MORGANTOWN - I'm still mystified that the West Virginia football team, then ranked No. 20 nationally, laid such a huge egg against Syracuse last Saturday.
It was one of the most pitiful performances a guy in his 65th year of covering the Mountaineers can recall. And that can put a damper on the 2010 homecoming observance when athletes usually perform at their best.
That 19-14 defeat by a team that has a new coach and lacks WVU's experience and potential, had to be shocking to the crowd of nearly 59,000 on an otherwise beautiful fall afternoon.
Making it all the more miserable was the fact that this game was nationally televised by ESPN 2.
You've got to give Syracuse, Coach Doug Marrone and his staff for doing a significantly better job of getting their players to a superior stance mentally and physically.
That's obviously how the Orangemen rebounded from their 45-14 shellacking at home by Pitt the previous Saturday.
"We tried to mix it up on defense," Marrone said. "It was a chest match.
"I am proud of everyone in this team victory."
While West Virginia scored all 14 points in the first quarter, it had to be embarrassing to the offense to be shut out in the last three quarters.
SU seemed to manhandle WVU upfront on both sides of the ball. As a result, Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith had to fight off defenders all afternoon in life-saving fashion.
Even so, the sophomore, in only his seventh start, was sacked five times and was provided little protection most of the time.
sked whether he considered changing quarterbacks in the second half, WVU Coach Bill Stewart said, "Absolutely not." Smith's three interceptions led to nine Syracuse points.
Stewart admittedly was disappointed with his team's play in all three phases. "It was a total team defeat," he lamented
I don't know whether any WVU team was held scoreless after scoring 14 points in the first quarter.
Does anyone know?
It could be different to say one stunning setback is worse than another.
But West Virginia's 36-35 loss to old rival Pitt on Oct. 17, 1970 was certainly a candidate.
The Mountaineers couldn't protect a 35-8 halftime lead.
That happened to be in Bobby Bowden's first year as head coach here and the legendary Hall of Famer still calls it the worst defeat of his historic coaching career.
WVU lost just two other games that year (to Duke and Penn State) to finish 8-3.
Pitt was unstoppable in the second half because the Mountaineers' best defensive player got injured, and the Panthers were determined to keep every possession, regardless of down.