Orange Crushed

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It may be a new era for the Orange, but it was the same old story at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon. For the eighth straight time, WVU won with the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy with a dominating performance in a 34-13 victory over the hosts.

Both sides of the ball established control early for West Virginia. Its defense held Syracuse to only one first down on its final five drives of the first half. The Mountaineer offense took full advantage, scoring 27 unanswered points to open the game.

West Virginia punted only once in the entire first half, and even that kick from Scott Kozlowski was downed at the Orange's 1-yard line, further limiting the SU offense's ability to find receiving threat Mike Williams.

Williams had only one catch for five yards in the opening half, helping the WVU defense limit the Orange to only 77 yards of total offense in the game's first 30 minutes.

That strong start stood in stark contrast to last season, when the Mountaineers struggled in the early portions of noon games.

"I'm very, very pleased on how fast we started," said WVU head coach Bill Stewart. "Last year, we had a problem with early games. We had a problem in West Virginia football of setting our alarms. I'm very pleased that was accomplished today."

It was a solid, if not spectacular, performance overall for many of the team's top contributors.

Quarterback Jarrett Brown was 22-for-30 passing for 244 yards and one touchdown. Running back Noel Devine not only was the recipient of that scoring toss, but he also ran 22 times for 91 yards and added another touchdown on the ground.

Ryan Clarke continued to find ways to gain ground in short-yardage situations, running for only 14 yards on his seven carries. Two of those totes, however, were touchdowns.

Jock Sanders led the nine Mountaineers who caught at least one pass with nine grabs for 67 yards. Eight WVU players had a reception in the opening half.

"There's a method to my madness," Stewart said. "Those that don't know football probably don't understand that. I'm going to continue to spread the wealth. I'm going to continue to throw the ball deep. I want to keep people off of us (at the line of scrimmage)."

That first half started off promisingly enough for Syracuse, as the home team took the opening kickoff and drove into WVU territory quickly before making its first critical error.

Orange quarterback Greg Paulus tossed a screen pass into the waiting arms of defensive lineman Josh Taylor, who started once again in place of the injured Scooter Berry.

Taylor fumbled the ball, but for once, the miscue played into the hands of Stewart's team. Teammate Pat Lazear scooped the fumble up and returned it all the way to the SU 11-yard line.

On the very next play, Brown found Devine on a screen play of his own. The running back darted around tackle attempts en route to the end zone, giving the Mountaineers a quick 7-0 lead and further quieting an already tame Carrier Dome crowd.

A long kickoff return for SU then went for naught, as West Virginia's defense held the team to a three-and-out. The offense took over at its own 20 and proceeded on a long march aided by Syracuse errors.

A defender committed an personal foul penalty for illegal hands to the face on a WVU third down, extending the drive. Later, another Orange player jumped offsides as the Mountaineers lined up for a field goal attempt, giving the visitors another first down.

Clarke ultimately plunged in from one yard out to cap the 14 play, 9:12 drive and give his team a 14-0 lead.

Things only went from bad to worse for Syracuse coach Doug Marrone's team, as the offense was once more held to a three-and-out. While Rob Long's punt pinned West Virginia back at its own 7-yard line, that mattered little to an offense that continued to dominate its opposition.

Brown completed passes of 27, 16 and 32 yards on the drive to put his team in position. Clarke ran in from three yards out and the rout was on, even though a bad snap kept Tyler Bitancurt from attempting the PAT. The Mountaineers were up 20-0.

The success only continued on Syracuse's next possession, which ended in the team's third-straight three-and-out.

Brandon Hogan returned the ensuing punt all the way to the Orange's 8-yard line, and Sanders ran in from that distance on the next play to make it 27-0.

Syracuse finally managed a first down, only its third of the game, when Paulus found Lavar Lobdell for 14 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive. The drive would go no further, however, and SU was forced to punt three plays later.

On its resulting possession, the WVU offense failed to score for the first time in the game. Brown and company drove to the SU 35-yard line before having to punt, and Scott Kozlowski booted a high hanging kick that was downed at the Orange's 1-yard line.

That poor field position limited Syracuse's ability to call plays, and yet another three-and-out for the Mountaineer defense resulted. All told, coordinator Jeff Casteel's unit held its opposition to four plays or fewer on nine of its 13 drives.

"I'm very pleased with our defense," Stewart said. "There were numerous three-and-outs. We talked about getting off the field, and we got off the field."

Brown was sacked twice on the ensuing drive, which started in SU territory, and West Virginia had to settle with a 27-0 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

While the scoring in the second half was limited, it might be a misnomer to say that the defenses completely took over.

After Ryan Nassib took over at quarterback for Paulus, the Orange finally found success getting the ball to Williams. The receiver streaked down the middle of the field essentially uncovered, and Nassib fired a strike into his waiting hands for a 50-yard touchdown. The first Syracuse points of the game made the score 27-6.

Mistakes on the part of both offenses (particularly dropped passes) continued to limit drives. Neither team had the ball for more than five plays in the second half until WVU took off on a nine-play march that ended with a touchdown rush of four yards from Devine.

That play, on the first snap of the fourth quarter, gave the Mountaineers a 34-6 lead.

After an exchange of punts, the Orange managed one final scoring drive, as Nassib hit Marcus Sales for a 24-yard score, capping a six play, 66-yard drive that made the final score 34-13.

Nassib finished the game 7-of-16 passing for 120 yards and two scores. He replaced Paulus, who was only 5-of-9 for 30 yards with an interception in the opening half.

Williams snared four passes, gaining 89 yards in the process. But the Syracuse running game was rendered largely a non-factor, with starting running back Delone Carter gaining only 33 yards on his 12 attempts.

"We talked about containing the playmakers, Paulus and Williams," Stewart said. "I thought we did a nice job with that."

"At the end, how do you stop Mike Williams? You don't. You try to keep the number minimal of plays in the playmakers' hands. We played hard, physical and tough Mountaineer football."

The Orange fell to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the Big East Conference with the loss, while West Virginia advanced to 4-1 overall by earning a win in its first conference game of the season.

"This was round one of the Big East," Stewart said. "I was very pleased with how our team came out swinging in round one."

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