In a renewed rivalry, Syracuse and West Virginia faced off at the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, FL. The Mountaineers were without offensive starters Will Grier, Yodny Cajuste and Gary Jennings, but went into Sunshine State looking to pick up their ninth win of the season. Despite the excitement, the Mountaineers struggled to keep pace with the high scoring Orange without their three, star offensive players.
The Syracuse and West Virginia offenses were led by single callers with completely different levels of experience. Jack Allison replaced Will Grier, making his first collegiate start. Eric Dungey, on the other hand, was in his fourth year as a starter for the Orange. Despite the lopsided experience, neither quarterback played exceptionally well in the first half. Both offenses failed to find a rhythm, leading to a 14-12 Syracuse lead at halftime.
Eric Dungey was under constant duress during the first half. The pressure dialed in by Tony Gibson and his defense forced two interceptions by Kenny Robinson and Derek Pitts. The defense held Syracuse to negative eleven yards on their first two drives. Additionally, the pressure forced five sacks and six tackles for loss. They held Syracuse to 174 yards in the first half, limiting them to 14 points after two quarters.
In the second half, Dungey rebounded, finding his rhythm. His ability to extend plays by avoiding pressure allowed the Orange to drive the field, taking control in the second half. He would finish the day 21-30 for 303 yards, one touchdown and the two interceptions.
The second half looked similar for Allison to the first. The rust was obvious in his first action since high school. He struggled with accuracy throughout the game and truly never looked comfortable. Without the same mobility and pocket presence of Grier, it put additional pressure on the offensive line. In the end, Allison would be sacked five times. In his first action as a starter, he went 17-35 for 277 yards with one interception.
Trey Lowe III, a true freshman, spelled Allison at quarterback for a change of pace and style. Head Coach, Dana Holgerson, pitched that we would see a lot of Lowe. As a dual threat quarterback, he would force the Syracuse defense to change their method of attack. Despite this threat, the freshman saw limited action. He finished the game completing both of his attempted passes for no gain and rushed twice for three yards.
Similar to last year’s bowl game, the Mountaineers featured the “wild cat” formation utilizing Kennedy McKoy to create confusion for the Syracuse defense. This formation led to WVU’s only touchdown of the game but lost momentum in the second half.
In his last game for the Old Gold and Blue, Evan Staley kicked four field goals, including 44 and 49 yard tries. The bowl game calls into question the future of Mountaineer football at quarterback; the discussion will continue this week in The Country Roads podcast. Follow us to listen for more on that topic as well as a post game wrap up.
The Orange would go on to win the game 34-18, proving to be too much for the short handed Mountaineer squad. West Virginia finished the season 8-4 and will start the 2019 season on August 31st in Morgantown vs. James Madison University.