Friday night, Syracuse sent a simple message to #11 West Virginia: “The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy isn’t going anywhere.” For the second consecutive season, the Orange (5-2, 1-1 Big East) secured the trophy that goes to the winner of this rivalry game with an impressive performance, this time manhandling the Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1), 49-23. While last year’s game was marked by a dominant defensive performance from Syracuse, this matchup featured a remarkably efficient SU offense that rolled up 443 yards, ran zero plays that lost yards, and converted 12-of-17 third downs.
On their second possession of the night, Syracuse’s offense established their theme for the night, grinding out 84 yards in 14 plays for the game’s opening score. Ryan Nassib flipped a pass to Nick Provo for a three-yard touchdown and Ross Krautman tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead with just over four minutes left in the first quarter. West Virginia bit into the lead with a field goal to make it 7-3, but the Orange responded with another 14-play drive, this time covering 80 yards for a touchdown. Nassib was involved in the score again, this time carrying the ball in from a yard out following a beautiful fake handoff. Krautman’s extra point pushed the SU lead to 14-3 with ten minutes left in the half. The Mountaineers struck back with a touchdown, but the extra point attempt thudded off the left upright, leaving the score at 14-9. Syracuse jolted the visitors on the next play when Dorian Graham collected the kickoff at his own two-yard line, then exploded 98 yards for a touchdown. Krautman’s conversion made the score 21-9. After the teams traded punts, West Virginia drove deep into SU territory. The threat, however, was thwarted when Jeremi Wilkes stepped in front of a Mountaineer receiver and intercepted a pass at the goal line, preserving the 12-point Orange lead at the half.
West Virginia opened the third quarter with a touchdown drive to clip the SU lead to 21-16, but that was the closest the visitors would get the remainder of the game. The Orange offense matched the score when Nassib capped off a 6-play, 51-yard drive by hitting a wide-open David Stevens in stride for a 29-yard scoring pass. Krautman’s extra point restored the 12-point lead at 28-16. After the Syracuse defense forced a punt, the offense again put forth a machinelike drive, this time eating up 72 yards in 11 plays. Nassib again connected with Provo for the score, this time from five yards. Krautman connected on the conversion to make it 35-16 just before the end of the third quarter. On the first play of their next drive, West Virginia’s quarterback floated a poor pass and Phillip Thomas corralled it for an interception. With the ball to start the fourth quarter, SU marched 35 yards in seven plays for another touchdown. Once again, Nassib-to-Provo provided the score, again from five yards out, and the extra point made it 42-16. The visitors struck back for a touchdown to get within 19, but the Orange responded in kind. Antwon Bailey as the feature of the 79-yard drive that took only seven plays, bursting for 50 yards on one run, then finishing the drive by crashing into the end zone from three yards out for a touchdown. Krautman tacked on the extra point to close the scoring at 49-23 with over five minutes to play.
Ryan Nassib was in total control of the offense, completing 24 out of 32 passes for 229 yards, including four touchdowns. Antwon Bailey continued his sizzling play, posting his fourth consecutive 100-yard game, which ties the second longest such streak in school history. Bailey piled up 125 yards on the night in 22 carries. Tight end Nick Provo snared six passes for 61 yards, including setting a personal record with a trio of touchdowns. For the second consecutive game, Dorian Graham amassed the most receiving yards on the team, this time with 66 yards on five grabs.
Phillip Thomas and Sriki Diabate paced the Orange defense with seven tackles apiece. Thomas also added an interception, as did Jeremi Wilkes. In his first game since the season opener due to a knee injury, Chandler Jones collected a pair of sacks. Jay Bromley, Diabate, Deon Goggins, and Brandon Sharpe each were credited with a half-sack in the game.
The Orange get back into action on Saturday when they travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals (3-4, 1-1). The Cards snapped a three-game slide on Friday night by knocking off Rutgers, 16-14. Kickoff is slated for 9:00am Pacific and the game will be available on pay-per-view and, while it is currently not listed on their website, the broadcast should also be streamed online at ESPN3.com.