- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The nightmare scenario unfolded for the Big East on Friday night.
Syracuse shredded the only ranked league team, taking down No. 15 West Virginia 49-23 with a game plan that worked to perfection. The Orange (5-2, 1-1 Big East) dominated the line of scrimmage, mercilessly harassed Geno Smith into one mistake after another and utilized their tight end the way an old-school football team would.
The result surely sapped even more respect from a league that is in desperate need of it, especially as its automatic-qualifier spot hangs in the balance. The Big East could ill afford to have its marquee team lose, let alone lose the way it did. Consider that the Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1) lost by the same margin to No. 1 LSU (47-21). Except Syracuse had won its games by an average of five points going into Friday.
Coupled with Rutgers' loss to Louisville, Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0) is the only team undefeated in league play headed into its game against USF on Saturday.
The Orange should be applauded for their performance Friday night. They completely dominated and used essentially the same game plan they executed in a stunning victory over West Virginia last season. Defensive end Chandler Jones made his return to the starting lineup and was an absolute beast, completely running roughshod over the West Virginia offensive line. Smith was sacked and completely harassed, and threw two interceptions -- including one in the end zone.
Ryan Nassib was the best quarterback on the field, going 24-of-32 for 230 yards with four touchdown passes. What really killed West Virginia was tight end Nick Provo -- three of his six receptions went for touchdowns. What was an improving West Virginia defense simply could not get off the field. The Orange went 12-of-17 on third downs.
And once again, special teams really hurt West Virginia. The Mountaineers were one of the worst teams in the nation on kickoff coverage, and allowed Dorian Graham to return a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
This was as complete an effort as you could ask for from Syracuse. Now everybody is left to wonder about a West Virginia team that has beaten just one team with a winning record (Norfolk State).