BRONX, N.Y. -- On the first rep of the first practice here Wednesday, three days before Syracuse takes on West Virginia in the third annual Pinstripe Bowl, the Orange ran a goal line drill.
The result was a touchdown pass from Ryan Nassib to Dave Stevens.
Nassib is the Orange quarterback and that he threw a touchdown shouldn't be a surprise - he had 24 in his first-team all-Big East season. Stevens is the tight end and that he caught a touchdown shouldn't be a surprise, either - Syracuse is preparing to play the Mountaineers.
The Orange riddled WVU's defense with its tight ends in last season's 49-23 victory at the Carrier Dome. Three tight ends finished with 10 receptions for 101 yards and four touchdowns.
"That was my big game of the season," Stevens said.
No offense to Stevens, who made a successful transition from linebacker to tight end last season, but his big game was two catches for 34 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown. It was indicative of that day, that nightmare, for WVU. The tight ends could do no wrong against a defense that could do nothing to stop it.
"It wasn't necessarily the tight ends. It was the scheme," Stevens said of WVU's now defunct 3-3-5 alignment. "We knew things would be open in certain areas of their defense and for whatever reason we kept finding it.
"But it wasn't just the tight ends. A lot of people were open. We knew some of the routes we always ran would be open. That's what we saw on film."
Nassib completed 14 passes to running backs and receivers for 128 yards, but when he needed a play and when Syracuse wanted to score, the ball went to the tight ends. Nick Provo caught six passes for 61 yards and touchdowns in the first, third and fourth quarters. Stevens' score halted a WVU rally and made it a 28-16 game in the second quarter before the defense stopped WVU and Nassib found Provo for a score just before halftime.
Every pass Provo and Stevens caught went for either a touchdown or a first down, including three third-down conversions on drives that ended in Provo's touchdowns.
"We did what our coach told us to do," said tight end Beckett Wales, who got into the game late last season and caught two passes for six yards. "That's basically all it was. It's what we did in practice and it worked, so we called it in the game and it worked again."
The natural inclination before the 3:15 p.m. game (ESPN) at Yankee Stadium is to wonder if it can happen again for Syracuse (7-5) against WVU (7-5).