Smith, who had opened plenty of eyes nationally with his performance in the first half of the season, was thoroughly outplayed by his SU counterpart, senior Ryan Nassib.
While Smith was spotty at best under severe Orange pressure and threw two interceptions and was sacked four times, Nassib hit four touchdown passes - one shy of his own school record set last season against FCS member Maine.
Three of those went to senior tight end Nick Provo.
Not much went right for the Mountaineers in a tone-setting first half. That included an extra-point try by Tyler Bitancurt, which clanged off the left upright.
It was his first miss after a 30-for-30 PAT first half of the season - and indicative of the myriad of issues that plagued Holgorsen's team under the bubble.
For the second time in the last four games, WVU allowed a kick return for a touchdown. The Orange lines dominated the WVU fronts, on both sides of the ball.
Syracuse gambled defensively against WVU's pass-first offense. The Orange entered the game ranked 112th among 120 major teams nationally in pass yardage defense, and figured it had little to lose by trying to force the Mountaineers to max protect.
Coach Doug Marrone's club blitzed aggressively and repeatedly and got to WVU quarterback Geno Smith time and again, pressuring and hitting him even when he was making completions.
That up-front control led to back-to-back, WVU-drive killing sacks by Orange defensive end Chandler Jones, and a crucial Jeremi Wilkes interception for SU in the late two minutes of the first half.
Mountaineer tackling was suspect against a Syracuse team that came into the game ranked only 96th nationally in total offense. That aided the hosts significantly in one of their primary needs entering the game -- keeping the WVU offense off the field.
With a pair of 14-play touchdown drives before Dorian Graham's 98-yard scoring kickoff return, Syracuse controlled the clock, keeping Smith and Co. off the turf.
In the game's first 21:32, the Orange kept the ball for more than 15 ½ minutes. For the game, the SU time of possession was a dominating 35:55.
Graham's return was the fourth longest kick runback in history for a WVU opponent, and follows the 99-yarder by LSU's Morris Claiborne four weeks ago in the Tigers' win at Mountaineer Field. It also was the longest by an Orange return man since Kevin Johnson's 100-yarder in 1998 against Miami (Fla.).
Were it not for another spectacular, leaping catch-and-run for a 64-yard score on a Smith throw to Stedman Bailey - the first of his two TD receptions in the game -- the two-touchdown underdog Orange would have had more than a two-touchdown halftime lead of 21-9.
It only got worse for WVU in the final half, after the teams traded TDs to start the third quarter.
"We were embarrassed," WVU senior linebacker Najae Goode said. "Really embarrassed."