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December 28, 2012

Pinstripe Bowl Game Preview: WVU vs. Syracuse

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Series: SU 32-27

Last meeting: 2011: WVU 23 SU 49


Television: 3:15 p.m., ESPN (Chris Fowler - play-by-play, Jesse Palmer - analyst, Tom Rinaldi - sideline)


West Virginia (7-5, 4-5) will look to finish the season strong when the Mountaineer rekindle a long-time Eastern rivalry against Syracuse (7-5, 5-2) in the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl inside Yankees Stadium.

It will be the 60th meeting between the two schools with Syracuse holding a 32-37 edge in the series, including winning the past two meetings after a series record eight straight wins by West Virginia. Last season the Mountaineers were soundly defeated by the Orange 49-23 in the final Big East meeting between the two programs and head coach Dana Holgorsen's first matchup against Syracuse.


The two teams typically play for the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, but instead will be playing for the Pinstripe Bowl hardware in this most recent meeting. The two-teams played annually as Big East rivals from 1993 until this season when the Mountaineers departed for the Big 12 Conference. The Orange will join the ACC next season.

Syracuse is led by alumni Doug Marrone who's led the Orange to a 24-25 record during his four-year tenure, including a 2-1 mark against the Mountaineers. A former offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, Marrone was a three-year starter at Syracuse on the offensive line from 1983-85. This is the second bowl game that Marrone has led the Orange to with the first ironically enough being a victory over Kansas State in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl.


The Orange began the season 2-4, but went on to win five of their final six including an upset over then undefeated Louisville in the Carrier Dome. During that span Syracuse increased its scoring from 22-points to almost 36-points per game and recorded a +9 in turnover ratio.

Senior quarterback Ryan Nassib returns to lead a more wide-open Syracuse offense than in recent years and has put together his best season to date throwing for a school record 3,619 yards to go along with 24 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. Nassib threw for four touchdowns and 229 yards against the Mountaineers a season ago, to go along with a rushing touchdown.


The senior is also equipped with a pair of talented and experienced wide receivers in Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon as the two have almost combined for 2,000 yards and 15-scores. But the Orange also features a pair of talented running backs that average almost five-yards per carry making it a difficult challenge for the West Virginia defense.

Defensively, the Orange will bring a variety of pressures and have been successful in the past against West Virginia, including stifling Geno Smith in the past two meetings as Syracuse is the only Big East team that Smith hasn't beaten as a starter.
The game is set for 3:15 p.m. Dec. 29.


West Virginia Depth Chart:


OFFENSE:

QB - 12 Geno Smith, 14 Paul Millard, 7 Ford Childress
RB (A) - 13 Andrew Buie, 29 Dustin Garrison, 20 Shawne Alston
FB (B) - 88 Cody Clay, 32 Ryan Clarke, 30 Donovan Miles
WR (X) - 3 Stedman Bailey, 80 Ryan Nehlen
WR (Z) - 81 J.D. Woods, 85 Devonte Robinson
IR (H) - 83 Connor Arila, 15 Dante Campbell
IR (Y) - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
LT - 67 Quinton Spain, 79 Nick Kindler
LG - 77 Josh Jenkins, 76 Pat Eger
C - 74 Joe Madsen, 60 John Bassler
RG - 57 Jeff Braun, 76 Pat Eger
RT - 62 Curtis Feigt, 79 Nick Kindler

DEFENSE:

DT - 99 Jorge Wright, 96 Korey Harris
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell, 95 Christian Brown
DE - 98 Will Clarke, 93 Kyle Rose
BUCK - 4 Josh Francis, 42 Garrett Hope
STAR - 28 Terence Garvin, 37 Wes Tonkery
WILL - 47 Doug Rigg, 33 Jared Barber
SAM - 31 Isaiah Bruce, 35 Nick Kwiatkowski
FCB - 23 Brodrick Jenkins, 34 Ishmael Banks
FS - 8 Karl Joseph, 9 KJ Dillon
BS - 25 Darwin Cook, 24 Cecil Level
BCB - 6 Pat Miller, 16 Terrell Chestnut, 7 Nana Kyeremeh

