Cuse looks to close Big East era with win

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
2:00
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Before Wednesday's practice, Syracuse offensive line coach Greg Adkins told a group of seniors that they were not going to remember many of their midseason contests over the past four years.

He told them that they will remember their first games, and they will remember their last games.

For the Orange, Saturday's New Era Pinstripe Bowl matchup with West Virginia is more than just a backyard tussle with an old Big East rival. It's a chance to build off a surprising five-win-in-six-game stretch that culminated with a share of a conference title, and it's a chance to make one more impression before their upcoming move to the ACC.

[+] EnlargeSyracuse's Justin Pugh
Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports"You want to go into the ACC on a high note," Syracuse's Justin Pugh (67) said. "You don't want to go in having lost your last game."
"It's the biggest game because it's the next game, but at the same time you want to send your seniors out," tackle Justin Pugh said. "I want to not have those guys remembering their last game being a loss, so the whole thing right now is to get this win for those guys and then take it from there.

"You want to go into the ACC on a high note, too. You don't want to go in having lost your last game, so it'll definitely help us next year as well."

Whether Pugh will be there for the inauguration into a new conference remains up in the air, as the redshirt junior said he has yet to give much thought to his football future despite potentially being a high-round pick should he choose to enter the NFL early.

"My whole thing is I want to enjoy this with my team, have a good time, play well," Pugh said. "If you let other things like playing in the NFL or moving on [get in the way], you're never going to be able to put your whole heart in the game, because that takes away from the game. It takes away from the fans. It takes away from your teammates. I couldn't live with myself in the huddle if I'm going in there thinking, 'This doesn't really matter, I'm leaving here, I'm doing this, I'm coming back.'"

For now, it's about facing a Mountaineers team that jumped to a 5-0 start this season and ended up scoring 48 or more points five different times in its first year in the offensive-happy Big 12.

Syracuse routed West Virginia 49-23 last season at the Carrier Dome. The Mountaineers then won five of their final six games and earned the Big East's BCS bowl berth. The Orange lost their final five games and missed out on the postseason last year.

"They had won the Big East championship, so you always look for those teams that are talented," Pugh said. "You want to beat the best teams to be considered in the conversation of the best, so I think going out there against West Virginia is exciting. We know the team, we know the personnel, we know what kind of guys they have. They have a lot of talent always, so it's exciting to go out there and play them again, especially in a place like this where it's going to be a packed house, Yankee Stadium."

Matt Fortuna | email

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