Turnovers End Bowl Hopes

Two West Virginia turnovers and a pair of major field position miscues led to 17 Syracuse points Saturday in WVU's 24-13 loss to the No. 18 Orangemen at the Carrier Dome in front of 43,753 fans.

Corner Andre Brinson blocked Todd James' punt with 9:27 remaining and SU (8-2, 5-0 Big East) leading 10-6 before reserve running back Barry Baker recovered at the WVU (3-6, 1-4 Big East) 11-yard line to setup James Mungro's game-sealing touchdown run to make the score 17-7 with 9:34 left. It was the second turnover near the goal line that led to a Syracuse score.

"This game came down to field position and turnovers," Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni said of the Orange's third consecutive win over WVU. "The blocked punt was an awfully big play."

As was Brad Lewis' first quarter fumble at the WVU 10-yard line that allowed the Orangemen, who had no turnovers, to draw first blood with a field goal to lead 3-0. ‘Cuse defensive end Dwight Freeny hit the signal caller in the back and knocked the pigskin loose, but SU could manage just six yards in four plays and settled for Collin Barber's 22-yarder.

The Mountaineers answered to tie the score at 3-3 with a 12-play, 61-yard drive that ended with Brenden Rauh's 37-yard field goal with 2:21 left in the first quarter. The march proved to be WVU's best of the day, as the Mountaineers could never mount another push that mattered.

After another Rauh field goal Syracuse scored off its second turnover, a Lewis pass to Derek Jones that hit off the wideouts hands and to SU corner Latroy Oliver at the WVU 41. The ‘Cuse used nine plays to go 41 yards and hit paydirt with James Mungor's one-yard rush. That put the Orangemen in the lead for good at 10-6.

"You watch games this season and it always seems like a turnover or field position swing wins the game," Syracuse sophomore quarterback R.J. Anderson said. "We score well in the red zone, but we could not get down there without turnovers. Whichever team makes the least usually wins, and that happened again today."

West Virginia played the Orange evenly for the next two quarters, but could never score. The Mountaineers had a chance to cut into the lead with a Rauh field goal on the first drive of the third quarter, but chose to try a fake field goal. James' end zone pass to tight end Tory Johnson was floated and freshman O'Neil Scott tipped just enough of it to break it up.

Like so many times for WVU, the ball bounced the other way and close was not good enough.

"There is a fine line between winning and losing, and especially when you're playing a fine team, you can't afford mistakes," West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The fake field goal has worked 100 percent of the time we have run it in practice. But we needed to execute and finish drives. If we do that it might have been different."

After the SU blocked punt and score Rodriguez inserted Marshall in the fourth quarter with WVU trailing 17-6. The backup had never played in the Dome and went unused for more than three quarters. Inserting him and expecting WVU to spring to life or mount a drive without a proven signal caller was a stretch at best and a sign that the coach had given up on the season at worst.

On his first drive the newcomer fumbled when hit by Freeny, and two plays later Syracuse punched in for its final total of 24.

Marshall, with the SU defense playing loose to prevent big plays, led a meaningless touchdown drive late before James' on-side kick was fielded by Campbell and SU ran clock for the win.

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