West Virginia Football: The Mountaineers Unable to Evade the Syracuse Defense

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West Virginia Football: The Mountaineers Unable to Evade the Syracuse Defense
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Geno Smith was unable to fight off Syracuse's defense Saturday.

In what was to be a two touchdown victory for the Mountaineers, West Virgina was poised to walk away with their ninth straight win against the Orange of Syracuse and their 13th straight win at home.

But the Orange's defense would have none of it. The Orange walked away with the first upset of the week, defeating West Virginia 19-14.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith came into the game throwing only two interceptions in 177 attempts, but would ultimately throw three to the Orange under pressure, two of which ended up in the hands of Doug Hogue. Hogue and the rest of the Orange defense seemed to have Smith's number all day, allowing Geno to post a devastating -21 yards rushing, relying heavily on the three and five man rush.

Smith was only able to complete 20 of 37 passing—low numbers for the usually calm and collected quarterback. The Orange allowed West Virginia to convert only four of 17 on third down.

But West Virginia's defense also played tough, allowing the Orange four of 14 on third down. The Orange were only able to complete five of 15 passing and 183 yards rushing, but that was more than enough to put them in field goal range. The Orange racked up four field goals off the foot of kicker Ross Krautman—a shoe-in for today's game ball.

Coming into conference play, West Virginia was expected to run the table in the Big East, being the only team ranked in the BCS and backed by an explosive offense and one of the nation's top-ranked defenses.

But when you're the lone man on top, everyone is gunning to knock you down.

It can be assumed that Syracuse—and likely every other team on the rest of West Virginia's conference packed schedule—have been watching the Mountaineers on tape, scheming ways to bring the giants down.

Syracuse came to Morgantown with a plan, and the plan worked.

The lesson? West Virgina's offense is often called "explosive", and they are, but they are not "innovative." They rely too heavily on the big play—the Devine breakaway, the play action to Starks, the wide-out to Austin—and when Syracuse showed that they had them figured out, West Virgina just couldn't break out of the mold.

Now, presumably out of the Top 25 and without a ranked opponent, West Virgina will have to face facts: the Big East is out to get them.

It's gonna be a long week for the Mountaineers leading into next Saturday's contest at UConn. West Virginia will have to come up with a few surprises for the Huskies if they intend to continue their run for the Big East title.

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