Stewart says Marrone’s presence has made difference
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010
Updated: Thursday, October 21, 2010 22:10
West Virginia won last season's contest against Syracuse 34-13.
The Mountaineers have beaten the Orange every year since 2001, outscoring SU 257-93 in the process.
But, Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart saw something in the Orange last season that made him think those lopsided scores may not last too much longer.
"They didn't back up an inch. They took the fight to us," Stewart said. "After the game, I went up to (Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone) and said, ‘Doug, you're on the right track. Don't change a thing, whatever you're doing.'"
One year later, Syracuse enters Saturday's game against the Mountaineers with a 4-2 record for the first time since the 2003 season. The Orange will look to improve to 5-2 for the first time since 2001 when they face No. 20 West Virginia at noon at Milan Puskar Stadium.
"These guys have my attention. I respect these guys," Stewart said. "Syracuse is knocking on the door. They're on their way back."
Marrone has received much of the credit for the turnover of the Orange. The former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator has the team's defense ranked inside the top 20 nationally in just his second season while the team already matched the number of Big East Conference wins it has had in the last four seasons when it finished 1-6.
That win came on the road at South Florida on Oct. 9 in both team's conference openers.
"I want to put it on the coach's back – he's changed that program around," said WVU defensive lineman Scooter Berry of Marrone. "They play with an attitude. They're playing with a chip on their shoulder. That's something they haven't had in a while.
"We don't expect to go in there Saturday and get a win without working for it."
Yet, wins against the Orange have come easily for West Virginia, as Syracuse hasn't beaten WVU in eight years.
‘They've always been a hustling team," said WVU slot receiver Jock Sanders. "That's never been a question."
Three of Syracuse's wins this season have come against Akron, Maine and Colgate, who share a combined record of 6-14 in non-BCS league games.
The Orange fell to Pittsburgh 42-14 last week, giving up 389 yards of total offense while surrendering four turnovers.
The Mountaineers said controlling SU running backs Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey would be key to stopping the Orange's attack. Carter, a senior, is averaging 93.7 rushing yards-per-game, while Bailey is contributing with 36.7 rush yards per game while catching 14 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown.
Junior receiver Van Chew, meanwhile, is third in the Big East with 28 receptions for 452 yards and three touchdowns.
In his first year as a starter, sophomore quarterback Ryan Nassib is completing 55-percent of his passes for 1,642 yards, with 14 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
He's coming off completing a career-high 25 passes against Pittsburgh last week.
"They're buying into the plan," Stewart said. "They don't have a lot of heroes or individuals – they've got a team."
The Orange's greatest asset may be their experience, however. SU has 26 seniors on its roster – the fourth most veteran team in the country.
Fifteen of those seniors are on defense, which is performing at its highest level since 1999.
"They have a lot of old guys, a lot of seniors," said WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. "They're a fun group to watch. They're very well coached and play very hard."