The 2012 edition of the West Virginia University football team will be remembered for a lot of highlight-reel moments. Saturday's 38-13 loss to former Big East rival Syracuse in the 3rd annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl will not be one of them.
The Mountaineers defense-among the worst (statistically) in school history-came into its final game of the season with at least one positive statistic in its favor. Entering its 60th meeting with the Orange, the unit was limiting opposing rushing attacks to a mere 142.5 yards per game.
After watching SU's Prince-Tyson Gulley, who finished with 217 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries and was named the game's Most Outstanding Player, and Jerome Smith (29-158) each eclipse that mark, one only can wonder that the reason for the unit's success in that category was due more to the fact that opposing offenses elected to exploit the team's secondary-one of the worst in the country at stopping the pass.
The lopsided score should put to end one question that had been lingering over the program when the powers-that-be elected to leave the Big East to play in the Big 12. That question being "How would the Mountaineers have done if they had elected to stay in the conference they had called home since 1991?"
Syracuse, which came into the game with an identical 7-5 mark to the Mountaineers, finished in a four-way tie for the Big East title while WVU's mid-season, five-game losing skid not only cost it a chance to play for a Big 12 title, but ended West Virginia's chance to travel to a much more elite bowl.
Several other questions were answered as well during WVU's 2012 finale.
If the leadership of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl really wants to join the elites of the postseason, then they might want to put their bowl in a venue made for football. The last time I checked, both the New York Giants and New York Jets play within a reasonable distance from the site and would have provided a much better venue in which to play the contest.
I would have added Joe Madsen's name to the list, but for the second time in three seasons, the Mountaineers' starting center failed to be with his team in the postseason.
Can you imagine how many penalties the Mountaineers would average if they played in a conference that leads the nation in throwing flags? Eleven times the 'crew from the left coast' threw the flags against the Big 12's representative, costing the team 104 yards and at least two touchdowns. Several missed calls-like the obvious tripping call when Smith was sacked for the second time in the end zone for a safety, as well as the hands to the face of offensive tackle Quinton Spain that resulted in a Smith fumble that was recovered by the Orange-may also have made the outcome a little more respectable.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org