MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A lot of the talk before Saturday's football game at Mountaineer Field was about streaks.
Beat Syracuse on homecoming, the Mountaineers figured, and they'd be at 13 consecutive home wins, only one from tying the school record. Beat the Orange and keep the Schwartzalder trophy for a ninth straight year.
Well, this might be a good time to talk about a couple of other streaks, after Syracuse - which had won only two Big East Conference road games since Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left for the ACC - sent the Mountaineers onto the giant mound of Big East mediocrity.
"This one's right up there for us," said Syracuse junior defensive end Mikhail Marinovich, who was part of one of the two SU fronts that had their way with WVU. "Every win is a good win, but this one ... there's a trophy involved, it's a big win. It's like a mini-bowl game for us."
The good news for the Big East - a bad football bunch in need of something positive - is that Syracuse (5-2, 2-1) seems to have finally found its pulse again under second-year alumnus Coach Doug Marrone.
That's major for a league that really could use its success from tradition-laden programs like Pitt and the Orange to vie with West Virginia.
For the Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1), however, it was a bad day to play poorly, led by quarterback Geno Smith's three interceptions and an offensive line that continues to play way short of expectations.
That line needs more than Coach Dave Johnson. It needs Johnson & Johnson.
Marrone said after the game that one key was that his team "stayed in manageable situations." A lot of that was because SU continued to be able to run the ball - 183 ground yards - against WVU's good defense even after top running back Delone Carter went out with a first-half injury.
After a 14-point first quarter, though, the Mountaineers looked like anything but the Big East favorite they had played themselves into in the first half of the season.
Streaks, you say?
OK, WVU went scoreless in three straight quarters for the first time since failing to score in the first three of a 34-7 loss at Maryland on Sept. 20, 2003. That was 92 games ago.
The last time West Virginia failed to score in the last three quarters of a game? That was on Oct. 25, 2001 - Rich Rodriguez's 3-8 team, in his first year as coach at his alma mater - in a 45-3 loss to Miami at the Orange Bowl.
That was 114 games ago - or, to put it in a different perspective - during the last autumn that Syracuse enjoyed a winning season.
"We're just trying to win football games," Marrone said of the back-to-basics mantra that drives the Orange. "We haven't been to a bowl game in a long time (2004). We haven't had a winning season in a long time. We're trying to do that."
Syracuse got away with four field goals on drives that stalled at the WVU 11, 2, 16 and 5 because a defensive coordinator (Scott Shafer) fired by Rodriguez after the coach's first forgettable season at Michigan befuddled Smith and bullied WVU's many-weapons offense.