an annoying sportscaster (Bob Costas), you're pretty good already.

Then, consider the fact that your faculty has the best-looking English literature professor I've ever seen (Mary Karr), and it only gets better.

Finally, if you know, just know, that your 2009 football team is resurgent and is looking to restart its domination of your conference on some unfortunate team in front of 40,000 crazed fans, you're going to be difficult to beat.

Look up "Carrier Dome" in the Dictionary of West Virginia Football Terminology (how thin is that book?) and you'll find a picture of a hornet's nest beside that word.

That was not always the case.  In 1993, a good Orange team was manhandled in The Dome by West Virginia to the tune of 48-0.  Of course, that was the first year of Bill Clinton's first term, so how irrelevant can you get?

The stingers will be whipped up and angry on Saturday, October 10, as Coach K's point guard Greg Paulus (No. 2 in the photo) leads his new team in the quest for respectability and victory, not necessarily in that particular order.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Syracuse had a tough outing last week against South Florida in Tampa. 

Or, maybe it was not too tough. The Orange suffered seven turnovers on the road, yet lost by only 14, similar to West Virginia coughing up six and falling by 11 against Auburn on The Plains.

I'm certain the Syracuse fans saw that score and how it all transpired, damned the defeat, and gave a collective sigh of "Hey, that wasn't so bad."

With regard to the Orange teams of the late '00s, they're right.

That's why this particular Saturday for the Mountaineers will be surrounded by an orange crush of bees.  So, here's what West Virginia must do to win:

1. Above all, protect the ball.  The Mounties can offer no—that's right, zero—turnovers.  Being a little tentative may pay off.

2. You can bet your sweet Southern tea that Syracuse will contain and blitz passing situations.  Jarrett Brown is absolutely dangerous on the rollout as he was against East Carolina, but Dan Hawkins of Colorado demonstrated that keeping Jarrett in the pocket puts him in a place to which he is unaccustomed.

Doug Marrone will dare Jeff Mullen to beat him from behind center.

3. West Virginia must atone for the past sins of its soft corners.  That means blitz the corners, leaving the safeties to backpedal off the bus.  So far, the Orange has only one receiver to cover.  The WVU coaching staff should treat Greg Paulus like a freshman and make him beat the Mountaineers by going through his progressions.

4. Pay no attention to Syracuse's run defense stats because a) the stats are inflated by a weak pass defense, and b) Mountaineer football is running football.  So, give the ball to Noel and Ryan Clarke behind the hot offensive line and let them do what they were born to do.

5. Don't do anything to disturb the bees, like allowing long kick and punt returns and (once again) fumbles and interceptions.

This is it, the beginning for both teams, Syracuse's march to a winning season and West Virginia's campaign for a BCS bowl.  It will be difficult for either to make it happen without winning this game.

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