Syracuse runs over West Virginia in Pinstripe Bowl
Running backs Gulley, Smith rack up 373 yards to lead Orange to 38-14 victory
NEW YORK - Constant snowfall and sloppy conditions at Yankee Stadium slowed down West Virginia's high-octane offense. They didn't have the same effect on Prince-Tyson Gulley and Syracuse.
The junior running back amassed 264 yards of offense and scored three touchdowns to help the Orange rout the Mountaineers, 38-14, in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl. Syracuse won the game for the second time in three years.
"Prince has really worked hard. He has really come a long way in our program," Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said of the game's Most Valuable Player.
Gulley carried 25 times for a Pinstripe Bowl-record 208 yards, including a 67-yard scoring run -- the longest run in the bowl's three-year history -- that gave Syracuse a three-score lead in the third quarter. Teammate Jerome Smith carried 30 times -- another bowl record -- for 157 yards.
"Our linemen came to play," Gulley said, giving credit to the unit that blocked for him and Smith.
Both Marrone and West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen agreed.
"They did a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage, and they did a better job of running downhill," Holgorsen said.
Marrone gave a number of reasons for the unit's success.
"There's a lot of pride," he said. "They truly believe in each other."
Syracuse's offense found its stride in the third quarter, when the Orange turned a 12-7 halftime edge into a 26-7 advantage in just over eight minutes. Syracuse took a 35-14 lead into the fourth.
Ryan Nassib threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Beckett Wales on the opening drive of the third, and Gulley later followed with his 67-yard scoring run.
The long run capped a three-play sequence during which momentum swung twice. Nassib was intercepted at his own 30-yard line, giving West Virginia an opportunity to cut the deficit to one score. But on the ensuing play, Geno Smith was sacked and fumbled. Gulley capitalized on the sudden change on the next play.
"Any time you get out-rushed by 300 yards, you're going to have some problems," Holgorsen said.
While Syracuse's offense was racking up yards on the ground, the defense was doing its part to hold West Virginia in check. The Mountaineers totaled just 285 yards of offense and combined to go 0-for-14 on third- and fourth-down conversions.
Coming into the game, West Virginia was averaging over 518 yards and 41 points on offense.
"A lot of the stuff we did tonight didn't work," Holgorsen said. "The conditions weren't good, but that doesn't mean we can't move the ball and be successful."
The Mountaineers seemed poised to grab the lead early in the first quarter, but Tyler Bitancurt's 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked. The Orange went down the field with a 14-play, 72-yard drive, capped by Ross Krautman's 25-yard field goal.
In the second quarter, Syracuse looked to add to its lead, but Jerome Smith was stopped on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. On the ensuing play, Geno Smith was sacked in the end zone by Cameron Lynch for a safety.
Syracuse recorded its second safety of the game -- and second in Pinstripe Bowl history -- when Geno Smith was called for intentional grounding in the end zone late in the third quarter.
Both safeties and the blocked field goal occurred where the outfield would be if the playing field were configured for baseball. Center field is typically hallowed ground at Yankee Stadium, but it was the complete opposite for the Mountaineers.
The Orange received the free kick following the first safety and again went down the field, this time in six plays. Gulley's 33-yard touchdown run gave them a two-score lead.
Eventually, West Virginia's offense awoke from its slumber. The Mountaineers responded quickly with a 33-yard catch-and-run by Stedman Bailey to cut the lead to 12-7 going into the half.
But the Orange dominated the game's final 30 minutes en route to the blowout victory.
"We were able to make plays," Marrone said. "We kept running and just kept trying to hit a couple of different things, made a couple adjustments and made some big runs."
Gulley's 67-yard scamper was Syracuse's longest run of the season and the second-longest run in the school's bowl history.
"We changed a little bit of the plan [because of the weather]," Marrone said after the game. "Whatever we had to do to win, we were going to do."
"It was definitely fun," Gulley said of the snowy conditions.
Holgorsen didn't have the same reaction after his team lost its first bowl game as a member of the Big XII.
"The surface was not good. It was sloppy out there and it was wet," he said. "The [offensive line] had a hard time sitting down and receivers had a hard time running outs. It didn't look very good."
Syracuse, however, was able to find success with its adjusted game plan. The Orange set new Pinstripe Bowl records for points scored and yards gained, eclipsing the previous marks they set in the 2010 game against Kansas State.
The game also set a new Pinstripe Bowl record for attendance with 39,098 fans on hand at Yankee Stadium.
Syracuse's victory ensured the school would leave the Big East on a winning note. The Orange will begin play in the Atlantic Coast Conference during the 2012-13 season.
Marrone praised the Big East for "being professional" in the school's last year.
And he thanked the Pinstripe Bowl for providing his team a great experience.
"I really think that from the first year to this year, in my eyes and my perspective, this bowl's really stepped it up," he said. "I mean, this is outstanding, really, what they are doing."
With the Pinstripe Bowl affiliated with the Big East and Big XII, Syracuse won't participate in the 2013 game. But it holds the distinction of being the game's first -- and at the moment, only -- two-time winner.