SPECIAL TEAMS:

PK - 40 Tyler Bitancurt
P - 44 Corey Smith
KO - 44 Corey Smith
LS -87 John DePalma, 86 Jerry Cooper
H - 48 Michael Molinari
PR - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
KR - 1 Tavon Austin, 3 Stedman Bailey


Thirteen true freshmen saw action in games this season: DL Christian Brown, LB Austin Copeland, WR Travares Copeland, LS John DePalma, S K.J. Dillon, DL Korey Harris, LB Garrett Hope, S Karl Joseph, DL Eric Kinsey, CB Nana Kyeremeh, WR Devonte Robinson, CB Ricky Rumph and WR Jordan Thompson. In all 21 first-time players saw action with LB Isaiah Bruce, WR Dante Campbell, FB Cody Clay, LS Jerry Cooper, LB Dozie Ezemma, OL Russell Haughton-James, OL Brandon Jackson, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, WR K.J. Myers, DL Kyle Rose and CB Ishmail Showell.


Fourteen Mountaineers have earned their first career start this season: Tyler Anderson (BUCK), Ishmael Banks (CB), Isaiah Bruce (LB), Dante Campbell (WR), Cody Clay (FB), Travares Copeland (WR), Karl Joseph (FS), Nick Kindler (OT), Nana Kyeremeh (CB), Cecil Level (S), Shaq Rowell (DL) and Jordan Thompson (WR).

Notable changes:

Just a few minor shakeups to the depth chart, but nothing significant.

Injuries: Travis Bell, Avery Williams and Jewone Snow are out for the season

Points to click:
Close strong. It's what the coaching staff has talked about for the entire second half of the season and the Mountaineers will have an opportunity to handle some unfinished business both with the season and an opponent that got the best of them last year. As Holgorsen has said, 8-5 looks a lot better than 7-6 and it will send some legendary Mountaineer players out on a high note.


Start fast. It's something that hasn't happened against Syracuse in the prior two games, and it will be important for the Mountaineers to step on the gas and make a statement early in this game. Because the game is in New York, there should be plenty of Orange fans in attendance and it will be advantageous for the Mountaineers to not only take them out of the game, but gain some confidence and finish the bowl game like they did the regular season.


Be wary of the blitz. Admittedly the West Virginia coaches and players did not handle the Syracuse defensive scheme very well and quarterback Geno Smith was harassed and sacked the entire night by the multiple pressure looks the Orange thrown at him. The Mountaineers must do a better job of not only recognizing the various blitzes the Orange will use, but picking them up and allowing Smith plenty of time to make his reads and get the football down the field.

Turnovers. Something that can change any football game, West Virginia must avoid giving the ball away and attempt to force some turnovers from the Orange.

Attempt to make Syracuse one dimensional. West Virginia has done a very good job shutting down the opponent's run game this season and if the Mountaineers can do that it against Syracuse it will go a long ways towards their success in this game. The Orange have the ability to open it up and spread the field, but they want to effectively run the ball to set up other things and if West Virginia can force them into long situations it can get pressure and force Nassib into mistakes.

Running the football. Just like on defense the Mountaineers will need to stop the run, offensively they need to create a balance by effectively running it themselves. The West Virginia offense has been nearly unstoppable this season when they've been able to strike a balance and with a month to get their backfield completely healthy the Mountaineers should have be primed to do just that.

Special teams. A 99-yard kickoff return changed the game against Syracuse a season ago and West Virginia must play sound in that area to avoid any big plays that could change the game in an instant.

Control Nassib. This isn't your father's Syracuse team as the Orange have piled up all sorts of record this season on offense. The attack is spearheaded by senior quarterback Ryan Nassib and West Virginia must bother him and not allow him to pick and choose what he wants down the field. The defense will be tested, but it's a chance for a big spring board heading into the offseason for the much maligned group.


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