Let's take a look at three keys for victory for West Virginia in today's New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
1. Limit the long ball. West Virginia has given up 63 completions longer than 20 yards this season, more than any team since Nevada all the way back in 2008. Syracuse's Ryan Nassib is a future NFL player who can sling it and had a huge senior season with 3,619 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine picks. West Virginia is going to give up yards, but it's got to make Syracuse earn them, and the easiest way to do that is to prevent the big ball over the top. Keith Patterson has taken over defensive play-calling duties from Joe DeForest. Will we see a noticeable difference? WVU's bowl hopes likely depend on it.
2. Give Geno Smith some help. There's lots that goes into this, but for me, it comes down to the offensive line. Center Joe Madsen is the unit's best player, but he's academically ineligible. Smith, the nation's leader with 40 touchdown passes, needs time to to make plays. You can provide that time by blocking well, but it gets a whole lot easier when you run the ball well. WVU has been inconsistent in that area, but if it runs the ball well against Syracuse, keeping up in a high-scoring game without turnovers becomes a very reasonable proposition.
3. Keep it simple, y'all. Feed Tavon the rock. No need to get complex. West Virginia has about a million ways to do it, but the more Tavon Austin touches the ball, the better. Ask Oklahoma, which gave up 344 rushing yards and 572 all-purpose yards in a crazy night for the star. Austin is still getting some touches at running back, but WVU has got to work to get him the ball. If he gets fewer than 15 touches, West Virginia is not winning this game.