Long before the final whistle, the Pinstripe Bowl had been decided as West Virginia fell to Syracuse 38-14 due to a long line of poor plays, mental mistakes and plain, old bad luck.
The scene wasn't always this nice for WVU on Saturday afternoon.
Prince Tyson-Gulley carried the ball 26 times for 215 yards and two touchdowns, while Jerome Smith added another 29 carries for 158 yards for the Orange.
Ryan Nassib and Syracuse's potent passing attack was held in check for the most part, but Geno Smith and company proved equally as inept, completing only 16 of 24 passes for 187 yards.
Things started out ominously for West Virginia as the Mountaineer offense looked a three-and-out on their first drive of the game. However, a roughing the kicker penalty on Syracuse gave them second life. As was the case for most of the afternoon, though, WVU could not capitalize as Tyler Bitancurt drove a field goal attempt directly into the back of offensive lineman, Nick Kindler.
Syracuse would march downfield on their first drive, but would have to settle for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
After trading several ineffective drives, the Orange looked poised to score again as they had first and goal from the five yard line. They got it down to the one, but the Mountaineers stopped them on three straight attempts to take over on downs.
Syracuse’s gamble to go for it on 4th and goal worked, though, as they would sack Geno Smith on the first play of West Virginia’s ensuing drive to take a 5-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Syracuse scored again on a 33-yard run by Prince-Tyson Gulley for a 12-0 lead.
Smith would connect with Stedman Bailey on a 32-yard tunnel screen to cut the lead to 12-7 with 3:38 left to play in the first half, and Terence Garvin would force a fumble to put WVU in position to take the lead before the break.
A 15-yard personal foul penalty on Quinton Spain would bring the Mountaineers’ drive to a screeching halt, though, bringing out some frustration as players scuffled with Syracuse as the two teams attempted to head to the locker room for halftime.
Unfortunately, that frustration, mental mistakes and plain old bad luck would carry over into the second half.
On Syracuse’s first drive of the second half, Isaiah Bruce would tip a third down Ryan Nassib pass attempt in the air that would fall into the waiting hands of tight end Beckett Wales, giving the Orange a 19-7 lead.
In hopes of answering, the Mountaineers moved right downfield, but were called for a hold on what would have been a 28-yard scoring run by Andrew Buie. WVU would punt on the next play.
Even an Isaiah Bruce interception on Syracuse’s second play would be for naught as Geno Smith followed that with a fumble. After a replay confirmation, Gulley sprinted 67 yards to put the Orange up 26-7, sealing the game with 6:52 left in the third quarter.
Stedman Bailey and Terence Garvin were the lone bright spots for West Virginia. Garvin had a couple highlight hits, a sack and a forced fumble for the Mountaineers, while Bailey had eight catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns, pushing his total to 25 on the season and tying him with Randy Moss for the second most receiving touchdowns in a season in NCAA history. He already held the BCS record.