There could be worse things than spending the Chrismas holiday in New York City. After all, it is the world’s most famous city and the holiday season can be magical.
In all likelihood, the Mountaineers team base will be in an five star hotel in Central Park or Times Square or some other spot that most of us could never afford on our own. That ain’t bad.
But, playing in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is not what this WVU team, coaching staff and fan base had in mind when the Mountaineers were ranked in the top five in the country in September. Not even if Yankees great Derek Jeter serve as the official team host.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts running through my head on the unexpected bowl match-up with Syracuse.
1. Can we dust off the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy and have the team’s play for it one more time. The Orange won it last season so maybe the Mountaineers can get it back. The former Syracuse coaching legend is a state native, a 1928 graduate of Huntington High, and a former WVU football and wrestling captain.
2. In the month of September, it appeared that the job of Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, was in jeopardy. After a strong finish in the Big East, it appears that Marrone has new life at Syracuse and can be a little more relaxed as he approaches the bowl game.
3. Since the game is being played at the new Yankee Stadium, it brings up memories of the days that the New York football Giants used to play in the old Yankee Stadium. One of the stars of those teams was former WVU star linebacker Sam Huff. Thinking of Huff in the old Yankee Stadium conjures up memories of great names such as Frank GIfford, Y. A. Tittle, Andy Robustelli, Jim Katcavage, Erich Barnes and others.
4. Motivation can sometimes be an issue in bowl games. Oftentimes the better team does not win a bowl because the better team is not motivated. Hopefully that is not an issue for the Mountaineers. After last season’s lopsided loss at Syracuse, you would think that Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and others will be motivated to play the Orange.
5. Will the Mountaineers somehow cover the tight end this time around. Last year, the Syracuse tight end had such a big game the state of Utah named a city after him: Provo.
6. The Pinstripe Bowl is such a new bowl game that it does not have a great deal of history. But, Syracuse has some history there. The Orange won the first ever Pinstripe Bowl beating Kansas State.
7. It is not the first time a bowl game has been played in New York. How many of you remember the old Gotham Bowl played in 1961 and 1962 at the old Polo Grounds. The game was hindered by cold weather and poor planning and was a big money loser for two season. The 1962 game was actually a great game as George Mira and the Miami Hurricanes knocked off Nebraska 36-34. Sadly, no one came to watch it.
8. How many tickets will the Mountaineers sell for this game? The game will be played on a Saturday and it is not a bad drive to the Big Apple. But, it is a cold weather bowl game in a very expensive city. Normally, that does not lend itself to big ticket sales.
9. One caller to the Sunday NIght Sportsline show described the Pinstripe Bowl as the "worst bowl game in WVU football history." Obviously the caller must not remember the Mountaineers trip to the 1964 Liberty Bowl. Gene Corum’s team was led by quarterback Allen McCune and lost to Utah and Roy Jefferson 32-6. The game was played indoors in the Atlantic City Convention Hall in New Jersey. There was no artificial turf back then, so real grass was planted over burlap which was over the concrete on the floor of the hall. It was not a very succesful event as only 6,000 fans showed up. The game was televised, by NBC and the announce team was top notch. Announcers Curt Gowdy, Paul Christman and Jim McKay were the broadcast crew.