West Virginia won its last two games.
Syracuse was once wallowing with its 4-5 record before it righted the season with saving wins over Louisville, Missouri, and Temple.
Both teams needed to find wins at the end or they would have stayed home and answered the kind of questions neither wanted to hear.
The Mountaineers literally held off Iowa State in the lump-in-the-throat last minute. And then they thumped Kansas to give Syracuse some gristle to chew on as it tries to adequately prepare for Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey.
Syracuse’s finest moment came when it was 4-5 and facing an unbeaten Louisville team in the enclosed Carrier Dome.
The balanced Syracuse offensive sheet showed it with 524 yards of total offense against the Cardinals. Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 246 yards and the Orange ran 52 times for 278 yards.
Louisville tried to keep its unblemished record intact with the throwing of Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater threw 50 times, completing 36 for 424 yards. He had one interception. The Cardinals rushed for only 48 yards in 17 attempts.
The Orange and Coach Doug Marrone must have sensed they had found the way to a bowl game. Louisville came to upstate New York with a 9-0 record. It left with a 45-36 dumping on its record.
In its last two games, Syracuse became bowl eligible with a win over Missouri, and finished off its skein of three straight victories with a comfortable win over Temple.
It had been the Louisville game that sent the season fast-tracking to a bowl game.
At about the same time Syracuse was finding the remedies to many of its problems, West Virginia was out in Ames, Iowa searching for its own solutions to its well-documented defensive questions.
Five straight losses had piled up. From being ranked No. 5 in the country, West Virginia was in danger of filing its first losing season and missing a bowl date for the first time in nearly a dozen years.
After rushing out to a 5-0 record with wins over Marshall, James Madison, Maryland, Baylor, and Texas, the Mountaineers had been submerged by five consecutive Big 12 teams.
Down they went. Down to Oklahoma State. Crunched by Texas Tech. Drowned by Kansas State. Losing in overtime to Texas Christian. And, finally, seeing a 50-49 near-miss loss to Oklahoma.
West Virginia’s defense threatened to be ranked last in the 120-team BCS division.
Off in Ames, the Cyclones were inside the Mountaineer 10 and had only to score to wipe out West Virginia’s 31-24 lead. But Iowa State fumbled. The loose ball wiggled into the end zone where freshman Karl Joseph recovered for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia had its elusive sixth win. And with it a finally-secured bowl berth.
Back home at Mountaineer Field for the finale against the capsized Kansas Jayhawks, West Virginia romped past Coach Charlie Weis, 59-10, to get its record to 7-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big 12.
The bowl process was carried through, and West Virginia landed in The Bronx at the Home that Steinbrenner Built. Syracuse is back in the same Pinstripe Bowl for the second time in three years.
Both schools have been allotted 5,000 tickets.
West Virginia sold about 7,700 tickets to last season’s Orange Bowl. The whole bounty of tickets was not sold. West Virginia had to buy all of those it couldn’t sell to the public, and suffered a $1.2 million loss on that “meal” it ate.
If all 5,000 tickets to the Pinstripe Bowl can’t be sold, the Big 12 will accept all the losses incurred — not West Virginia University.
Syracuse has its own 5,000 ticket allotment.
The Pinstripe publicity machine has advanced its drive to sell advertising and tickets with the theme of “two offensive machines, both scoring points with their exciting brand of football.”
Publicity aside, those ticket hawkers could be right.