NEW YORK -- With the game out of its control and time running out in the final act of a depressing season, West Virginia had already made enough mistakes on offense, defense and special teams to tell quite a story about the 38-14 loss to Syracuse in Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl.
But on a fourth down at their 41-yard line with 10:17 to go, the Mountaineers found one more way to illustrate this debacle before 39,098 at Yankee Stadium. After an entirely uneventful day of snaps from the new center to the quarterback, Jeff Braun and Geno Smith couldn't connect and Smith picked up the loose ball and fell forward.
He and Braun, who was playing in place of academically ineligible Joe Madsen, stood and watched and could do nothing as the officials stretched the chains and revealed Smith was well short of the first down.
It was that kind of day for WVU, which remarkably didn't convert a third down in 11 attempts. The Mountaineers were on the wrong end of a safety twice in the same game for the first time since 2002 and allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time since 2005 -- and this indignity came at the end of a season in which the Mountaineers hadn't allow a running back to get 100 yards in a game.
"It's hard to pinpoint one thing, I think," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We did a poor job overcoming adversity. There was a lot of adversity and we did a poor job with it."
Once 5-0 and ranked in the top five of both polls for the first time since the end the 2007 regular season, the Mountaineers lost six of their final eight games and had their worst winning percentage since a 3-8 record in 2001.
"Ever since the Orange Bowl and having such success there, with the expectations moving to a new conference, everything has fallen under our expectations," Braun said. "We fully expected with this team and the talent we had to go to the national championship. We didn't live up to that and obviously we didn't even win the Big 12 championship. That hurts."
Smith completed 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and two scores, but surrendered two safeties and a turnover against the Syracuse pressure. Tavon Austin had just two catches for 21 yards and added 54 yards rushing 12 carries. Stedman Bailey was the lone bright spot with seven catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the final college game for all three and the 285 yards of offense was the second-lowest total in the past 30 games.
"If you go 0-for on third down and get 280-some yards of offense, you're probably going to get your ass whipped," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.
The Mountaineers (7-6) committed 10 penalties for 106 yards and the defense gave up 511 yards of offense with 369 coming on the ground. It was the most yards allowed on the ground since a 1999 loss to Navy.
The Orange (8-5) hadn't had more than 278 rushing yards in a game this season, but averaged 6.0 yards on 63 rushes in the cold and the snow to win for the sixth time in seven games.
WVU had 61 total snaps and only 88 yards rushing.
"The team with the best running game was going to win and they clearly had the best running game," Holgorsen said.
Prince Tyson-Gulley, who had never had a 100-yard game, had 215 yards and two scores rushing and added 50 yards and a touchdown receiving. Jerome Smith added a career-high 158 yards rushing.
"I don't know any other way to put it, but through the course of the game, I was absolutely shocked they could run the football on us," WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said.
Syracuse created some space by opening the second half with a touchdown drive. Quarterback Ryan Nassib, who didn't complete a pass to a receiver in the first half, had a 19-yard completion to Marcus Sales and a 17-yard completion to Jarrod West, both receivers.
On third-and-7, linebacker Isaiah Bruce tipped a pass at the goal line, but it fluttered to tight end Beckett Wales, who was alone in the end zone.
It was the fifth touchdown by an Orange tight end in the past two games against WVU.
The Mountaineers muffed the kickoff return and an illegal block on top of that started the drive at the 5, but Bailey turned a short pass into a 59-yard gain on second down. Andrew Buie appeared to score on a 28-yard run on fourth-and-2, but WVU was called for holding.