By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
West Virginia has been installed as a slight favorite against Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 in New York City.
To coach Dana Holgorsen and his players, it is a matter of some unfinished business with revenge in mind. The Orange defeated the Mountaineers not once but twice as Big East members.
Syracuse won by 19-14 in Morgantown two years ago and by 49-23 last season at Syracuse. WVU trails in the all-time series by 32-27.
“We’re excited about this game,” Holgorsen said. “(Finishing 8-5) is a heck of a lot better than 7-6. Much like we ended with the Kansas game, playing for the seniors.
“Those guys have been through a lot. We have some pretty good football players in that group too. We want to send them out on top.”
He thinks Syracuse (7-5) is very much a dial-up-a-defense kind of team. So you don’t know what you’re going to get.
Holgorsen recalled that 17 of the first 18 blitzes last year by Syracuse were different. So the Mountaineers must identify that and get in the right play.
“We’ll see how much improvement we made on specific looks.”
Syracuse has everybody back on offense from last year, according to the Mountaineers mentor. He sounds very much impressed with the Orangemen’s offensive unit.
“That quarterback (Ryan Nassib) just keeps getting better and better,” he noted. “He worked his way up, much like Geno Smith, to be where he is going to be a top NFL draft pick and play at the next level.”
Syracuse also has a good running game and has some receivers that can go.
“They obviously have a tight end that can catch the ball,” Holgorsen said.
“So we have our work cut out for us defensively to match what they do.
“We’re excited about the opportunity. I have been up with the Yankees organization several times. Those guys are tremendous and the organization is tremendous.
“It’ll be a great bowl game.”
He pointed out that the Mountaineers do have one week less to prepare for this game than they did for last year’s post-season contest in the Orange Bowl versus Clemson.
They will practice through Friday, and then go home for a few days for Christmas. The players then will reassemble in New York City Christmas night and complete preparations there.
Kickoff time for the Saturday, Dec. 29 bowl game is set for 3 p.m. ESPN will televise the action.