No one could have ever predicted this. This was the dream outcome after Oliver Luck’s comments, WVU’s smug attitude after an LSU whooping and a Syracuse team fighting for their bowl life.
With this win, and I kid you not, Syracuse has just gone from a potential Big East doormat to now a potential Big East champion. How can I say that? This game showed what Syracuse can do if they play their game for an entire game.
Doug Marrone looked like the Zen Master, realizing that West Virginia’s style could be just as much of a disadvantage as it is an advantage. Syracuse purposefully played methodically and conservatively on offense, relying on basic execution to win each individual play.
With an offensive line that looked superb, Ryan Nassib was able to hand the ball to either Antwon Bailey, Jerome Smith or Adonis Ameen-Moore and saw the backsides of these players either plunge forward with success or dash and weave through a confused West Virginia defense.
Even better for Nassib, Nick Provo showed why he is mentioned in Mackey Award discussion, hooking up three times for scores. All of this led to 35 minutes of possession, leaving a tired WVU defense on the field and an unbalanced and miffed offense scratching their heads on the sideline.
But we all knew the offense could be good.
What made this game so amazing and so promising was how special teams and defense stepped up. To the special teams, Syracuse needed sound coverage to ensure Geno Smith had a long field to work with.
That goal was achieved all but once.
The second goal was to make the big play. And with one amazing streak and cross-field cut, Dorian Graham continued to evolve into a game-breaker for the Orange. Even better? No blocked PATs and no mindless penalties.
Though for anyone watching the game, the star unit was the defense. There were questions in the secondary, questions on the line, heck even questions if this unit could keep WVU to less than 30 points.
Marrone’s bread and butter came to play and fed off one of the loudest and rowdiest crowds in the recent memory of Syracuse football (announced 45,000).
Chandler Jones led from the front, finishing the day with six tackles and two sacks. With Jones’ presence in the pass rush, suddenly the linebackers became more effective in run stuffing, and the secondary was able to confuse Geno Smith with their zone coverage.
Smith may have finished with 338 passing yards, but Syracuse’s secondary was at its best while retaining its trademark, bend don’t break, while shutting down Smith with big plays, such as a goal line interception with under three minutes to go in the second.
Phillip Thomas lived up to the hype, leaving the game hurt but coming back to pick off Geno Smith and was a force in both the open field and backfield.
Overall, the Orange came to play tonight and showed the world (OK, maybe just the U.S.) that they can play with the best of them. The Orange showed all that matters is what is in the W column. Wake up, Big East and BCS, the Orange are coming.
*With Rutgers’ loss to Louisville, Cincinnati is the only unbeaten team in Big East play. Is it unrealistic to think that Syracuse can run the table and Rutgers loses one more...? Tune in Sunday night for the Syracuse BCS buster!