NEW YORK - Given how widespread the problems were and how understandable the end result was, it might be unfair to whittle down West Virginia's 7-6 season to a handful of plays.
Yet if TCU's two-point conversion pass in overtime hits the ground or if the Mountaineers defend a fourth-down pass in the final seconds instead of allowing Oklahoma's game-winning touchdown, maybe they're not in Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl pitted against an opponent that, according to receiver Tavon Austin, "had our number two years in a row."
Said Austin, who had just two catches and 75 yards of offense in the loss, "They had a good defense and a good plan over there. They blitz a lot and their front four did a good job. There were times we got close to busting one and it just didn't happen."
And given how the Mountaineers lost for the fourth time by at least three touchdowns, it might be equally illogical to highlight a small number of plays that cost them dearly.
Two, though, left WVU wondering after the 38-14 loss.
The first was Syracuse's safety in the second quarter, when quarterback Geno Smith was hit and lost the ball before left guard Josh Jenkins recovered in the end zone.
"We had a bad play called," center Jeff Braun said.
The Mountaineers did themselves no favors and sent the offensive linemen to the left, that after calling a play action pass out of a shotgun set from their 1-yard line.
"Geno was actually about to check to a run that would have gashed them, but he didn't," Braun said. "They outmanned us on the right side."
Braun, playing in place of academically ineligible center Joe Madsen, saw it coming and thought the Mountaineers were going to get out of danger with Smith changing the play.
"I was looking through my legs and he walked up toward the line like he was going to check. I knew what he was going to do," Braun said. "Then he walked back and got set and I saw it coming. Right before the snap I saw them bringing everybody."
Three Orange defenders came through the vacated space on the right, as that defense is prone to do, and running back Shawne Alston could only reroute one. Linebackers Cameron Lynch and Siriki Diabate pounced on Smith, who said he was aiming for Austin deep against one-on-one coverage.
Smith said he thought about checking to the run, which would have gone left, where WVU had Syracuse outnumbered.
"I left the pass on because I felt like I could get it off before they got to me, but they sent an extra guy off the right side we weren't able to pick up," he said. "He got right in my face and I wasn't able to escape the pressure and throw it away. I just took a bad safety."
That gave Syracuse a 5-0 lead in the second quarter and the Orange scored six plays after the ensuing free kick for a 12-0 lead. It was the fifth game in which WVU trailed by double digits this season, each time in the first half. WVU lost all five games.