Bits and Bytes - Syracuse

The first of our pregame wrapups -- containing notes and observations on the weekend's football action.






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Series: SU 30-22
Sun 9/4/05, 1:30 pm
Syracuse, NY.

Carrier Dome
Record: 0-0
Poll Rank: NR
Last Game
Fla. St. 18-30

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Defense: 13
Offense: 14
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Record: 0-0
Poll Rank: NR
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Ga Tech 14-51
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Defense: 14
Offense: 11
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First Meeting: 1945
Last Meeting: 2004
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MERRILY WE RUSH ALONG

WVU fans know about the disconnect of their head coach, who built his reputation by throwing the ball, fashioning one of the top rushing offenses in the nation during his time at WVU. That oddity might be magnified in the opener, as Syracuse coach Greg Robinson is expected to put some version of the West Coast offense on the field. Why? Because the contest matches the top two Big East rushing offenses of a year ago. West Virginia led the conference in rushing offense with 252.8 yards per game, while Syracuse was second with 178.8. Might it prove difficult for the Orange to get too far away from all that productivity?

OVERLOOKING THE OBVIOUS

Everyone talks about the noise in the Dome. A few more savvy observers mention the lighting, which gives the contest a video game-like feel. But I've always maintained that it's the field itself that is the biggest obstacle for visitors to overcome.

Unlike most fields, which are crowned in the middle to assist water drainage, the field inside the Dome is flat. And that makes for some adjustments, especially for quarterbacks throwing passes to the sidelines. Usually, QBs are throwing somewhat downhill on those types of routes. In the Dome, it's a straight shot. It's not unusual to see visiting QBs short hop a couple of balls until they get used to the Kansas-like terrain.

SHELL GAME

WVU really doesn't know what kind of offense the Orange might throw at it on Sunday, but if it's anything different than the power/option/play action configuration of previous Cuse squads, one thing is for sure. Quarterback Perry Patterson will be on the hot seat.

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Game Info
WVU 0-0, 0-0
SU 0-0, 0-0
Sun 9/4/05 1:30 pm
Carrier Dome
Series: SU leads 30-22-0
TV: ABC
BCS: WVU-na: SU-na
Line: SU -1.5
Stats & Trends
More than many other teams, Syracuse depended on an athletic, multi-talented QB to run its teams under Dick MacPherson and Paul Pasqualoni. When it had one (Don McPherson, Donovan McNabb), the Orange rolled up wins. When it didn't, struggles usually ensued.

With a new attack apparently set to be unveiled, it would seem that the pressure would be eased on the quarterback, who presumably won't be required to run what ammounted to three different styles of offenses in one game. However, Patterson (along with backup Joe Fields) were high school QBs in the mold of the Syracuse greats -- run/pass guys who were at their best with the ball on the perimeter. Controlled, accurate passing has not been their strong suit in past seasons.

How will they handle the challenges of the new offense, which presumably doesn't fit their strengths? That's a big load for any player to handle.

MY HOME AMONG THE HILLS

The next time a know-nothing "fan" says that WVU doesn't take West Virginia kids, remind them that there are 29 Mountain State natives on the roster. And they aren't all there as window-dressing, either. Six of them will have starting assignments on Sunday.

REMEMBER THE SABBATH

West Virginia has played just four times on Sunday, but holds a 3-1 mark on that day. Surprisingly, three of those games (all wins) came long before the explosion of television in college football. WVU defeated Kentucky in 1940, Waynesburg in 1948 and Richmond in 1965, with all of those wins coming at home. The Mountaineers' lone loss was to Nebraska in the Kickoff Classic in 1994. The game against Syracuse will be WVU's first-ever road Sunday matchup.

HISTORY: DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING?

West Virginia has never won two games in a row at Syracuse. While the Dome is certainly involved in some of that history, it also stretches back to old Archbold Stadium. The Mountaineers, riding a three-game winning streak against the Orange, have never won four consecutive contests in the series.

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This is WVU's first appearance on ABC since its 24-17 win over Pitt in 2002. The Panthers are one of three teams the Mountaineers have faced in Big East conference openers. WVU is 2-2 in such games, having split a pair of contests with Pitt and Boston College.

Does any of this have an effect on Sunday's game? Probably not. Except, maybe, for the Dome part. WVU's younger players are likely to be unfazed by the thought of playing inside at this point. However, once they are there, it could be a different story. Things look a little different under the unfamiliar lighting, and there's no doubt that the conditions, which are as familiar to the home team as their own beds, take some getting used to.


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