Bronx, NY—The last week of December and the first week of January are the culmination of the college football season. Those are the weeks in which the final bowl games are played and the final rankings of teams are determined. Since December of 2010, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx has become a bowl venue.
On December 30, 2010, Bronx native Doug Marrone led the Syracuse Orange to a 36-34 victory over Kansas State in the first football contest at Yankee Stadium and the first bowl game at Yankee Stadium since 1962. Last year, Rutgers defeated Iowa State.
This year’s session featured Syracuse, in its last year as a member of the Big East, and West Virginia, in its first season in the Big 12. Both colleges played in Yankee Stadium in 1923, the first year of collegiate football in the original Yankee Stadium. Syracuse defeated Pittsburgh, 3-0, in the first game on the gridiron at the stadium on October 20, 1923. One week later, the Mountaineers took part in the second contest in the first year of the stadium on 161st Street. They battled Penn State to a 13-13 tie.
In addition to both teams place in the history of Yankee Stadium, each also has a strong connection to the other. Their rivalry began in 1945. The football squads have competed on the gridiron in every season since 1955. Defenseman Will Clarke of West Virginia told reporters on Wednesday that neither team expected any surprises as “Both teams are familiar with each other.”
Each team entered the Pinstripe Bowl with a mark of 7-5. Syracuse won five of its last six contests. The Mountaineers did not fare as well in the highly competitive Big 12 as the Orange did in the less dangerous Big East. West Virginia won four of nine in its first Big 12 conference season. Four of its opponents were top 25 ranked at the time they faced the Mountaineers. It ended the regular season with five losses, two by one point, in its last seven contests.
Syracuse, with light snow falling, took an early advantage. The first and only score of the first quarter was a 25 yard field goal kicked by Ross Krautman of Syracuse. The Orange scored the first nine points in the second quarter on a safety by Cameron Smith and a 33 yard touchdown run by Prince Tyson-Gulley.
The first points recorded for West Virginia came at 3:38 of the second quarter on a 32 yard touchdown pass by Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey.
Syracuse continued the offensive onslaught in the second half, outscoring West Virginia 26-7. Tyson-Gulley scored two additional touchdowns, a 67 yard run and a 10 yard reception of a pass by Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. Tyson-Gulley gained 208 yards on the ground and another 56 yards on five receptions. He earned the game’s MVP award for his outstanding performance. Marrone praised the MVP. “Prince has been a player that really worked hard, played with injury, has really come a long way in our program and I couldn’t be prouder of him…He’s a well-deserved MVP.”
The Orange defense was also major factor, It, along with the weather, stopped arguably the best senior quarterback in college, Geno Smith and also severely limited the West Virginia ground game.
Middle linebacker Siriki Diabate, who moved to the Bronx at the age of 13, spoke for the defense three days before the game, “we want to play against the best. We love that challenge. I think we’re ready for them [Mountaineers].” Diabate made a fine contribution with five tackles.
Diabate’s opinion was reinforced by the words of defensive coordinator Scott Schafer after the game, “I think that our kids were anxious to play this team again. They met the challenge. It’s not easy to win three in a row.” Syracuse has been victorious in the past three games of the lengthy rivalry after losing the previous eight.
West Virginia, seventh in the nation, with 518.6 yards gained per game was held to 285 while the Orange gained 511. Coach Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia admitted, “Anytime you get out-rushed by 330 yards (369-88), you’re going to have some problems.”
Marrone, a Bronx native, whose grandfather was an usher at the original Yankee Stadium, was victorious in both games he coached at the new ballpark. He joked, “I should play more games in the borough of the Bronx.”