A fistful of plays that determined Syracuse’s 38-14 win over West Virginia:
1. Cameron Lynch leads the Syracuse blitz that sacked Geno Smith for a safety and a 5-0 lead.
After West Virginia’s defense stoned Syracuse on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, Smith dropped to pass out of his end zone and was swarmed by three blitzers coming off the right side.
“We had a bad play,” said center Jeff Braun. “We had a play-action pass and basically the whole offensive line was going to the left, and they blitzed from the right.
“Geno was actually about to check a run that would’ve gashed them. I was looking through my legs and he was walking up to the line like he was about to check, and then he walked back and got set. Right before I snapped the ball I saw them bringing everybody. I was hoping the backs could pick them up, but they just brought one more (blitzer) than we could get.”
Smith said he needed just a couple moments to unload a pass to Tavon Austin against man coverage. “I don’t know what I could have done better, but maybe go with my first instinct and check into the run,” he said.
2. Prince-Tyson Gulley rushes 33 yards up the middle to put Syracuse up 12-0.
Gulley’s burst capped a six-play, 65-yard drive as the Orange built off the momentum of the safety. It set off the Syracuse running back on a career day of 208 yards on 25 carries.
“Through the course of the game, I was absolutely shocked that they could run the football on us,” said Mountaineers defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.
3. Ryan Nassib converts a third-and-7 pass to Beckett Wales for a 10-yard touchdown and a 19-7 lead.
The first drive of the second half was a backbreaker as Syracuse converted on three possession downs. First came a third-and-3 on which Jerome Smith ripped off a 24-yard run to midfield. Then, Nassib conquered a third-and-10 by finding Jarrod West for 17 yards to the WVU 13. To cap the drive, he found his tight end.
The Orange wound up 9-of-18 on third-down tries, compared to WVU’s 0-for-11.
4. Andrew Buie’s third-quarter 28-yard touchdown run negated by a holding call on left tackle Quinton Spain.
On fourth-and-2, Smith checked into an outside zone run — “which is what you want to do against a Bear defense,” he said — and Buie sprang loose for an apparent score that would have narrowed the deficit to 19-14.
But the flag came, and Coach Dana Holgorsen went ballistic with a headset spike for the ages. What did he think about the penalty?
“Yeah, I’m not going to comment on that,” Holgorsen said.
Smith didn’t see the infraction; he only saw the impact it had on the team’s psyche as it was forced to punt.
“I’m not sure whether he held or not,” Smith said. “But at that point of the game, tt really affected us, because we were trying to claw back and it took a lot out of us.”
5. After WVU takes over at the Syracuse 30 on Isaiah Bruce’s interception, Smith has the ball knocked loose on the ensuing play.
The Mountaineers trailed 19-7 midway through the third quarter, but yet again were in position to tighten the game. Syracuse defensive end Brandon Sharpe spoiled that by caving in the left side of the line and pushed his blocker into Smith’s cocked arm. The ball popped loose, linebacker Dyshawn Davis recovered and WVU was officially toast.