WVU’s Donahue: Preparation Not A Problem Prior To WVU Bowl Loss
ORLANDO, Fla. — West Virginia defensive lineman Reese Donahue believes the Mountaineers were well-prepared for their Camping World Bowl match-up with Syracuse, but that the flow of the game simply went against them.
That view was supported by the atmosphere at WVU practices in Florida, which appeared to contain a good mixture of intensity and focus. Still, that could not offset the differences in the abilities of the two offenses, which boiled down to drive completion. Where Syracuse was able to put up four touchdowns once it got inside the Mountaineer 20-yard line, West Virginia was able to convert only one such score.
“We prepared very well. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” Donahue said. “I felt like we had a good week of practice when we were down here (in Orlando). We prepared very well when we were back home.
“Even back in Morgantown guys brought a lot of intensity. When we got down here I felt that we were really locked in,” the plain-spoken West Virginia native said. “When it was time to go in for football I felt like we really flipped the switch. I can’t say anything about practice being sloppy. I think we did a good job preparing.”
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One of those bounces of the ball — or more precisely “just one of those plays” — came in the fourth quarter, and likely sealed WVU’s fate. On first down at the West Virginia 46, the Mountaineers had Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey cornered, but he managed to find a bit of open space that allowed him to float a pass to running back Moe Neal, who had a similar patch of free space around him. In many circumstances, such a softly-thrown ball would be a candidate for an interception, but instead Neal was able to catch it and avoid several tackle attempts on his way to a 42-yard gain. On the next play, the Orange scored to push their lead to 34-18 with 9:59 to play.
“Those hurt. Those hurt a lot,” Donahue admitted before reversing course a bit, just as Neal did on his run. “When he breaks contain like that, a lot of time you have to come up and make a play. You can’t let one play define a game.”
From one perspective, that’s true, as players have to be able to put a bad play behind them and keep going. But from another, there’s no doubt that play was a killer. Given West Virginia’s red zone struggle, a two-touchdown lead had to look as daunting as Space Mountain to a five-year old on his first trip to Disney.
“He got move left, move right, move left, and found Moe Neal down the middle for a huge play that changed the game,” head coach Dino Babers said afterward.
That play, and a handful of others such as the deflected interception that set up a Syracuse field goal earlier in the quarter, were the ones that did define the contest.