NEW YORK — With the weather outside frightful at the Pinstripe Bowl, Syracuse turned to its delightful running game.
Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith powered the Orange to 376 yards on the ground as Syracuse captured its second Pinstripe Bowl in two years, defeating West Virginia, 38-14, on a blustery, snowy day at Yankee Stadium.
Gulley earned MVP honors with 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Smith chipped in another 158 yards as the ground game helped the Orange possess the ball 13 more minutes than the Mountaineers.
“We got a really good O-line and we got a couple of backs that can do some good things,” Smith said. “We ran the ball a bit more than we’re used to and we did what we were supposed to do.”
Though the Orange established themselves as the Big East’s top passing team this season, it became apparent early in the game that they’d have to abandon their aerial attack.
The wind made it hard to throw the ball, and the snow made the ball slippery. Syracuse adjusted and threw for just 138 yards.
When the Orange did try to throw, quarterback Ryan Nassib mostly sent the ball short. Gulley also contributed 50 receiving yards.
“Prince and Jerome and the offensive line and the receivers on the perimeter were doing a nice job,” Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. “We kept running and just kept trying to hit a couple of different things, made a couple of adjustments and made some big runs.”
Gulley put the Orange up 12-0 when he broke a 33-yard run with 6:07 left in the first half. But it was his 67-yard scamper in the third quarter that gave Syracuse control of the game at 26-7.
“Our linemen came out to play,” Gulley said. “(They) opened up a lot of good holes and made it easy for us to pick where we were going and they did a good job for us.”
Gulley finished with 255 total yards and three touchdowns, which meant that he single-handedly outgained and outscored the entire West Virginia offense (they finished with 287 total yards and 14 points) on his own.
“The team with the best running game is going to win,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “And they clearly had the better running game.”Wesley Cheng