But he did pass for two TDs and Syracuse ran wild with 369 yards. Prince-Tyson Gulley, a backup tailback who had never had even a 100-yard game, had 25 carries for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 56 yards and a score. Starting tailback Jerome Smith carried 30 times for 157 yards.
Ironically, that came against a West Virginia defense that after the regular season changed defensive coordinators in part because the Mountaineers could stop the run but were No. 119 in the country against the pass. In the snowy conditions Saturday, it was just the opposite.
"Through the course of the game I was absolutely shocked that they were able to run the football,'' said Keith Patterson, the new coordinator. "I felt those guys ran harder than any two backs we'd faced all year. But obviously I didn't get that message across.''
West Virginia had played awful offense most of the first half and into the second, yet somehow managed to remain competitive to that point, trailing 12-7 at the break and 19-7 after Syracuse took the second-half kickoff and scored. And when Andrew Buie appeared to score on a 28-yard run early in the third, the WVU deficit might have been cut to 19-14 and the game could have become something.
It didn't. Buie's TD was erased by a holding penalty that so enraged Holgorsen that he wasted a time out just to complain. A punt was followed by an Isaiah Bruce interception that appeared to breathe new life into the Mountaineers, but Smith turned right around on the next play and fumbled the ball away. It appeared it might have been an incomplete pass, but it wasn't ruled that way.
Then it was all downhill. On the next play Gulley scored on a 67-yard run. After Bailey countered with a 29-yard scoring catch, Syracuse went 70 yards in nine plays and converted a third-and-long - that was a recurring theme on the day - and went up 33-14 on a Nassib pass to Gulley.
And then when Smith was called for intentional grounding in his own end zone, it was the second safety of the day and absolute rock bottom for the Mountaineers. That made it 35-14 and the game was over, even though the third quarter wasn't.
It seemed to all start with that touchdown by Buie that was nullified and the Mountaineers couldn't recover.
"I think at that point in the game it really affected us,'' said Smith. "It affected us momentum-wise. We were charging back and that was big. We never recovered.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.