Thur 10/21, 7:30
AP Rank: 14
Last Game: UConn
Returning Starters: 16
AP Rank: NR
Last Game: FSU
Returning Starters: 10
Last Meeting: 2003
Walter Reyes is undoubtedly a great back, but West Virginia has had good success in holding down the Orange star. No team that has faced Reyes more than once has given up fewer rushing yards to the senior standout than WVU. In three games, Reyes has just 122 yards and no touchdowns against the Mountaineers. Reyes did manage to score once via the pass when he took a screen and weaved 67 yards to paydirt last year in WVU's 34-23 win.
MATTERS OF PERCEPTION
Many of us have been waiting for the Mountaineer offense to click on all cylinders this season, or at least halt its parade of self-inflicted wounds. However, it's interesting to note that WVU leads the Big East in scoring with 34.8 points per game, and also tops the league in rushing yardage (260.3) and total offense (418.7). It makes you wonder what kind of numbers the Gold and Blue would be putting up if they weren't killing drives with penalties.
At one point in its history, West Virginia fell into the same trap that the Orange now appear to be snared in. The trap? Trying to find another quarterback with the skills of a Donovan McNabb or Major Harris.
After Harris left WVU, the Mountaineers spent several seasons trying to find and develop another player to run the offense that had been devised to take advantage of Major's skills. Of course, there aren't many players around like Major, so that effort often led to a sort of "square peg in a round hole" result. WVU recruited and signed a number of run/pass quarterbacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the offense often suffered as WVU tried to duplicate the powerful attack of 1997 and 1998.
The Mountaineers eventually learned their lesson and stopped trying to force an offense on players that didn't fit it. Syracuse, however, doesn't appear to have absorbed that lesson yet.
The Orange had a great run of quarterbacks from Don McPherson to Marvin Graves to Donovan McNabb, but since then the Cuse attack has sputtered under the direction of QBs that didn't measure up to the talent level of those signalcallers. Despite that fact, the Orange haven't changed their offensive scheme much, even through the head coaching change from Dick MacPherson to Paul Pasqualoni.
GO FOR IT
Syracuse opponents have been successful on six of seven fourth down conversions this season. That might be a factor to keep in mind when the Mountaineers face a fourth down situation on the Orange side of the field, especially if the alternative is a lengthy field goal.
Despite playing in only two-thirds of his team's games to date, linebacker Syracuse linebacker Kellen Pruitt is still sixth on the team in tackles with a total of 30. Pruitt, who had knee surgery on October 1, is expected to miss the WVU game as well.
The junior was the best of a solid corps of Orange linebackers, and his absence has a big effect on the Cuse defense. Syracuse is giving up an uncharacteristic 4.6 yards per rush to its foes in 2004.
Following the UConn game, Ben Lynch admitted that his shoulder is "about 60%". Lynch had one of his signature moves in the game against the Huskies, bursting past his opponent with a quick move off the ball to bring Cornell Brockington down in the backfield, but those types of plays have been less frequent in 2004 due to the lingering effects of an injury to his right shoulder.
"I think I will get more of those as I get the strength back in my right arm," Lynch said. "I'm only at about 60% of my normal strength in the bench press. There weren't any tears that showed up in the MRI, but there is some pain and soreness. I just have to deal with the pain. It definitely affects me, because I don't have the pulling strength in my arm that I normally do. I've missed some tackles because of it."
Give Lynch, a hardworking performer with a great deal of toughness, a big chunk of credit for playing through such a handicap. Imagine what it's like trying to fend off 300-pound blockers, and then pull down ballcarriers, with what amounts to 1 ½ arms.
Quick, who's the career touchdown receptions leader at WVU? David Saunders? Danny Buggs? Reggie Rembert? All good guesses, but incorrect.
WVU's all-time best at taking passes to the house is Cedric Thomas, who scored 23 times via the air from 1976-1980. Chris Henry is currently fifth on that list with 17. Now, what are the odds that Henry will break that record? Consider that the talented Belle Chasse, La. native could leave West Virginia for the NFL after this season. Hmmmmm.