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Saturday, December 29, 2012
Rapid Reax: Syracuse 38, West Virginia 14

By Kieran Darcy

What it means: Syracuse football is leaving the Big East on a winning note.

In its final game representing the conference, the Orange -- one of four co-champions in the Big East this year -- defeated West Virginia on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, 38-14, in the third annual Pinstripe Bowl.

Snow was falling for most of the game, and the temperature hovered around the freezing mark, which hampered these two high-powered passing attacks (see below). The paid attendance was announced as 41,203, while in the in-house attendance was announced as 39,098.

The turning point: Syracuse jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first half, thanks to a 33-yard touchdown run by Prince-Tyson Gulley, a field goal and a sack of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in the end zone for a safety. But West Virginia drew within 12-7 at halftime, thanks to a 32-yard touchdown catch and run by star wide receiver Stedman Bailey. The teams combined for 10 penalties and 136 penalty yards in the first half alone.

Syracuse took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards down the field, making it 19-7 on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Nassib to tight end Beckett Wales. But the key sequence came midway through the third quarter. The quarterbacks turned it over on back-to-back plays -- a Nassib interception, followed by a Smith fumble. On the very next play, Gulley took it 67 yards to the house, making it 26-7. Syracuse was in control from there.

Star watch: Both these teams are known for their passing games -- West Virginia was ranked fifth in the country in passing yards per game (340.9), while Syracuse was ranked 21st (301.6). But it was the Syracuse running game that was the difference in this one. The Orange rushed for an astounding 369 yards. Gulley had 25 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving), while Jerome Smith had 30 carries for 157 yards.

Smith had an incredible senior season for West Virginia, throwing for 4,004 yards and an FBS-best 40 touchdowns coming into this game. But he was just 16-for-24 for 197 yards in this game. Bailey, a junior who has already announced he's leaving early to enter the NFL draft, had seven catches for 126 yards and two scores in his final college game.

Number crunch: Syracuse was 9-for-18 on third-down conversions, and 2-for-4 on fourth-down conversions. West Virginia, on the other hand, was 0-for-11, and 0-for-3.

What's next: That's the end of the season for both teams. Syracuse finishes 8-5, and will compete in the ACC starting next year. West Virginia wraps up at 7-6, and hopes for better things in Year 2 in the Big 12.