For the second time in three years, Syracuse closed a successful campaign with a Pinstripe Bowl victory, this time running over, through, and around West Virginia for a 38-14 victory at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The Orange (8-5) used a dominant rushing attack en route to the win as Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith combined for had 365 rushing yards on a day when rain and snow defused the high-powered passing attacks of both teams.
The SU defense shut down the 8th-ranked offensive attack in the nation, holding the Mountaineers (7-6), who entered the day averaging 518.5 yards and 41.6 points per game per game, to 285 total yards and only two touchdowns. This accomplishment, which played a major part in Syracuse’s fourth straight win to close the season and third consecutive win over West Virginia in as many seasons, was highlighted by Syracuse not permitting WVU to convert either a third or fourth down in 12 combined attempts.
West Virginia opened the game with a long scoring drive, but it ended with a thud as a low kick on a field goal attempt caromed off a blocker and fell harmlessly to the ground. The Orange took advantage, marching 72 yards before settling for their own field goal attempt, this one a 25-yarder that Ross Krautman put through the uprights to stake SU to a 3-0 lead with just over five minutes left in the opening quarter. The two squads combined for five consecutive punts before Syracuse put together another solid drive. This one ended with no points, however, as the Orange could not pound the ball in from one yard out on three tries and turned the ball over on downs. The SU defense took up the slack on the next play, generating points when Siriki Diabate and Cameron Lynch combined for a quarterback sack in the end zone. The ball came loose, but a WVU lineman pounced on it, limiting the damage to a safety.
The play nudged the Syracuse lead out to 5-0 with just under eight minutes on the clock in the second quarter. Less than two minutes after the ensuing free kick, the Orange offense broke through, moving 65 yards in six plays for a touchdown. Prince-Tyson Gulley had the honors, exploding through a huge hole to roar in untouched from 33 yards out. Krautman tacked on the conversion to stretch the lead to 12-0. West Virginia responded with their own quick strike, scoring a touchdown to cut the margin to 12-7 with 3:37 still on the clock. Gulley fumbled to end the ensuing SU drive, but the Mountaineers could not threaten. Syracuse got the ball back, but opted to run out the clock and take their lead into halftime.
The Orange received the ball to open the second half and promptly had their most success through the air. Ryan Nassib completed all three of his throws on the drive, including a ten-yard touchdown pass that was batted up, but plucked out the air in the end zone by Beckett Wales for the score. Krautman’s extra point put SU up 19-7 just over four minutes into the third quarter. After the SU defense forced another punt, Nassib could not take advantage, throwing an interception at the Orange 25.
The Syracuse defense promptly got the ball back when Brandon Sharpe slapped the ball free on a quarterback sack and Dyshawn Davis recovered at the SU 33. The Orange turned back to the ground attack, specifically Gulley, and the move paid off in spades. Gulley took a handoff on the first play, made one quick cut, and turned on the jets for a 67-yard touchdown. Krautman tacked on the extra point, pushing the lead to 26-7 with just under seven minutes left in the third. The Mountaineers displayed their quick strike ability again, scoring 71 seconds later to cut the margin down to 26-14. SU was not shaken, chewing up 70 yards in nine plays for another score. Nassib flipped a screen pass to Gulley, who evaded two tacklers en route to the end zone from nine yards out.
The extra point was true and pushed the Syracuse lead to 19 points again, this time at 33-14 with less than three minutes on the clock. Three plays into the ensuing drive, Sharpe again got to the West Virginia quarterback, pressuring him into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, which gave the Orange another safety and a 35-14 lead with 1:08 remaining in the period. The SU offense was not done yet, grinding out 32 yards on ten plays to set up a Krautman field goal attempt from 36 yards out. The kick was true and Syracuse claimed a 38-14 lead with just under 12 minutes left in the contest. The Orange defense stuffed West Virginia on a fourth-and-one on their next possession, then their offensive counterparts chewed up just under seven minutes of clock before giving the ball back on downs with a mere 3:24 remaining. After a West Virginia punt, Nassib needed just a pair of snaps from the victory formation to finish off the victory.
Prince-Tyson Gulley was simply a monster, rolling up 208 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Gulley tacked on team highs of five receptions and 56 receiving yards, as well as a touchdown catch, to complete his day. Jerome Smith would have been the team’s leading man on any other day, finishing with 157 yards on the ground on 30 carries. Ryan Nassib did what he could with the sloppy weather, completing 12-of-24 passes for 134 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.