NEW YORK - West Virginia's defense allowed Syracuse 511 yards of offense in Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl loss, the fifth time this season an opponent topped 500 yards.
Prior to this season, the previous five 500-yard games happened across 10 seasons.
Syracuse's 34 points on offense in the 38-14 win - the Orange had two safeties, something that hadn't happened to WVU since 2002 - marked the ninth time a team managed at least that many points in a game this season. The previous nine 34-point games happened from 2005-11.
In short, WVU's historically bad defense, which had the school's worst scoring defense (38.1) by five points per game and allowed 131 more points this season than in any other season in program history, wasn't much different at the end of the schedule than it had been otherwise.
There was a variance, though. It was Keith Patterson, who Coach Dana Holgorsen promoted to defensive coordinator Dec. 2 in place of the demoted Joe DeForest, and who would have to explain how in the world it had happened. Again.
"Apparently I didn't do a good job getting the guys to understand how important it was to stop them," Patterson said.
During the offseason, which begins right away for a team with so many things it needs to fix, Patterson will take a long look at both the system and the roster. He has problems with both. The Mountaineers contend they weren't surprised or unprepared for anything Syracuse did on offense. Not after playing the Orange last year. Not after studying film since learning of the bowl matchup the day Patterson was elevated to his new role.
Syracuse had 369 yards rushing, the fifth-best total ever against WVU.
"I thought we had a very good understanding of the game plan and of what to expect," Patterson said. "We knew they were going to run a split zone any time they'd get into a wing or a bunch formation. We knew that they were going to run the split zone. But they executed and we didn't execute defensively.
"The bottom line there is me. I'm the defensive coordinator and I'm responsible for making sure we know how to hit that."
That's noble and precisely what a coach might say, but it doesn't cover the problems. WVU committed a pair of pass interference penalties on third downs to give the Orange a first down.
One was against senior linebacker Terence Garvin, who was too tight with his coverage.
He was supposed to be blitzing on the play.
"That's my responsibility to make sure we understand what our assignments are and what our responsibilities are," Patterson said.
Prince-Tyson Gulley's 33- and 67-yard touchdown runs both came on the split zone play, which is a variation of the zone play WVU likes to run. Both times, Patterson was positive his team not only knew how to stop it, but would stop it. Both times, he watched individuals make errors that turned into touchdowns as Gulley ran away from the rest of the defense.