The Mountaineers thought they had a chance to stay with the Orange in the third quarter. Syracuse started the second half with a touchdown, but WVU moved from its 5 to the Orange 28 in five plays. On fourth-and-2, Smith was faced with another decision.
"I saw they went to a 'bear' (4-6) defense, so I checked to an outside zone, which is what you want to do to a bear defense," he said.
The handoff went to Andrew Buie, who made it outside as the defense surged inside and then outran defenders to the end zone. Tight end Cody Clay was flagged for a holding penalty that Coach Dana Holgorsen couldn't believe was called.
WVU had to punt. After trading turnovers, Syracuse's Prince-Tyson Gulley ran 67 yards for his second touchdown of the game and a 26-7 lead.
"That's the way the game goes," Smith said. "Momentum is huge for confidence, for everything. Obviously, we've got to do a better job handling adversity and getting past that and not letting it affect us because it did play a role at that time in the game."
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Smith passed for 197 yards and two touchdowns and had 13 yards rushing. The school's record-holder for career total offense, Smith broke his single-season record set last year (4,369). He finished his career with 102 total touchdowns, one shy of former quarterback Pat White's record.
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Syracuse had 65 running plays. WVU had 61 total plays. The Orange held the ball for 36:23 and the Mountaineers didn't help themselves by going 0-for-11 on third down, 0-for-3 on fourth down and by committing 10 penalties for 103 yards.
So bad and so unusual is the 0-for-11 that WVU doesn't track the history of third down conversions.
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WVU's bizarre year on special teams extended through the final game. Tyler Bitancurt had a 36-yard field goal blocked on the first drive and later had a 29-yard punt. After WVU's second safety, Corey Smith hooked the free kick out of bounds, which gave the Orange the ball at the 50-yard line.
There was also a bobbled return on a kickoff and then a penalty on top of that that started a drive at the 5. Later in the third quarter, WVU had two penalties on a kickoff return.
"The bottom line is our team didn't overcome a lot of things and didn't do enough to keep us in the game," Holgorsen said.