BRONX, NY -- West Virginia came into its Pinstripe Bowl matchup against Syracuse ranked 119th and next to last among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in pass defense. So it would not have been a surprise had Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib done plenty of damage through the air.
However, on a day when Mother Nature enveloped Yankee Stadium in a blanket of snow, it was the Syracuse ground game that led the charge with 369 yards in a 38-14 victory over the Mountaineers.
Junior Prince-Tyson Gulley ran for 215 yards and scored two of his three touchdowns on the ground in a game that marked the first time he reached the century mark in rushing in his career. Fellow junior Jerome Smith added a career-high 158 yards.
"We were ready going into today to either throw or run," said Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. "Whatever it took. At the end of the year we started to become more balanced, and that really helped us out."
Tyson-Gulley scored on consecutive third-quarter possessions for the Orange, the first of which was a 67-yard touchdown run that gave Syracuse a 26-7 lead with 6:52 remaining in the period.
Needing a quick answer to that score to get back into the game, West Virginia (7-6, 4-5 Big 12) took only four plays and 71 seconds to cut the deficit to 26-14. The drive was capped when quarterback Geno Smith looked left and found Stedman Bailey, who had broken free from fallen corner Brandon Reddish, for a 29-yard touchdown. It was Bailey's second touchdown reception of the game and 25th of the season, which leads the nation.
The Orange (8-5, 5-2 Big East) offense went back to work on the ensuing possession, one that ended when Tyson-Gulley caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nassib. The score restored the 19-point margin at 33-14 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
"Our linemen came out to play and opened a lot of big holes," said Tyson-Gulley, who was named the game's MVP. "I had not played in anything like this before and it was definitely fun (playing in the snow.)"
After leading 12-7 at the half, Syracuse marched 80 yards on 10 plays to take a 19-7 lead on the opening drive of the second half. Nassib spotted tight end Beckett Wales in the back of the end zone. The pass was deflected by linebacker Isaiah Bruce and into the waiting hands of Wales. It was the start of a 23-point third quarter for the Orange.
Nassib threw for a season-low 127 yards, but it didn't matter on a day when the running game ruled.
"Those are some real men in the trenches and they really took over the game," said Nassib, who threw a pair of scoring passes. "With those conditions we have to be able to run the ball and we knew that if we were going to win, it would be behind our line and our running backs."
The Syracuse defense also did its job, recording a pair of safeties and limiting the Mountaineers to 287 yards. West Virginia entered the game eighth nationally with an average of 581.5 yards per game.
"We challenged the defense (in a meeting Friday night) and it came up big," said Marrone. "Right off the bat, first play of the game, we have a tackle for a loss. I think that set the tone."
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen credited Syracuse for its effort and causing his team plenty of headaches.
"They just did a better job against us on the line of scrimmage and they did a better job of running downhill," he said. "We didn't do enough to stay in the game and did a poor job of overcoming some things."
The schools renewed acquaintances after meeting in the regular season for 55 consecutive years through 2011; the last 21 games were played as Big East rivals. West Virginia joined the Big 12 for this season and Syracuse was playing its final game as a Big East member before moving to the ACC next year.
NOTES: Syracuse improved its all-time bowl mark to 14-9 while West Virginia dropped to 14-18. ... Syracuse quarterback Charley Loeb came on for one play in the second quarter when Ryan Nassib was shaken up after being sacked. On his first pass since 2010, Loeb threw a screen to Prince Tyson-Gulley that turned into a nine-yard gain. ... Game-time temperature was 34 degrees with a wind chill of 26 and either snow or a freezing mix fell throughout the game. ... There were 41,203 tickets sold and 39,098 came through the turnstiles. Yankee Stadium's capacity for football is 42,000. ... Prior to the game there was a moment of silence for the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14. The names of each of the deceased appeared on the Jumbotron.