NEW YORK — West Virginia still has last year’s lopsided loss to Syracuse on its mind as they make their final preparations for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday.
Though the Mountaineers have dominated the series in recent years, the Orange have won the last two games between the two teams, including last year’s 49-23 win at the Carrier Dome. It was a shocking defeat, given the Orange were unranked and West Virginia was No. 15 at the time.
“We’re extra motivated to play these guys based on the fact that we’ve lost to them two times in a row,” West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey said. “I really felt like we shouldn’t have. ”
Bowl season generally pits two teams against each other that have little history against each other and no rivalry to speak of. That isn’t the case here, as the Orange have played the Mountaineers each year dating back to the 1955 season. In 1993, the two teams began playing for the Schwartzwalder Trophy.
The loss last season was just the jolt the Mountaineers needed. Heavily favored to win the Big East, the Mountaineers regrouped after the loss to the Orange and won the Big East’s BCS bid. They ultimately dismantled Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
“That was a turning point for our season. We had to really evaluate ourselves,” West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said. “We were in a situation where we got caught off guard.”
With West Virginia now playing in the Big 12, and the Orange headed to the ACC in 2013, the two teams won’t play each other for the foreseeable future.
“Our mindset is a little more payback,” West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin said. “That’s my take of the game.”
Hard to blame the Moutaineers for having that mentality.
“I can see that they have some unfinished business,” Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib said. “We played them well last year and we’ve come out with a couple of wins against them. I would be the same way if I was in their situation. We know they’re going to be ready to go and we just have to make sure we’re just as ready, if not more.”
Said safety Shamarko Thomas: “Talk is cheap, I felt like. Just go out there and play the game. Show through actions, not words.”Wesley Cheng