Texas Longhorns: Syracuse Orange

West Virginia and its high-powered offense led by Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith might appear downright impossible to shut down, but that wasn’t always the case.

For all of coach Dana Holgorsen’s statistical magnificence, there have also been blemishes. The Mountaineers’ Air Raid attack might be unstoppable on its best days, but on others it’s not unbeatable.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Jason O. Watson-US PresswireGeno Smith was 24-of-41 for 338 yards passing with two touchdowns and two intercetpions in last season's loss to Syracuse.
Last year, the Mountaineers dropped their big nonconference home test against LSU, 47-21. Smith set school passing records on that night that he has since shattered, and he got WVU as close as 27-21, but the Tigers pulled away and scored the game’s final three touchdowns.

That didn’t come as a surprise. The Tigers went on to hold down a No. 1 ranking for much of the season and played for the national title. No shame in that loss.

But the other two losses on West Virginia’s slate last year, well, they raise some questions. How exactly did two Big East foes beat the Mountaineers? What’s the secret?

The first was a legitimate stunner. No. 11 West Virginia traveled to Syracuse for a Friday night game last Oct. 21. The Carrier Dome was packed with its largest crowd in three years. The local fans went home happy. Syracuse won 49-23 by playing a near-flawless game.

Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for four touchdowns, three to his tight end. His offense owned the line of scrimmage, producing 194 rushing yards and no rushes for loss, and Syracuse returned a kickoff for another score.

Thanks to a bye week, the Orange had plenty of time to draw up a savvy defensive game plan. Defensive end Chandler Jones, a future NFL first-rounder, recorded two sacks and six solo stops, and Syracuse forced two Smith interceptions at critical junctures in the game.

"It's quite simple," Holgorsen said after the game. "We knew what we were getting ourselves into. Syracuse beat us physically on all three sides of the ball. They outplayed us and outcoached us. It's as simple as that."

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Jefferson tires of calls, tidies up his list

June, 25, 2012
This month, the NCAA opened Pandora’s box and lifted regulations on texting and phone calls to recruits. Ten days into the experiment isn’t enough time to evaluate the effects of unlimited contact between recruits and coaches.

With that said, senior small forward Rondae Jefferson (Chester, Pa./Chester) isn’t a fan. “I don’t think that rule was all that,” Jefferson said. “It’s non-stop phone calls, and nobody wants to go through that. I just want to enjoy basketball.”

Within five minutes of the rule’s implementation, Jefferson had at least 12 missed phone calls and it was only shortly after midnight. Mark down Jefferson, ESPN’s No. 23 senior, as a “no” vote for the new rule.

“I don’t like it in my opinion," he said. "It affects the kids. When a coach gets that number he can (call) non-stop. ‘What are you doing? How are we going to make this work?’ This is the biggest decision of my life.”

Jefferson’s response to the rule was simple: cut his list. In his mind, going into July with a bunch of schools wasn’t a bad thing. After all, the decision is significant. He wanted his options. Not anymore.

On Sunday night, Jefferson trimmed up his list to a more manageable seven schools. The contenders: Arizona, Texas, Florida, Memphis, Temple, Rutgers and Syracuse. Jefferson’s brother, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, is a mainstay in the Temple lineup.

Seven schools is still a big number. However, for the senior it’s more manageable and he’s trimmed the fat as much as he could at this stage in the game. Jefferson doesn’t mind the dance, it was the number of partners he had that kept him on his toes.

Elite 11 QBs: Midlands region 

June, 21, 2012

The Elite 11 field of 25 – the original 24 plus Trent Dilfer’s special addition, Shane Cockerille (Baltimore/Gilman) – has been set. Of the entire field, nearly a third will come from the Midlands region.

Seven players will represent the Midlands, including six from Texas and the seventh a former NFL head coach’s son residing in Colorado. Here’s a breakdown of each player from the region heading to Redondo Beach, Calif., from July 18-22.


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