By Cam Huffman
For the Daily Telegraph
BECKLEY — West Virginia’s 38-14 loss in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl game at New York’s Yankee Stadium was embarrassing in a lot of ways.
In finishing the year with a totally unacceptable 7-6 record for what started out as a perfect 5-0, nationally No. 5-ranked team, the Mountaineers performed like they were not even prepared to compete against the underdog Orangemen.
In the process, Syracuse (8-5) extended its winning streak to three in a row in a series SU leads by 33-27.
Keep in mind, too, that Syracuse still was a member of the Big East Conference. At last look, it still was awaiting clearance to join the Athletic Coast Conference.
This has to be a setback to WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck. He brought in Dana Holgorsen as new head coach mainly because of Holgorsen’s smashing success in short stops at other schools with a highly productive offense.
But we’ve all seen this fizzle steadily. More experienced coaches in the Big 12 have come up with ways to puncture holes in that offense. That resulted in West Virginia suffering a very embarrassing five-game losing streak and loss of ranking.
It triggered the biggest turn-around flop in the school’s football history. This, despite the fact that this Mountaineer squad had unquestionably three of the most talented football players who ever put on a Mountaineer uniform.
Senior Geno Smith broke virtually every passing school and conference record. Senior Tavon Austin set all-purpose yardage records in at least four different scoring ways. And Stedman Bailey has skipped his senior season to turn professional as a record-bashing pass-catcher.
I certainly would have voted all three as well-deserved All-American super-stars.
Losing all three of those players makes one wonder what next year’s WVU team will look like without major shuffling in both coaching and player ranks.
Holgorsen thought his team showed some improvement in performance — offensively and defensively — late in the season. But there are those who most certainly did not agree. WVU lost six of its last eight games!
Defensively, it will be remembered by some as possibly the worst in history.
Yet, probably the oldest member of the current staff, Steve Dunlap, had been defensive coordinator of the WVU defensive unit in 1996 that ranked No. 1 in the nation. But Holgorsen preferred another, younger coach who never had been a coordinator.
Dunlap reportedly spent most of his time working with the special teams.
Syracuse finished with 511 yards in total offense and limited West Virginia to 285 yards; including just 88 rushing.
Sure, the game was played in a driving snow storm. But Syracuse had to play in it, too — and very well.