Bronx, NY – Prince-Tyson Gulley had two touchdowns on the ground and one receiving as Syracuse pounded West Virginia, 38-14, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
Gulley finished the game with 208 yards on 25 carries along with five catches for 56 yards, while Ryan Nassib was 12-for-24 for 134 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Orange (8-5), who won for the second time in this bowl game. Syracuse took a 36-34 win over Kansas State in 2010.
"This is huge because I've never won my final game," said Nassib. "High school, JV, you know, never won it so I was a little nervous coming into this one. This was a great one to take."
Jerome Smith carried the ball 30 times for 157 yards in the win, which saw a mix of snow and rain throughout the contest.
Geno Smith went 16-for-24 for 197 yards and two touchdowns, but also lost a fumble and was twice hit in the end zone for Syracuse safeties for the Mountaineers (7-6), who lost six of their final eight games of the season.
"The weather obviously had some effect on Smith's performance today," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. "They didn't throw for many yards, either, but it's hard to pinpoint one thing. We did a poor job of overcoming adversity and there was a lot of adversity. The surface was not good; it was sloppy out there and wet and you just can't sit there and point out Geno."
Holding a five-point lead to begin the third quarter, Syracuse started the frame with the ball and added to its advantage. On the 10th play of the drive that began at the 20, Nassib threw a pass over the middle that was tipped at the goal line, but it fell into the hands of Beckett Wales, the intended target, for a 19-7 lead just over four minutes in.
West Virginia got a 59-yard catch-and-run from Stedman Bailey on its next possession and later faced a 4th-and-2, but a 28-yard run into the end zone by Andrew Buie was called back on a holding call and the Mountaineers had to punt.
Nassib was quickly picked off by Isaiah Bruce, but the next play saw Smith stripped of the ball and Syracuse got it back at its own 33.
On the first snap, Gulley took a handoff up the middle, kicked it out to the right and ran into the end zone for a 26-7 lead with 6:52 to play in the third.
West Virginia answered in just four plays as a 29-yard touchdown catch by Bailey made it a 26-14 game with 5:41 to play in the third.
Syracuse came right back, though, and again put the ball in the end zone. On the ninth play of the drive from the 10-yard line, Nassib dumped a pass out to the left for Gulley, who made two tacklers miss on his way in for a 33-14 lead with 2:52 left in the third.
West Virginia was pinned back at its own 9 after an illegal block call on the kickoff. Facing a 3rd-and-8, Smith was sacked in the end zone and Syracuse was awarded its second safety of the game.
A 36-yard field goal from Ross Krautman with 11:57 to play in the game gave the Orange a 38-14 advantage and that was the final score of the contest.
West Virginia began the game with the ball and faced a quick three-and-out, but a roughing the kicker call on the punt gave the team a fresh set of downs. Another 15-yard penalty to Syracuse during the drive got the team into scoring position, but Tyler Bitancurt's 36-yard field goal was blocked.
Syracuse converted a pair of third downs on its ensuing drive, one on a pass completion and another on a pass interference call. The team had a 1st-and- goal at the 9, but was unable to get into the end zone and a 25-yard field goal from Krautman gave the team a 3-0 lead with 5:21 left in the first.
The two squads then exchanged punts before Syracuse threw back Shawne Alston for a 1-yard loss on 4th-and-1 at the Syracuse 42.
A pass interference call on the first snap moved the Orange across midfield, but the team didn't move much further and had to punt.
After another three-and-out from the Mountaineers, Syracuse had excellent field position as the team started out at the WVU 42. Converting a 4th-and-1 on a run by Smith, the next play saw Smith run 16 yards to the 5-yard line. After a 4-yard run to get down to the 1, Smith was stuffed on the next three plays as the West Virginia defense made a big stand.
It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Mountaineers, though, as they got the ball back at their own 1-yard line and the first snap saw Smith sacked in the end zone. He lost the ball and it was recovered by a WVU player to give Syracuse a safety and a 5-0 lead with 7:59 to play.
After getting the ball back at their own 35 following the kick, three straight runs by Gulley got the ball across midfield. A holding call on WVU moved the ball 10 more yards. From the 33, Gulley took a handoff up the middle and into the end zone for a 12-0 lead with 6:07 to play in the half.
The Mountaineers, though, answered on their ensuing possession. The team moved the chains on a third down thanks to a pass interference call to Syracuse. Facing a 2nd-and-10 at the 32, Smith read the blitz and dumped the ball off short to Bailey over the middle. Bailey shook off one tackler and scampered into the end zone on a 32-yard score for a 12-7 game with 3:38 left in the first half.
WVU then stripped Gulley of the ball and recovered it at midfield. The team got down to the 27-yard-line, but a personal foul call to the Mountaineers moved the ball back 15 yards and the team wound up punting as did Syracuse on the last play of the half.
Syracuse has won four of its last five postseason games and is now 14-9-1 in bowl games ... West Virginia fell to 14-18 in bowl contests ... Bailey had seven catches for 126 yards and both scores ... Syracuse amassed 369 yards on the ground and held the ball for close to 36 1/2 minutes ... The Orange own a 33-27 advantage over the Mountaineers in the series.