SYRACUSE, N.Y. - For one of the few times this season, West Virginia's defense had no excuses.
Not that they ever really used them, but in most of the cases this season when the Mountaineers have given up significant yards or points they could point to turnovers by the offense, bad field position produced by lousy special teams play or simply some bad breaks.
But after Friday night's shocking 49-23 shellacking by Syracuse, there were no excuses to be made.
And to the Mountaineers' credit they didn't even try.
"They did exactly what they wanted to do,'' West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said of the few-frills Syracuse offense. "We've got to get better.''
Indeed, the numbers would suggest that West Virginia has a long way to go.
A defense that had struggled at times but then clamped down recently and risen to No. 16 in the national defensive rankings fell apart against a Syracuse team that didn't trick anyone or run myriad formations or plays. The Orange simply steamrolled the Mountaineers.
A Syracuse offense that ranked 99th in rushing and 96th in total offense through the first half of the season piled up 443 total yards, 194 of them on the ground. Both were season highs for the Orange. It was also the most yards allowed by West Virginia this season, save for a 477-yard performance by Maryland.
Ryan Nassib, a competent quarterback whose real strength is simply running Syracuse's pro-style offense, passed for 229 yards and four touchdowns.
"Nassib is a good quarterback,'' linebacker Najee Goode said. "He made all the plays he needed to make.''
The real issue in this one, though, was not the yards Syracuse amassed or even the points it scored. It was how the Orange did it.
Syracuse had scoring drives of 84, 80, 79, 72, 51 and 35 yards. Two of the drives consisted of 14 plays each and another was 11 plays. The Orange had a nearly 12-minute edge in time of possession and converted 12-of-17 third downs.
In other words, they lined up and dominated a team that knew exactly what the plan was. Syracuse almost never failed to move the ball on first down, giving it plenty of great play options on second and third downs. In baseball parlance, Syracuse was ahead in the count all game long and simply waited on good pitches to hit.