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Dr. Saturday

Syracuse emphatically completes West Virginia’s 2012 collapse

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Geno Smith's college career ended on a sloppy field in a baseball stadium getting absolutely blown out by a 7-5 Big East team that was in the bottom quarter of the FBS in pass efficiency defense.

Smith's final numbers in West Virginia's 38-14 Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse weren't bad, but that's part of the story of Smith's senior season. He completed 18-of-26 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. But he didn't help keep his team in the game. Most of his yardage came on short passes that his receivers took upfield for a lot of extra yards, or on one long touchdown in which the cornerback fell down.

Smith's final numbers didn't look bad, but he wasn't great and left everyone wanting a little more. That was the story of his second half of this season. That is the story of the 2012 West Virginia season as well.

Give Syracuse its due. The Orange played well late in the season and played a really good bowl game, physically dominating the Mountaineers. The defense, which was 93rd in FBS in pass efficiency against, rushed the quarterback well and was good in coverage for most of the game. The offense gained 378 yards on the ground, including 158 yards from Jerome Smith and 217 from Prince-Tyson Gulley. Quarterback Ryan Nassib wasn't spectacular in the bad weather, but he did throw for a couple touchdowns.

Syracuse finished the season feeling pretty good about itself, which is something that shouldn't be the case at West Virginia.

The Mountaineers defense was awful, as always. It is a poorly coached unit with not a lot of talent, which is a horrible combination. Teams like Baylor and Syracuse worked to get better on defense and put forth a good showing in the bowl game. West Virginia didn't look like it really cared how bad its defense was and it didn't look like it took any steps to fix it in the time before the Pinstripe Bowl. The offense usually keeps the Mountaineers in games, but that wasn't the case against Syracuse.

Smith looked like he was bothered by the snowy weather, but that's nothing that will be excused by NFL teams evaluating him. There is often snowy weather in the NFL in December. It snows in Kansas City sometimes too. Smith didn't handle it very well. He had poor pocket awareness on many plays, never seeming to figure out where the Syracuse rush was coming from. He was sacked in the end zone twice for safeties, which is something that shouldn't happen to a highly skilled senior quarterback. He got in a little bit of a rhythm in the middle of the game, but he looked much more like a Brandon Weeden-type NFL prospect than the next Andrew Luck. Not only was this his final college game, it was his last impression for NFL scouts in a game with his West Virginia teammates, and he didn't do much to help his stock. Any NFL team that takes Smith should probably expect Smith to perhaps develop into a good quarterback, not someone who will be an immediate franchise quarterback like a few rookies have been the past two seasons. Over the second half of his senior season Smith simply didn't look like a Luck, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson.

The whole West Virginia team went in the tank in the second half, not just Smith. The Mountaineers lost six of their last eight games after starting 5-0. The wins came against a solid Iowa State team and a dreadful Kansas squad and the performance against Syracuse was really disappointing. Smith and Tavon Austin were seniors. Stedman Bailey is a junior who will declare for the NFL Draft. That's a lot of talent to lose.

It's also a lot of talent to produce just a 7-6 season.

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