When: 11/8, Noon
Last Week: Pitt
Returning Starters: 12
Last Week: Miami
Returning Starters: 13
Last Meeting: 2002
Common Opponents to Date: (UCF 14 - SU 38) - (UCF 18 - WVU 36) / (VT 51 - SU 7) (VT 7 - WVU 28) / (BC 14 -SU 39) - (BC 28 - WVU 35) / (Pitt 34 -SU 14) - (Pitt 31 - WVU 52) / (Miami 17 - SU 10) - (Miami 22 - WVU 20)
WVU - Tim Brown (Achilles) Out, Jahmile Addae (Shoulder) Out, Pat Liebig (Knee) Out, Fred Blueford (Knee) Out, Leandre Washington (Hip) Questionable, Josh Bailey (Shoulder) Questionable), Dan Mozes (Hip) Probable, Travis Garvin (Ribs) Probable.
Syracuse- Jameel Dumas (Knee) Questionable
WVU 6-4, 4-1
SU 5-4, 2-3
Sat: 11/22 Noon
Series: 30-20 SU
Sagarin: WVU 40- SU-54
Line: WVU -3
Stats & Trends
The 2003 edition of the Syracuse defense is been much improved from a season ago. Last year's Orangemen defense had more holes than an old pair of underwear. The Orange pass defense was the worst in the country and they were not much better against the run, but that was last year. This season, defensive coordinator Chris Rippon has his troops headed in the right direction.
The defensive line is an experienced group lead by All-Big East canidate Louis Gachelin. Gachelin has included six sacks and eight tackles for loss in his 34 stops. Joining Gachelin in the trenches are Josh Thomas, Christian Ferrara and James Wyche. This trio combines for 10 years of college football experience which has resulted in six quarterback sacks and 17 tackles for loss.
The linebackers are headed by former WVU assistant coach Steve Dunlap and, as always, are the strength of the Syracuse defense. Starting at middle linebacker will be senior Rich Scanlon. Scanlon leads Sryacuse in tackles with 107, which is good for third in the Big East Conference. Flanking Scanlon will be Kelvin Smith and Kellen Pruitt. While Smith and Pruitt are young, they still have been able to make a positive impact for Coach Dunlap. The duo have combined for 128 stops, three sacks and three interceptions.
Manning the defensive backfield will be young group of Orangemen with junior Diamond Ferri having the most experience. Ferri, along with sophomore Anthony Smith, make up the safeties while Steve Gregory and Thomas Whitfield man the corners. Both Ferri, a former running back, and Smith have shown good speed while racking up a combined 169 tackles, five interceptions and seven pass break-ups. Gregory and Whitfield have also proved to have excellent speed, but lack the size to match up with WVU's tall, phyisical receivers. The pair have combine for only 77 tackles but have broken up 11 passes.
WVU ranks 59th in total offense (378.9 yds/game), 12th in rushing offense (220.0 yds/game) and 105th in passing offense (158.6 yds/game).
Syracuse ranks 54th in total defense (367.11 yds/game), 45th in rushing defense (137 yds/game) and 73rd in passing efficiency defense (128.75 rating).
WVU defense vs. Syracuse offense
If Syracuse is to knock off the Mountaineers they will have to run the ball and run it well. With the Orangemen struggling to put together a consistent passing attack the running game has become that much more important.
Leading the Syracuse ball carriers has been junior tailback Walter Reyes. Reyes is averaging 117.2 yards a game on the ground, plus an additional 24.3 yards receiving. The Struthers, Ohio native has reached paydirt 15 times this season, which is good enough for sixth in the nation. Look for Reyes to get 30-35 touches considering the strength and experience of the Orangemen front five and the injury situation of the Mountaineers.
Calling the signals for Syracuse will be R. J. Anderson. The senior from Plainville, Connecticut is vastly improved over last season, when he completed fewer than 50% of his passes. This season Anderson is 132-215 (61.4%) for 1458 yards and eight touchdowns with only four picks. If the Mountaineers can confuse Anderson with the 3-3-5 stack defense, Brian King, Lance Frazier or Pac Man Jones may gobble up a few more interceptions.
On the receiving end of R. J.'s passes will be a set of solid receivers. Johnnie Morant, who seems to be completing his eighth year at Syracuse, has been a consistent receiver for the Orangemen but has never reached the level of performance expected of him after coming out of high school as a blue-chip recruit. Morant has hauled in a team leading 33 passes for 551 yards and four touchdowns. The other starting wideout has been Jaren Jones. Jones, a junior, is averaging 23.9 yards per game with a long reception of 25 yards.
By the numbers:
WVU ranks 56th in total defense (371.9 yds/game), 28th in rushing defense (122.9 yds/game) and 37th in passing efficiency defense (115.07).
Syracuse ranks 72nd in total offense (364.89 yds/game), 18th in rushing offense (202.89 yds/game) and 104th in passing (162 yds/game).
WVU special teams vs. Syracuse special teams
Without a major kick or punt return threat the Syracuse special teams haven't been quite as "special" as in years past. The punt returns are handled by freshman Marcus Clayton. Clayton has 22 returns this season and has averaged 8.9 yards per try. Returning kicks will be senior Johnnie Morant or Steve Gregory. Morant has 13 returns for an average of 26.2 yards while Gregory has returned 12 for an average of 18 yards.
Continuing in a long line of good kickers for the Orangemen will be Collin Barber. Barber has connected on 10-12 field goals and all 25 extra points, making him the second leading scorer on the team.
The Syracuse punting duties go to freshman Brendan Carney. Carney has had a solid first season, averaging 43.5 yards per punt but has had four of his 44 attempts blocked which bodes well for the Mountaineer punt return unit.
By the numbers:
WVU ranks 71st in net punting (35.14 yds/punt), 10th in kick returns (24.4 yds/return) and 32nd in punt returns (11.38 yds/return).
Syracuse ranks 104th in net punting (32.6 yds/punt), 47th in kick returns (21.34 yds/return) and 59th in punt returns (9.36 yds/return)
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On Offense: Quincy Wilson
On Defense: Ben Lynch
* Only 19 players on the Syracuse rosters are from the Empire State.
* Since 1987 Syracuse has only had one losing season, they were 4-8 last season.
* Pink and Blue were the school colors until orange was adopted as the school color in 1890, hence the nickname "Orangemen". Where they "Pinkmen" before 1890?
* Stephen Crane, author of "The Red Badge of Courage", was a member of the 1891 squad.
Be sure to check out our Stats & Trends section for lots more matchup information!
To predict the outcome of this game is difficult. The Mountaineers have not had much success in the Carrier Dome, but it's obvious that the Orangemen do not have the talent level they enjoyed in years past. WVU is one of the hottest teams in the nation, but one would think the recent rash of injuries would eventually catch up with the Blue and Gold. My wife says that Syracuse has ugly uniforms, so I am going with West Virginia to bring home the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy.
WVU - 31 Syracuse - 28
Lifelong WVU fan Bob Surgeon says Syracuse by two touchdowns....I say we prove him wrong!