By Cam Huffman
Somewhere between another reference to “The Greatest City in the World” and the “thrilled to be here” comments from both coaches, an interesting piece of information trickled through during Wednesday’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl press conference at Yankee Stadium.
Apparently, the Schwartzwalder Trophy — presented each year since 1993 to the West Virginia-Syracuse winner in honor of Ben Schwartzwalder, who played at WVU and later coached at Syracuse — may not be on the line when the two former conference rivals meet in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29.
When a question about the trophy came from the assembled media, Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone quickly grabbed the microphone and played the role of politician, answering the question without actually giving an answer.
“I think one of the things we all have to be conscious of is that to the right of us is the Steinbrenner Trophy,” said Marrone, pointing to the trophy given each year to the Pinstripe Bowl winner in honor of late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. “That’s what we’re both here for. I think it’s very important that we all understand that.”
Marrone, who was actually recruited by WVU and Don Nehlen out of high school, and took an official visit to Morgantown, went on to tell a story about Steinbrenner’s love for college football and the importance of the trophy but never directly addressed the Schwartzwalder Trophy, which is currently in possession of the Orange, after a 49-23 upset of the No. 11 Mountaineers in the Carrier Dome last season.
West Virginia is currently listed on the trophy as the winner 11 times, including eight straight from 2002 through 2009. Syracuse’s name is inscribed eight times, including the last two.
With WVU now in the Big 12 and Syracuse headed to the ACC, future meetings between the two schools could be rare.
Even if the trophy isn’t on the line, WVU’s players won’t have to look far for motivation going up against the Orange.
When the teams met on Oct. 21 last year, the Mountaineers were 5-1, the only loss against No. 2 LSU, while Syracuse was 5-2 and had lost two of its last four.
On that night, though, the Orange were dominant.
WVU was held to just 70 rushing yards, and Geno Smith was sacked four times and threw a pair of interceptions.
Ryan Nassib, meanwhile, torched the WVU defense. The Syracuse quarterback threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns, and paired with 125 rushing yards from Antwon Bailey, the Mountaineers had no answer for the SU offense in a 49-23 loss.
“Hopefully our experience in New York playing Syracuse will be better than last year, which was not very pleasant for West Virginia,” said Holgorsen during Wednesday’s event. “We went up to Syracuse and they out-coached us and out-played us.
“We moved past that loss a long time ago, but we will visit that again, watch the film and then watch film from this year and come up with a game plan.”
In promoting his game Wednesday, New Era Pinstripe Bowl executive director Mark Holtzman said the game would feature two of the nation’s top quarterbacks, and the numbers back his statement.
WVU’s quarterback, Smith, is third in the nation in passing and has thrown for 4,004 yards and 40 touchdowns, compared to only six interceptions.
Nassib, who handles those duties for Syracuse, is 15th on the passing list. He’s thrown for 3,619 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Both are projected as possible first round draft picks in April’s NFL Draft.
The Big 12 released its 2012 All-Big 12 football awards Wednesday, and WVU senior wide receiver/returner Tavon Austin was the Co-Special Teams Player of the Year, along with Oklahoma State kicker/punter Quinn Sharp.
Austin was a member of the All-Big 12 first team offense as both a wide receiver and kick/punt returner. Junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey was the only other WVU player to land on the first team, on either side of the ball.
Smith, the league’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year, was the quarterback of the All-Big 12 second team, while Joe Madsen made that list as an offensive lineman.
Karl Joseph was the only Mountaineer defender to receive any recognition. He was an honorable mention selection.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was the Offensive Player of the Year, edging out Austin, who was a finalist, while Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk was the Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
Calvin Barnett of Oklahoma State was the Defensive Newcomer of the Year, with Cowboy quarterback J.W. Walsh the Offensive Freshman of the Year. TCU’s Devonte Fields was the unanimous Defensive Freshman of the Year.
Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown earned Defensive Player of the Year, and Baylor offensive lineman Cyril Richardson was the Offensive Lineman of the Year. The Defensive Lineman of the Year went to Meshak Williams, and Nick Florence, Baylor’s quarterback, was the Scholar-Athlete of the Year, edging out WVU’s Ryan Nehlen.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder was the Chuck Neinas Coach of the Year.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH