SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A year ago, Syracuse figured out a way to neutralize West Virginia's offense, control the ball against its defense and hand the Big East's only nationally-ranked team a stunning loss.
Hey, if it worked once, right?
This time, though, the Orange added quite a few wrinkles. Not only did SU control an even better WVU offense than last year's, it knifed through the Mountaineer defense like it wasn't there.
The result was a shocking 49-23 win in the front of a crowd of 45,265 at the Carrier Dome Friday night.
"You have to take your hat off to Syracuse,'' West Virginia quarterback Geno said about 45 minutes after the loss. "They hit us in the mouth and it hurts.''
Indeed, it will hurt in more ways than one.
For starters, it's a setback that will send No. 11 West Virginia (5-2, 1-1 Big East) tumbling down in the polls. And, once again, it sends a signal that the Big East is wide open for the taking. With the league season barely a few weeks old, the only unbeaten team in league play is Cincinnati, which has played just once and has to visit South Florida today.
And Syracuse (5-2, 1-1) is right there in the mix. The Orange had seemed to barely survive for most of the season, winning three games in overtime and another on a last-second field goal.
There was no need for any such heroics Friday night, though.
Syracuse controlled the game from the start and answered every challenge the Mountaineers threw at it, although those were few and far between. SU led 14-3, 21-9 at halftime and 42-16 early in the fourth quarter. The only times WVU seemed to make a push they closed the score to 14-9 and 21-16, but both times the Orange answered quickly and decisively.
And West Virginia's defense could do nothing about it.
"They just physically whipped us from the opening whistle to the end of it,'' WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. "Hats off to them. They did a great job.''
How bad was it? Well, Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib is not thought of as a great passer -- he ranks only third in the Big East-- but against WVU he completed 24 of 32 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns. He completed passes to nine different receivers and on three of his four TD passes his receivers were comically wide open.
"We obviously had some missed assignments,'' Casteel said. "We came off a wheel route once and left the guy. Any time you have a guy that wide open, someone has obviously made a mistake.''