NEW YORK - Keith Patterson faces quite the challenge in his first game as West Virginia's defensive coordinator.
Or at least it would seem that way on the surface.
West Virginia faces Syracuse today in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, a game scheduled to kick off at 3:15 p.m. and televised by ESPN. It features not only the Mountaineers' fast-paced, high-powered offense, but an Orange attack that is actually quite similar.
That's not something West Virginia is used to seeing from the Orange. The teams have played every year since 1955 and almost annually Syracuse trotted out either a pro-style offense or an option attack. Syracuse has never spread the field and quickened the pace like it is doing this season.
But if that's a major concern for Patterson, well, he's not letting on. And, really, it shouldn't be.
"If they can go faster than what we've seen over the course of the year from Baylor and Oklahoma and some of the tempo teams in the Big 12,'' Patterson said, "it might be illegal.''
Of course, facing a fast-tempo offense and stopping it are two different things. The Mountaineers proved that this season, which is why Joe DeForest was demoted from defensive coordinator and Patterson elevated to the spot at the end of the regular season. West Virginia faced those offenses and failed miserably to stop them, finishing 107th in the country in total defense, 114th in scoring defense and 119th in pass defense.
Whether or not Patterson has been able to address and correct some of those issues is, at least from West Virginia's standpoint, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of today's game.
"I think we've made some improvements there,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "But we won't know until we line up and play.''
That Syracuse offense revolves around fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Nassib, who will be facing West Virginia for the fourth time. Last season he passed for four touchdowns and ran for a fifth as the Orange shocked WVU with a 49-23 win at the Carrier Dome.
Since then, though, Syracuse has dramatically changed its style of offense, running more of a fast-tempo attack in which Nassib averaged 37 passes a game. He threw for roughly 1,000 more yards this year than last and has 24 touchdowns against just nine interceptions.