PoG: WVU - Syracuse

There weren't many performances on West Virginia's side of things worth singling out in the Mountaineers' 19-14 loss to Syracuse -- a game that left the 58,122 in attendance for Homecoming Saturday in Morgantown stunned, angered and frustrated.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Terence Garvin.

The safety was around the ball afternoon and was one of few Mountaineers who consistently made plays to slow down the Syracuse running game.

Garvin was third on the WVU defense with six total tackles, including two solo takedowns and four assisted. He was credited with a hurry of Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib and blew up an Antwon Bailey carry for a loss of one yard.

Garvin continues to play well as a true sophomore in the secondary. It's often not great for a coach to see his safeties high up the charts in terms of tackles (as that means the opposing offense is getting to the third level of the defense), but in the case of Garvin, that's not necessarily so.

He continues to become more comfortable being aggressive and making plays around the line of scrimmage, which is just another impressive facet of a defense that has performed more than admirably all season long.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

J.D. Woods.

No disrespect to the wide receiver, but it doesn't bode well for West Virginia's offense when the redshirt sophomore, who is probably the team's fifth option at receiver, earns our top billing.

But Woods has, to be fair, emerged as a solid player this season. It's a testament to the skill of receivers coach Lonnie Galloway that the Mountaineers truly have at least five receivers truly capable of making plays in the passing game.

Woods caught four passes for 52 yards. Both numbers were the second-best among the team's receiving corps.



J.D. Woods
Time and time again, it was Woods, one of the later options in most of the team's passing progressions, who worked his way open when Geno Smith was struggling to find open receivers.

When Smith needed 16 yards on a third down play on WVU's last-gasp drive of the game, it was Woods he found for 17 yards and a critical first down.

On a Saturday when the Mountaineers' offense sputtered for much of the game, Woods was one of a very few bright spots for coordinator Jeff Mullen and company. Smith certainly has a solid crop of pass-catchers at his disposal.

GAME BALLS:

  • Sidney Glover.

    Garvin wasn't the only safety who had an impressive day. Glover was solid in coverage and occasionally made plays in the run game as well, helping show why the third level of WVU's defense may be its strongest.

    Glover, the senior stalwart in the secondary, had five tackles and a pass break-up.

    But if Garvin made his mark by making tackles all over the field and playing a part in trying to slow Syracuse's run game, Glover made his by being solid in coverage.

    The safety's ability to keep receivers from getting in the clear was a big reason Ryan Nassib completed only five of his 15 passes.

  • Syracuse's rushing offense.

    Before Saturday, finding success on the ground against the Mountaineers' defense was a near impossibility. West Virginia was No. 4 nationally in rushing defense, yielding only 83.17 yards per game.

    The Orange won Saturday in large part because of its ability to change that. The visitors had 132 yards on the ground by halftime (when the final score had already been set) on an average of just shy of seven yards per rush. WVU's first six opponents this season had combined to average only 2.6 yards per carry.

    What made it more impressive was that SU did so with three different running backs finding almost equivalent success. Antwon Bailey, Delone Carter and Prince-Tyson Gulley each did well, averaging 4.9, 8.3 and 3.2 yards per carry, respectively.

    Sure, Syracuse didn't pile up points. But its rushing game allowed it to burn clock, get into manageable down-and-distance situations and allowed the offensive to minimize the amount of pass attempts from quarterback Ryan Nassib (thus minimizing the risk of turnovers).

  • Syracuse's ability to control field position.

    Rob Long is likely headed for a long career as a punter in the NFL. He's the best at what he does in the Big East, and one of the best in the nation.

    Long averaged -- averaged -- 51.7 yards per punt, pinned West Virginia inside its own 20-yard line twice and boomed two other kicks a bit too far, yielding touchbacks.

    The Mountaineers' started six drives as the result of Syracuse punts. Those drives started at WVU's 18, 23, 24, 20, 6 and 30-yard lines, respectively. The one that started at the West Virginia 30-yard line came as a result of a holding penalty on the Orange while Long's punt was in the air.

    There were really only two times the hosts had favorable field position to start offensive drives all game -- after recovering a fumbled SU kickoff return in the first quarter and after a kickoff went out of bounds in the second quarter. Both of those drives ended in Geno Smith interceptions, and WVU couldn't sustain drives long enough otherwise to win.

    Punters, indeed, can be weapons. Rob Long was one for the Orange on Saturday, and he contributed in a big way to the visitors, as they claimed the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy for the first time in almost a decade.


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