Column - Inexperience on defense showed Friday
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 03:10
The West Virginia defense gave up more points to Syracuse than it did against the No. 1 team in the country: LSU.
Of course, it doesn't help that the defense did not record a sack or any tackles for loss. Maybe we could have expected zero sacks because of how rare they've been for the team this year, but not one tackle in the backfield? I don't know if I've ever seen that happen to a team since I started watching football around the age of 8.
From start to finish, Syracuse senior quarterback Ryan Nassib threw the ball pretty much wherever he wanted, to any receiver he could find because he had so much time.
Nassib ended the game with 229 yards, four touchdowns (all to tight ends) and no interceptions.
Syracuse's fifth-year senior tight end Nick Provo was wide open on two of his three touchdown receptions in the game, exploiting the Mountaineer secondary with ease.
With 20 seconds left in the third quarter, Syracuse was on WVU's 10-yard line. On third down with five yards to go for the first down, Nassib found Provo wide open on the left sideline for the touchdown.
Before the snap, Provo was lined up on the left side of the offensive line, next to the left tackle. He ran out to the left sideline all alone because WVU senior linebacker Najee Goode had to stay on another Orange wide receiver who was running a route to the middle of the field. Nobody picked up Provo and he walked into the end zone untouched.
Earlier in the third quarter, on first down, Syracuse called a play action passing play on the Mountaineer 30-yard line. The Orange lined up in a jumbo formation, where there was one running back in the backfield, and two receivers bunched up together on each side of the offensive line.
Syracuse' other senior tight end, David Stevens, ran a streak down the left sideline and found a hole in WVU's zone defense on the 10-yard line. He waltzed in for the score.
Provo is the only tight end to ever catch at least three touchdowns against West Virginia.
Syracuse scored touchdowns on seven of its 11 drives in the game and four straight drives between the third and fourth quarters, until it punted on its last possession of the game.
The Mountaineers were out gained in total yards 404-443 against the Orange. It was the first time WVU had been out gained by an opponent all season.
After the game, West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel admitted there were some missed assignments and blown coverage by the defense that needs to be fixed before the next game against Rutgers. He and the players know they have to move on, but also learn from the mistakes so they can correct them.
Senior defensive end Julian Miller and linebacker Najee Goode both felt they have to step up because of this game and show the young guys that the season isn't over just because of one bad game on defense.
They are putting it on themselves the rest of the way to be even better leaders and help the younger players on defense, who haven't played as much, realize the team can still win the Big East and contend for an important bowl game if they play the way they are capable of playing for the remaining games.
West Virginia played one of the worst defensive performances I've seen since I came to WVU in 2008. It's youth really showed and I could tell the Syracuse offense did not feel intimidated the entire game.
At least the team feels it can improve together, and it believes it still has a shot at accomplishing something special.