When asked after West Virginia’s 59-10 victory over Kansas Saturday — one that moved the Mountaineers to 7-5 and, at least they thought, improved their bowl status — where he wanted to go bowling, quarterback Geno Smith’s answer was simple.
“I just want to go somewhere warm,” said WVU’s record-setting quarterback. “I’ve been dealing with this cold weather for two months. I want to see someplace warm.”
How’s The Bronx sound?
WVU found out Sunday evening that it won’t be going to Texas or to California, but instead to Yankee Stadium in New York City. The Mountaineers will meet up with old rival Syracuse in the third New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium Dec. 29 at 3:15 p.m. The game will be aired on ESPN.
“I am pleased that our football team will get the reward of playing in a bowl game,” said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck. “Changing conferences has been an adjustment, and I am proud of how our players have handled themselves and prepared. I am also excited for our fans, who will get the chance to visit a great city in close proximity to the state of West Virginia. I am looking forward to seeing Yankee Stadium filled with gold and blue.”
The winner of the game will receive the George M. Steinbrenner Trophy, named after the former Yankees owner, but that’s not the only trophy on the line. They’ll also be competing for the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, introduced in 1993 and presented each year to the West Virginia-Syracuse winner.
Named after a former WVU football player and Syracuse head coach, the Mountaineers won the trophy the first year and then claimed it again 10 other times. Syracuse’s name is on the trophy eight times, and it currently sits in the Orange’s possession after a 35-27 upset victory over then-No. 11 WVU last October.
Syracuse leads the overall series between the two teams, which started in 1945, 32-27. The Orange have won the last two, but WVU had won eight straight prior to that.
Syracuse, playing its final season in the Big East before making the move to the ACC, finished the year 7-5 overall and 5-2 in Big East play. The Orange ended the year with wins in five of their last six, including an upset of then-undefeated Louisville and new SEC member Missouri in back-to-back weeks. The losses came to Northwestern, Southern California, Minnesota, Rutgers and Cincinnati.
Led by senior quarterback Ryan Nassib and senior receiver Alec Lemon, Syracuse had the Big East’s top offense, averaging a little more than 473 yards per game. Most of that yardage (301.6 ypg) came through the air, a concern for a WVU pass defense that ranked last in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision in that category.
WVU will be making its 32nd bowl appearance in school history and its 11th straight. It holds a 14-17 overall record in postseason games but has won five of its last seven, including wins in the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls.
WVU played in the original Yankee Stadium on five occasions. The first came against Penn State in 1923, the stadium's first year, a 13-all tie. Two of the games (1928, 1934) came against Fordham, and WVU also played Manhattan (1938) and New York University (1947) at that historic stadium.
The new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009. Aside from two Pinstripe Bowls — Syracuse’s 36-34 win over Kansas State in 2010 and Rutgers’ win over Iowa State in 2011 — Notre Dame and Army played there in 2010 and Army played Rutgers at the stadium in 2011.
Tickets for the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl are available online at www.newerapinstripebowl.com or through WVU at www.wvugame.com. Fans can also call 1-800-WVU-GAME beginning at 9 a.m. today.
The tickets available through WVU are for the 200 level of Yankee Stadium and are $90 each. Tickets for WVU students will be available at the ticket office in the WVU Coliseum for $45 each.
Cam Huffman is sports editor of The Register-Herald.