Grading The Mountaineers: Syracuse Report Card

Grading The Mountaineers: Syracuse Report Card

Orlando, Fla.–With so many missing offensive pieces – quarterback Will Grier, tackle Yodny Cajuste and receiver Gary Jennings, who chose to sit out the game, and receiver Marcus Simms, who was a late scratch for an unspecified reason – West Virginia entered the Camping World Bowl in a big hole. WVU tried to stay close, but its best drives resulted in four field goals rather than touchdowns. The Mountaineers needed more to keep up with Syracuse, as the Orange pulled away in the fourth quarter and left Orlando with a 34-18 victory.

Let’s grade West Virginia’s effort against Syracuse.

Offensive Grade – D+ Down four starters, its no surprise the Mountaineer offense struggled. It wasn’t Heart of Dallas Bowl bad, but it was far from a smooth operation. Grier’s main replacement at quarterback, Jack Allison, finished 17-of-35 for 288 yards. Those numbers look reasonable for his first extended college performance, but he also took four sacks, threw a costly interception and just wasn’t as accurate as he needed to be. The sophomore transfer from Miami did make some big plays with four completions of 25 yards or more, but it was too much feast or famine. WVU’s run game was OK (146 net yards), but the Mountaineers converted on just six-of-18 third down opportunities and couldn’t finish drives when they needed to, instead settling for field goals. It needed more.

Defensive Grade – C- With all the offensive absences, West Virginia needed its defense to step forward with a strong effort. There were moments, like five sacks of Syracuse’s elusive quarterback Eric Dungey, that effort seemed pretty good. WVU also limited an Orange offense that averaged 206.4 rushing yards to just 115 on the ground. But missed tackles also came at inopportune times and allowed SU to make big plays in the pass game, as it totaled 303 through the air.

Special teams – B+ Evan Staley did miss his first extra point of the season, but he made up for that with four field goals, which ties him with Paul Woodside (1981 Peach Bowl) for the most FGs by a Mountaineer kicker in a bowl game. WVU’s best special teams’ play of the day, though, came from Dante Bonamico, who stayed home on a throwback off a Syracuse kickoff return and stopped the Orange trick play in its tracks.

Coaching – C Dana Holgorsen reached deep into the back of the playbook to try to generate an offense that was without four of its players. Without that talent and experience, Holgorsen tried to do what he could, but it wasn’t enough. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson also pulled out all the stops, blitzing constantly. But in the end, the Xs and Os can only take a football team so far. Blocking, tackling and execution are the true keys, and Syracuse was better in each phase than the Mountaineers.

Atmosphere – B- It’s a shame West Virginia fans – and some players –are so spoiled that they think the Camping World Bowl is now beneath them. A trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, an 82-degree game day, a recently renovated stadium, a matchup with an old rival – what’s not to like? Well, apparently many Mountaineers didn’t find this bowl or the destination appealing. Not only did Grier, Cajuste and Jennings bail on the game, so too did most WVU fans. West Virginia sold barely a third of its allotment of 8,000 tickets. The Mountaineer athletic department gave away its unused tickets to veteran groups and children organizations in the Orlando area. Meanwhile, Syracuse had nothing to give away, as it sold out its allotment. WVU fans used to have a reputation for traveling to bowl games in huge numbers, but those are bygone days. West Virginia hasn’t sold large numbers of tickets to its last six bowl games. I guess now that the Mountaineers have tasted champagne, they don’t like going back to Budweiser.

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    Grading The Mountaineers: Syracuse Report Card Orlando, Fla.–With so many missing offensive pieces – quarterback Will Grier, tackle Yodny Cajuste and
    [See the full post at: Grading The Mountaineers: Syracuse Report Card]


    I do disagree with one thing from this article. Why should the fans show up when key members of the offense choose not to? Two losses to end the season were tough enough to swallow. We saw what happened in the bowl last year without Grier. Orlando is an expensive place to go when you are expecting a loss from the team. Hats off to the defense for keeping it close for most of the game.

    I understand Grier’s decision and don’t blame him. But this was not a bowl worthy team without him.


    And why ignore the best receiver on the team and one of the top 5 receivers in the nation?

    Sills showed up for the game but Allison and/or Dana all but ignored him for most of the game. Even passes to him were at his toes or a stepladder above him.

    Allison flunked his audition. He missed SO many open receivers. I didn’t expect him to be Grier, but …. I didn’t expect him to be this inept.

    2019 could be a disaster unless Dana gets another transfer QB.


    If Will Grier had decided to play, both Jennings and Cajuste may have played also. We would have had a much better chance to win. I would bet that attendance would have been higher. I would have given serious thought to going even with having family from all over the country at my home. Grier is a difference maker. For you to go it is a business expense. Totally different equation for me. Apples and oranges.


    I agree with that Cuyahoga. A lot of times Allison wasn’t even looking to Sills side of the field. They weren’t double teaming him either! I would have liked for Lowe to get some meaningful snaps also. It couldn’t have hurt. They lined him up outside like they were going to try something but never did use him.


    Coach made comment that he had only played
    A few snaps. He practiced with the team the
    Team and his passes were off the mark. Even
    The time that Stills got the penalty and
    The receiver was wide open and he missed him
    By a mile. Even the announcers were talking
    About it.


    Need to find a way to incentivize players to play in bowl or there is no way they are worth the money to travel. The lower rung bowls are dead men walking.


    WVU fans are not travelers like they used to be. We have had far more fans at bowl games of lesser caliber over the years. We save money for these trips. I think bowl game trips are hard to beat for fun and meeting other WVU fans. I have been going since 1981 when I was young and poor. I don’t care who’s playing I’m a WVU fan.


    Tired of spending thousands of dollars to travel to see WVU lay an egg in bowl games. Big East bowls were logistically better for fans living in the east anyway. Maybe if we wouldn’t lose 2 or 3 critical November games each year fans would be more excited about games in Dec/Jan.


    Correct rstambau. Fans would flock to the bowls to see ALL the SR’s play their last game. Times are different now. Players are out for themselves. Deservedly so???? It’s just the way society is. All about me. If Grier and company had played this game IMO we would have ran away with it. But it didn’t happen. IMO, fans go to the game to support our SR’s in their last game. Well…… such is life in 2018.


    Disagree with the coaching. How could you give the coaching a better grade than the O and D? IMO coaching was a D-. Gimmick plays, pulling the QB for a wildcat that Cuse knew was going to be a run, TE passes. None of them confused the Cuse D.

    As far as the atmosphere, it prolly was good. 82 degrees in Orlando is good in late Dec no matter why you are there. But WVU selling only 1/3 of it’s tix says something for the atmosphere …… that could have been.

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