Syracuse's Marrone: WVU "Best Team" Orange Have Faced - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Syracuse's Marrone: WVU "Best Team" Orange Have Faced

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia is carrying the banner for the Big East right now. The only ranked team in the nation, the Mountaineers are considered the league's top program on the football field this fall.

After one or two conference games for each Big East team, there is still hope for every contender to snatch away the championship, but the most consistent of those in the fight are based out of Morgantown.

On Monday, Syracuse Coach Doug Marrone praised the Mountaineers as his team gets set to host WVU Friday night at the Carrier Dome.

"We have a great challenge ahead of us with probably the best team that has come here since I've been here with this West Virginia team being ranked 11th on offense and 16th on defense," said Marrone.

Marrone would have probably been delighted to hear that the bye week knocked Dana Holgorsen's team out of its rhythm and a poor Sunday night practice has the staff concerned. But instead, the WVU head coach reported the exact opposite.

"We had a good two days, three days last week and then we came back last night and Geno completed 94 percent of his passes yesterday," said Holgorsen. "Looks to me like timing is pretty doggone good."

Smith continues to lead the Big East in passing yards and touchdowns, which barring any injuries should remain the case through the end of the season. A year ago, his mistakes led to Syracuse winning in Morgantown. Now, he's the main cause for concern to Marrone and the Orange Friday night.

"Geno Smith has done an outstanding job. He's much more mature and good in the pocket, knows where he's going with the football. You can just see that his decision process is so much quicker now than maybe it has been."

Smith threw three interceptions in that game. Holgorsen knows the team uses last year's result as motivation this week.

"I feel like there's a bunch of motivation. I feel like our morale's real high," he says. "Guys are having a good time playing ball and then you throw in the equation that Syracuse outplayed West Virginia here in Morgantown and played with a little bit more energy and a little bit more excitement for four quarters gives our guys some motivation to play."

Marrone's team has to be expecting that sort of attitude from the visiting Mountaineers. West Virginia's returning players would have felt the same emotions prior to the UConn game, and just look at the results of that one.

Marrone wouldn't bring himself to say the change in scheme is definitely what has changed this WVU offense, but instead points to the player who is running it.

"I still look at West Virginia, as far as the offense, as just being explosive with the players that they have and spreading you on the field and putting that pressure on you defensively," says Marrone. "I think if someone were to actually say, ‘What's the difference?' I would say, ‘Geno Smith.'"

On West Virginia's side of the equation, Holgorsen is just as confident in his defense's improvement as he is with his offense. Defensively, the Mountaineers have now gone two games without yielding a single point in the second half.

"They're really starting to mesh, which is not surprising," says Holgorsen. "I certainly agree that they played their best game last week and continue to mesh together as a group."

If the Mountaineers continue to make strides in all three phases of their game, they can continue to separate themselves from the rest of the Big East. But there's not a single player who will take it for granted after seeing last year's results in the league.

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