Texas Longhorns: Doug Marrone

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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