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WVU football: Mountaineers to face Syracuse in Pinstripe Bowl

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Declining the opportunity to put West Virginia and Pitt together, the Pinstripe Bowl nevertheless picked the Mountaineers on Sunday night to face Syracuse at Yankee Stadium.

WVU and Syracuse will revive the rivalry for the 58th straight year on Dec. 29, the 60th time overall and quite likely the last time for a long time.

WVU joined the Big 12 this season and Syracuse leaves the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1.

"We finished the season strong with two straight wins and I am glad our players get the reward of playing in a bowl game," Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said in a statement. "This will be West Virginia's 11th straight bowl appearance and one more chance for our fans to see the 2012 Mountaineers. Playing in New York City will provide a national stage and Yankee Stadium will be a great venue for our seniors to finish their careers."

Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East), one of four co-champions in the Big East, was the fourth pick in the conference's cycle.

The Orange have won three straight games, which includes victories over Louisville, the Big East representative in the Bowl Championship Series, and Missouri of the Southeastern Conference.

"I am proud of this team for the way it fought through early-season adversity to win five of the last six games and win a share of the Big East championship," Orange Coach Doug Marrone said.

"It is great for our team, and particularly our seniors, to have the chance to play one more game. This senior class has given so much to our program on and off the field and will be great ambassadors for our program and the university."

Syracuse has beaten WVU the previous two seasons and are in possession of the rivalry's Schwartzwalder Trophy.

Established in 1993 and named after Ben Schwartzwalder, who was born in West Virginia, played for the Mountaineers and coached high school football in the state before later beginning his Hall of Fame coaching career at Syracuse, WVU held onto the prize every year from 2002-09.

The Orange lead the series 32-27, while the Mountaineers are 4-0 all-time at Yankee Stadium.

The Pinstripe Bowl took Syracuse over Pitt, which achieved bowl eligibility in Saturday night's win at South Florida.

WVU and Pitt (6-6, 3-4 Big East) had played every year since 1943, though that streak will now come to an end and the series may also go dormant for a while. The Panthers are moving to the ACC with Syracuse.

The Pinstripe's pick pushed Pitt to the BBVA Compass Bowl for the third straight season. Syracuse will be in the Pinstripe for the second time in its three years of existence. The Orange won the inaugural game, 36-34, against Kansas State in 2010.

"We are thrilled to be invited to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl for the second time in three years," Marrone said. "It means a great deal to us to play a bowl game in Yankee Stadium where many of our alumni and fans will have the opportunity to share it with us. New York State is the foundation of our program."

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. from the Bronx, N.Y., and will be televised by ESPN. Holgorsen earned a $25,000 contract incentive for the bid and can earn another $25,000 with a win. The bowl's combined payout is $3.8 million. Syracuse and WVU will both be allotted 5,000 tickets, but the Big 12 will cover the cost of WVU's unsold tickets.

"I am pleased that our football team will get the reward of playing in a bowl game," WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck said. "Changing conferences has been an adjustment and I am proud of how our players have handled themselves and prepared.

"I am also excited for our fans, who will get the chance to visit a great city in close proximity to the state of West Virginia. I am looking forward to seeing Yankee Stadium filled with Gold and Blue."

Syracuse, which hammered WVU 49-23 at the Carrier Dome last season, is No. 21 out of the 320 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in total offense (473.42 yards per game), No. 21 in passing offense (301.58) and No. 60 in scoring offense (29.33 points per game).

Quarter Back Ryan Nassib is tied for No. 13 in total offense and led the Big East (312.33 yards per game). He passed for 3,619 yards and 24 touchdowns with just nine interceptions and had six games with at least 322 yards passing.

Receiver Alec Lemon led the Big East in both receiving yards and receptions per game. He's No. 26 in receptions per game (6.26) and No. 16 in yards per game (96.64). Lemon has caught 70 passes for 1,063 yards and seven touchdowns and had four 100-yard receiving games - including a 244-yard performance against Missouri.

WVU's defense is No. 119 against the pass (327.08 yards per game) and No. 113 in scoring (38.08 points per game.)  

Syracuse's defense is No. 50 in total defense (385.08 yards per game), No. 62 in pass defense (236.92) and No. 52 in scoring defense (25.67 points per game).

WVU's offense is No. 8 overall (518.5 yards per game), No. 6 in passing (340.92) and No. 7 in scoring (41.58 points per game).

"An exciting West Virginia football team in the 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Syracuse pits two high-powered offenses with elite talent on both sides of the ball, setting up to be one of the premiere bowl-game matchups this season," said Mark Holtzman, Yankees Executive Director of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. "The Mountaineers players, alumni and fans will surely enjoy an exciting bowl week in New York City and a memorable game in Yankee Stadium."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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