WVU loses, at home, on homecoming, to Syracuse (kill me)
Let’s cut through the coach-speak: West Virginia simply overlooked Syracuse during Saturday’s ugly 19-14 Homecoming loss.
The coaches and players won’t admit that outright, but anybody who saw the game knows as much. But despite being a mental no-show most of the game, the truth is that the Mountaineers should’ve been able to overlook the surprising Orange and still win easily.
SU managed only 65 yards passing and 265 yards overall, which is about the average yardage allowed against WVU’s fifth-rated defense. The Orange lost its top running back early in the game and moved less than 20 yards on 10 of its 12 drives.
But thanks to three Geno Smith interceptions, all of which led to field goals for Syracuse, and a bevy of WVU mental miscues, the Orange were still able to hold off the Mountaineers and beat the Gold and Blue for the first time since 2001.
To his credit, Smith didn’t shy away after the worst performance of his young career.
"My thoughts are I have to watch film, get better and move on from there,'' the sophomore QB told the Charleston Gazette in this article. "It's a tough loss. Taking a loss anytime is tough, but to lose like this, on Homecoming, to Syracuse is very tough.
‘’We haven't lost to those guys since '01.''
Let me help you- he's about to either get sacked or throw an interception here.
(AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)
Head coach Bill Stewart acknowledged Smith’s struggles, but stood behind the first-year starter.
“Today a young man, who is a very big part of our offense, suffered a tough day at the ranch,” Stewart told the Register-Herald in this article. “And when that happens, we have to help him out and that did not happen.”
But Smith’s off-day aside, Coach Stew acknowledged his team’s lack of focus and effort -- in a roundabout way.
"Maybe I've got a football team now that will worry more about doing all the little things right, reading a few less press clippings and taking care of business when we have a chance to,'' Stewart told the Gazette in another article here. "I'm very pleased with how hard we played, [but] I'm not pleased at all with how we played intellectually. The intelligence part of our game was just not good.''
And to further illustrate this point -- at the risk of beating a dead horse -- I couldn’t help adding this additional rant from Stew during Sunday’s teleconference with the media from MSNSportsnet.com:
“I think we were beaten between the ears from the shoulders up. I say this every time we have a loss, to what experts say is a lesser team. When you do not respect each and every opponent, and fear none, you are going to get sidetracked.
“I don’t know why the upsets happen or why losses like this occur, but it’s mental. I’m not going to chastise or rip these players, because they had a great week. They worked hard, but If you do not get it right between the ears and take each opponent seriously, you’re going to have trouble.
“I don’t know why young people can’t look at a USF film and say “wow”, then turn around and look at the Pitt and Syracuse film and not figure out that if they don’t play, the exact same thing will happen to us, or we can do what Pitt did to them. They were reminded all week by their coaches, and that’s where leadership and maturity comes into being.
“I am not pleased in the mental approach in the Mountaineers’ football game after cautiously being reminded over and over by the coaching staff. I’ve coached longer than these players have been on this earth so, they better trust their old coaching staff. They worked very hard, and I know they were not nearly as impressed with Syracuse before the game as they were after the game.”
The offensive line, seemingly gelling and playing well the past couple of weeks, gave up five sacks and often left Smith on the move in the pocket. But Smith was quick to point out that some of the sacks were his fault, saying his tendency to keep the ball too long was a “me problem.”
"I just have to get the ball out of my hands quicker,” he told the Gazette in the previously-cited article. “My guys were getting open. I have to be more disciplined in my reads. I didn't hit the check-down as much as I used to. It's just something I have to work on.''
Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen also came to the aid of the Mountaineer QB.
"I have to do a better job of getting him prepared,'' Mullen told the Gazette in this article. "That's my fault, not his. I'm his position coach."
Smith started the game shaky, setting up a Syracuse field goal with his first pick of the day coming on the initial series of the game.
WVU responded quickly, moving the ball fluidly down the field 71 yards in 9 plays. Smith found Tavon Austin from 6-yards out to cap the drive with a score, making it 7-3 after the point-after kick.
