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Syracuse exits Big East with 38-14 romp over West Virginia in Pinstripe Bowl

Prince-Tyson Gulley of Syracuse is chased by Darwin

Prince-Tyson Gulley of Syracuse is chased by Darwin Cook of West Virginia in the second quarter of the Pinstripe Bowl. (Dec. 29, 2012) Credit: Errol Anderson

Syracuse was especially good at keeping its footing, which was no easy feat on the snow-encrusted field at Yankee Stadium. Fact is, the Orange had no problem running all over an old rival, or in being the latest to make a bold getaway from Big East football.

The Pinstripe Bowl was a wintry, wistful 38-14 win for Syracuse, which was playing its final game as a representative of the Big East, a conference that is losing members right and left. Exhibit A was West Virginia, the losing team Saturday, which had a losing record in its first season in the choppy waters of the Big 12.

"Life changes, life goes on," West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said. "As we lose old rivals, we will pick up new rivals. It's part of the change that we see take place in intercollegiate athletics."

Doug Marrone, the Bronx-born coach of Syracuse (8-5), declined to wax nostalgic about the Big East. The ACC-bound Orange sure left itself a heck of a parting gift as it accepted the George Steinbrenner Trophy.

Prince-Tyson Gulley, a junior from Akron, Ohio, ran for 100 yards worth of touchdowns -- one for 33 yards, another for 67 -- and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Nassib, proving he had no trouble with the turf. Marrone said, "Everything was fine. People want to make things about the field, but it's football, for both teams."

After rushing for 212 yards and gaining 56 on receptions, Gulley said, "It was definitely fun. Coach kept saying it's just like playing at home, in Akron. In Pee Wees I played in something like this, not in high school or anything, but it was fun."

The swirling, heavy flakes certainly presented a different tableau in the college football postseason. Bowl games are generally warm-weather or indoor events, often featuring teams from different parts of the country.

Yankees president Randy Levine noted the atmosphere, and, reflecting on October, said, "The way we hit the last week, maybe some snow would have helped the Yankees."

Most of the big hitting Saturday, before 39,098 (41,203 tickets were sold), was done by the Orange defense. Syracuse contained West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, an early-season contender for the Heisman Trophy who completed 71.4 percent of his passes during the season and averaged 333.7 passing yards. On Saturday, he completed 16 of 24 for 197 yards and was trapped into two safeties.

"You know, they didn't throw for many yards, either," said Dana Holgorsen, coach of West Virginia (7-6). "We did a poor job of overcoming adversity."

The Big East now has plenty of adversity. It has won all three Pinstripe Bowls, two by Syracuse, one by Rutgers, but both of those teams are leaving. There is no telling whom the Yankees will invite once their contract with the Big East and Big 12 ends after next season.

"At the end of the day, when we commit to partners, we commit to partners, so everybody is going to get the benefit of the doubt as we move forward," Levine said.

It is clear that the Pinstripe Bowl will continue as a tribute to the late Yankees owner, a former college football player and coach who loved the sport.

"Maybe if you shot him with sodium pentothal," Levine said, "he might have [said he] even liked it a little more than baseball."

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