Sunday, October 11, 2009

West Virginia 34, Syracuse 13


First Quarter: Syracuse shot themselves in the foot right at the start of this football game. On the opening drive, the Orange marched down the field for 34 yards on six plays—running backs Delone Carter, Antwon Bailey and Averin Collier all touched the football and gained chunks of yardage. But on a third-and-short screen pass, quarterback Greg Paulus would float a ball toward Carter despite four West Virginia defenders draping the running back. Sophomore Josh Taylor intercepted the ill-fated pass and WVU would start at the Syracuse 11-yard line, which led to a receiving touchdown by junior tailback Noel Devine. After a three-and-out, it was the Syracuse defense that would give the Mountaineers the next gift. A costly hands-to-the-face penalty by freshman Brandon Sharpe negated a third and long incompletion by West Virgnia quarterback Jarrett Brown and extended the possession. Later on the drive, with West Virginia lined up for a 40-yard field goal, two Syracuse defensive linemen jumped offside to give WVU another first down by the way of the flag. West Virginia would take advantage; Ryan Clarke recorded his fourth touchdown of the season from one yard out. Score: West Virginia 14, Syracuse 0

Second Quarter: Things would just get worse for Syracuse in the second stanza. While the offense could only pick up one first down in the entire quarter, Brown picked apart the defense. The senior completed nine of his eleven passes for 135 yards, while connecting with seven different receivers. On a touchdown drive that began the quarter, the WVU signal caller completed four straight passes, including a 27-yard strike to Bradley Starks and a 33-yard play to fullback Will Johnson. Meanwhile, Paulus was five-of-nine for 30 yards and his offense gained a total of 77 yards. Before the half ended, sacks by Syracuse’s Arthur Jones and Doug Hogue pushed West Virginia out of field goal range and salvaged the slightest bit respectability. Score: West Virginia 27, Syracuse 0

Third Quarter: With the game all but decided, Syracuse showed a little bit a life sparked by Derrell Smith on the first possession of the half. The hard-hitting linebacker would force and recover a fumble to give his offense good field position. Later in the quarter, freshman backup quarterback Ryan Nassib would connect with playmaking wide out Mike Williams for a 50-yard touchdown pass. The Orange defensive line and linebackers did a good job of taking away the short passing game in this period. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t build on their defense or the long score. Score: West Virginia 27, Syracuse 6

Fourth Quarter: It was all Devine on a touchdown drive that started late in the thirdquarter and spilled into the fourth. On six carries, the junior gained 27 yards including a four yard score, his second of the game. Nassib showed some signs of promise, as he connect with sophomore Marcus Sales for a 24-yard touchdown, but it was way too little, too late for the 'Cuse. Final Score: West Virginia 34, Syracuse 13

Turning Point: The Orange were underdogs at home and needed to come out to a strong start. It looked like on the first drive they were going to put up some points and take an early lead. Instead, a pass that should have never been thrown was picked off and returned deep into Syracuse territory. What added even more momentum to the big play was the fact that the man who intercepted the pass, fumbled the ball on his return. For a brief moment it appeared as if the Orange might catch a break and regain possession. Instead the ball was scooped up by West Virginia linebacker Lazear, who returned it near the goal line.

Analysis: Even though they’ve only won two games this season, there was some cause for optimism coming into the battle for the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy for Syracuse. All week leading up tot he game, players and coaches talked about remaining confident and getting back to five hundred. But the first half performance was utterly embarrassing. The combination of mental errors, penalties and unfortunate breaks left the players looking dejected and West Virginia took advantage by putting the game away early. Paulus has taken the blunt of the blame by the locals; he’s already thrown ten interceptions, which is tied for the most in the nation. But after the game, despite benching his quarterback, head coach Doug Marrone announced that Paulus will remain the starter. The Mountaineers did an outstanding job on offense, behind the efficient passing of Brown, who finished with 244 yards passing. His leading receiver was Jock Sanders, who grabbed nine balls for 67 yards and had a touchdown run on a draw play. Against a solid run defense, Devine was still able to rush for 91 yards, averaging 4.1 yards a carry. The nifty runner broke about a dozen tackles in the game. On the defensive side of the ball, West Virginia singled in on Williams other then the 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Williams was held in check, even though the Orange tried everything to get him the ball. Sidney Glover led the team with six tackles, and both J.B Lageman and Jorge Wright each recorded a sack.

Photos Courtesy of WVU Sports Communication,Syracuse University Athletics