Syracuse started the second quarter much the way they spent the first: controlling the football and eventually finding the endzone. The Orange’s balanced attack controlled the tempo and picked up big yardage after the catch due to some poor Mountaineer tackling. Pat Miller has been exposed twice, both times giving up big gains. It appeared that the drive had stalled out near the ten yard line when Bruce Irvin was flagged for unnecessary roughness. As in the first half, lady luck smiled on the Orange. Ryan Nassib would rush in from one yard for the score.
The ensuing Mountaineer drive appeared to be struggling until Geno Smith found Stedman Bailey down the sideline for a 64 yard touchdown. Bailey made both an acrobatic catch and danced the sidelines with aplomb as two Syracuse defenders stumbled over each other attempting to make a play. While Syracuse controlled the game thus far, Geno demonstrated how quickly the Mountaineers can put points on the board and climb back into a football game. Tyler Bitancurt’s extra point bounced off of the upright in another lucky bounce for Syracuse.
The Mountaineers glaring weakness on special teams continued to rear its head when the Orange answered immediately with a 68 yard kickoff return from Dorian Graham. If Syracuse needed everything to go their way to be in this one, they’re sure getting it.
The Mountaineer’s following drive stalled out after back to back Syracuse sacks, both of which featured the Mountaineers pocket collapsing completely. While the WVU line and backs had done a decent job of picking up the blitz to this point, they failed epically on this drive. Geno is starting to look a bit nervous, which he has in common with Mountaineer fans everywhere.
On the Mountaineers final drive of the half, pushed forward by a 43 yard Willie Milhouse reception, Geno Smith threw a brutal pick to send the Mountaineers into the halftime locker room in full on crisis mode. On a play action pass from the ten yard line Smith attempted to force the ball into quadruple coverage and the Orange defense made him pay. It was the exact kind of mistake that cost the Mountaineers in last season’s homecoming day loss.
So far this one has all the harbingers of a road upset, with silly mistakes, and unlucky bounces. Hopefully Holgorsen and crew can right the ship in the locker room, because the Mountaineers will need a big second half to pull this one out.