Indeed, at times it was as if WVU's mental focus was carried off with the intoxicated fan. Syracuse had a fourth-and-1 at the WVU 2 and was whistled for delay-of-game penalty after sending out the field goal team. Stewart declined the penalty. Why would one allow the opposition closer to the end zone? Is it easier to fake a field goal or score off a bad snap from the 2 or the 7? What if Marrone had changed his mind and decided to go for it?
On this day, Syracuse was more prepared. It was sharper. It stuck to its bread and butter, the run game, even when standout tailback Delone Carter went out because of injury.
"If we would have got in a passing game with them ... no, we would have been in trouble," Marrone said.
WVU's old bread-and-butter, its run game, again fell down. A paltry 106 yards on 35 rushes for a 3-yard average. Again, no effective tweaks were forthcoming.
"We tried to mix it up,'' Marrone said. "And they do that defensively themselves. They do an excellent job of that. We try to do the same thing. Show some coverage; show like we're bringing pressure then dropping; bringing some in the end."
And getting to Smith. The rush game was missing. The Orange had five sacks.
"We had a hard time protecting him,'' Stewart said of Smith. "That's why he couldn't stay in the pocket and get as many deep balls as we wanted.''
A couple times in his postgame press conference, Stewart said his players were reading too many press clippings. But the reality is those players simply weren't ready Saturday. That's on Stewart.
"I think [Syracuse] just outphysical-ed us,'' Smith said. "They were more physical than us. We didn't come out with the right mindset. We didn't come out with an attacking mindset. We were taking a lot of punches. That's something we definitely need to work on.''
The lack of mental focus?
"I don't think we focused on every play,'' Smith said. "I think we took a lot of plays off today.''
On Homecoming. With a nice, rowdy crowd. With a national ranking on the line.