MORGANTOWN - When last Geno Smith encountered Syracuse and its defense, the results were not pretty.
In fact, at no time has West Virginia's quarterback been successful against the Orange. In three years as the Mountaineers' starting quarterback, Syracuse is the only team Smith has faced more than once and not beaten.
That Smith and the Mountaineers will get one last shot is rather ironic, of course. The teams meet Dec. 29at Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Smith sees it not so much as irony, but as fate.
"I feel like it's almost God's funny way of putting things together,'' Smith said. "He's been doing that a lot for me lately.''
Indeed, if there was any opponent Smith might like a do-over against, it is the Orange. Sure, there have been other low points during his career. That ugly five-game losing streak this season included a bunch of them. There were games in there - and others throughout the past three seasons - when teams seemed to have his number.
But no team has repeatedly stymied Smith like Syracuse.
As a sophomore in 2010, the Orange won 19-14 at Mountaineer Field, intercepting Smith three times, limiting him to 178 yards passing (despite the fact that his 37 attempts that day were his second-most all year) and sacked him five times. In the final minutes of that game, Smith methodically drove the Mountaineers to a second down at the SU 20 with a minute to play, then was sacked twice and hit as he threw incomplete to put the finishing touches on an awful afternoon.
Then in 2011, it was even worse, if that's possible. Syracuse just blew up the Mountaineers, winning 49-23 at the Carrier Dome. It was an awful Syracuse team, too. The Orange had squeaked out close wins over powerhouses Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Toledo and Tulane (three in overtime and the other by a touchdown) and wouldn't win another game.
Yet on that Friday night, the Orange sacked Smith four times and intercepted him twice. He did have 338 yards passing, but what did that matter?
"I studied the film of that game all summer, figuring out ways to defeat that coverage,'' Smith said. "I knew that defensive coordinators would see how they did it and try to duplicate it or copycat it. I know exactly what they're doing. They may change some things up, maybe not. But I'll be prepared for their defense.''
What the Orange did was blitz and mix coverages. Syracuse didn't just blitz, the Orange blitzed creatively. Coach Dana Holgorsen said that after studying the film, 17 of SU's first 18 blitzes were different. Holgorsen and his staff weren't around for that 2010 game, but were schooled in 2011.