Smith spent virtually every down under pressure. His first pass of the game was swatted down at the line by a nose guard, Deon Goggins, and it got worse as the game wore on and Syracuse didn't have to concern itself as much with stopping the run.
On the flip side, Syracuse's offensive line paved the way for 194 rushing yards, and quarterback Ryan Nassib was seldom touched even after releasing the ball.
"They blitz on almost every snap, and even when they didn't blitz, their pass rush was better than our pass blocking,'' Holgorsen said. "That's what really exposed us. It was exposed by their defensive line and linebackers. They were just beating us up.
"And if you look on the other side, their offensive line just mauled us. We were exposed up front.''
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone was not all that surprised, though. He knew his defensive line would be better with the return of end Chandler Jones and would be able to put more pressure on thanks to the return of safety Olando Fisher. Both had missed the last five games with injuries.
"When you have them back you can sub in more people and keep them fresher,'' Marrone said. "Everyone up front did a nice job. I think we had 11 of 12 hits on the quarterback, which was important for us.
"We had to do a good job of keeping the quarterback off balance and we did that for most of the game. We did give up some big plays, but everyone knew what the game plan was. You keep him off balance and keep mixing it up.''
Holgorsen lamented his offense's lack of efficiency. In truth, 408 total yards isn't all that bad, but there was no consistency.
"It's been the same thing all year. We are not a very efficient football team,'' Holgorsen said. "We make some big plays, but we're not efficient.
"We knew what they were going to do. We knew that they were going to play a bunch of people and blitz half the time. We have to do a better job of recognizing that.''
Indeed, most of West Virginia's points came as a result of big plays. Stedman Bailey made a highlight-reel catch and trotted 63 yards into the end zone and Brad Starks made a leaping catch for a 25-yard touchdown. Only WVU's first scoring drive of the second half was workmanlike, with three third-down conversions and a fourth-down conversion.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.