The Orange answered right back as Prince-Tyson Gulley (no I am not kidding about that name) returned the kick 30 yards to his own 38. SU went 62 yards in 5 plays, with the capper coming as Ryan Nassib found Van Chew (again, not kidding; that’s his name) behind Keith Tandy for a 29-yard TD. The PAT made it 10-7.
Noel Devine, looking more like his old self, keyed the ensuing possession with a 32-yard breakout on the first play, and Ryan Clarke found pay-dirt 6 plays later on a 1-yard run to make it 14-10.
At least he looked good. I guess.
West Virginia looked to be ready for a rout when the Orange fumbled the kick return, giving the Mountaineers possession at the Orange 34. After moving to the SU 8 and earning a first-and-goal, Smith was picked off in the end zone to end the WVU threat.
The Orange started at their own 27 and drove 71 yards in 7 plays, but the drive bogged down and SU had to settle for just a field goal to make it 14-13.
(A quick aside here: Syracuse had a 4th-and-goal at the WVU 2 when they were flagged for a delay of game on the field goal try. Granted the kick angle was a little tougher from the 2 than the 7-yard line, but Coach Stew declined the penalty, keeping SU at the 2. If Orange coach Doug Marrone had opted to go for it and scored a TD, this decision would have infuriated the masses. Seemed to me like just another entry on the day’s list of goofy decisions.)
WVU went 0 yards on its next drive, and actually went backwards seven yards on the series after that thanks to a false start, an illegal shift, a sack, and a pass for 6-yard loss. Oh, and WVU also had to burn a timeout because there weren’t enough players on the field for one play, and the officials also waved off a potential illegal forward pass too.
Tandy looked to erase all that on the next play when he picked off Nasib and returned the ball to the SU 18, but the play was erased due to defensive pass interference. The Orange took advantage, re-taking the lead with a 33-yard field goal to make it 16-14.
The Mountaineers again drove into Orange territory to try and gain the advantage back before the half. But an illegal shift slowed the drive, and Smith was picked off by Doug Hogue -- his second of the game -- who returned it to the WVU 12.
The defense held the Orange to yet another field goal, making the count 19-14, but that would prove to be the final score. WVU never threatened until what turned out to be the team’s final possession.
West Virginia took over at its own 30 and moved in ho-hum, no need to hurry here fashion to the SU 20. Smith had a key 11-yard run to convert a do-or-die 4th down, but the drive would eat 5:55 off the clock and take 15 plays.
A holding penalty at the SU 30 slowed the momentum. Smith again came up big in spite of the mistake, converting a 3rd-and-16, but his magic ran out at the SU 20, where he was sacked twice. The second stuff came on the game’s last play, where Smith didn’t even get a chance to pass for a potential game-winning touchdown.
"I rolled away from the rush,'' Smith told the Gazette in a previously-cited article. "I was trying to get back to my guy all the way across the field and they just got to me before I could.''
The WVU QB also addressed the offensive no-show in the second half.
"Me as the leader of the offense, the quarterback, I take all the responsibility,'' he continued in the same article. "It's my job to get those guys going. I didn't do that today. But I'm not going to hang my head. I'm going to go back to the drawing board and get working.''
Devine finished with 122 yards on 24 carries in the loss, which snapped WVU’s 12-game home winning streak. The senior did break the 4,000-yard mark for his career, moving him 4th-place all-time with 4,007 yards. He trails only Avon Cobourne (5,164), Pat White (4,480) and Amos Zereoue (4,086) on the all-time list.
The Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1 Big East) have a short week to recover before traveling to Connecticut Friday night. The Huskies (3-4, 0-2) are coming off a 26-0 loss at Louisville Saturday.
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Posted: 10/28/2010 6:00 am Updated: 10/28/2010 6:00 am
From: Rockville, MD
Re: WVU loses, at home, on homecoming, to Syracuse (kill me)