SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Syracuse Coach Doug Marrone, in the glow of a signature victory for his football program, talked of "going forward."
From the other side of a Carrier Dome hallway, West Virginia was trying to figure out how to do just that after going backward big time with the Mountaineers' worst Big East loss in a decade.
In its 49-23 loss to the Orange on Friday night, WVU (5-2, 1-1) plummeted in more than the national rankings - to No. 25 on Sunday (Associated Press) from No. 11. Heading toward Halloween, these Mountaineers certainly didn't expect to be among a not-so-scary five teams tied for third place in another ho-hum Big East.
WVU came out of its bye week flatter than the Carrier turf field, which has no crown. The Mountaineers were mediocre at best in all three phases of the game, as Coach Dana Holgorsen admitted in his postgame remarks.
Syracuse (5-2, 1-1) dominated in the trenches. The Mountaineer defense couldn't get off the turfed floor below the big bubble.
The Orange had a 41 rush-33 pass mix. The way they ran for 194 yards through WVU, you'd have thought Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and Larry Csonka were still Orangemen pounding through tacklers.
While SU quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for four touchdowns on a 24-of-32 night, Mountaineer QB Geno Smith, harassed throughout by a Syracuse blitz package that seemed to include everyone except Otto the Orange mascot, was on target in his assessment.
"It's probably my worst loss ever," Smith said when asked about it being the most lopsided decision of his WVU days. "It's disappointing because we worked so hard. We prepared hard. We felt like we had a good game plan. We felt like we had everything to prove. It's just disappointing that we didn't come out and put our best foot forward."
Or, put it this way:
Gone are WVU's hopes of a 7-0 Big East season, as the Mountaineers head to Rutgers (5-2, 2-1) for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. kickoff. Trashed was West Virginia's four-game win streak at the SU home dome, a record for any visiting team in the building that opened in 1980.
The WVU defense was ripped repeatedly by the SU running game and torched by tight end wheel routes when Syracuse went over the middle for needed yardage on second and third downs. Holgorsen called his defenders "in the vicinity."
Actually, they were about as behind as WVU was on the scoreboard.
"They just physically whipped us, from the opening whistle to the end of it," said WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, whose unit allowed 142 yards above its 301-yard average entering the game.