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Syracuse QB just keeps getting better

NEW YORK - Ryan Nassib doesn't have the same kind of passing numbers as Geno Smith. Nor does his name carry the same weight in the context of any national discussions about the country's best quarterbacks.

Know, though, that Nassib is no slouch. He will be drafted by an NFL team. He's finishing his third season as a starter. He directed the nation's No. 21 offense this season and finished 13th in individual total offense.

Oh, and a year ago when Syracuse walloped West Virginia 49-23 at the carrier Dome, Nassib threw for four touchdowns and ran for a fifth.

Don't think for a moment, though, that Nassib views Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl between West Virginia and Syracuse as a head-to-head battle of quarterbacks.

"Geno's a great football player. There's no doubt about that,'' Nassib said. "He has the potential to take over games. But I can't worry about that.

"At the end of the day you can only worry about what you can control. And what I can control is what our offense does and how I play.''

So far, Nassib has played really well. This season he's thrown for 3,619 yards, 24 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.

OK, so that's not quite up to the standards of Smith, who threw for 4,004 yards, 40 touchdowns and just six picks.

Remember, though, this is a guy who will be playing for the fourth time against West Virginia and the first two times the Mountaineers were happy to see him. As a redshirt freshman in 2009 he completed 7 of 16 passes for 120 yards against the Mountaineers. A year later he was 5 of 15 for 63 yards. Yes, the Orange won that 2010 game, but it wasn't because of Nassib.

Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, though, and by the time he was a junior Nassib was going 24 of 32 for 229 yards and four touchdowns in a rout of West Virginia. This year he began the season with a 45-of-66, 482-yard, four-touchdown game against Northwestern. He passed for 356 yards against Rutgers and 385 yards in a late-season win on the road at Missouri.

Nassib has just gotten a little bit better every game and every year, it seems. And, really, that was the plan all along.

"That's kind of the way I've been my whole life. Everything I've done I just wanted to make sure I was always getting better,'' Nassib said, "I ask myself that every day: Did I get better? Did the decisions I made make me a better football player and a better man?''

More often than not the answer is yes. He's taken offseasons seriously, and practices just as seriously as games.

"And it's not just me. The guys I've been with here over the years have done the same thing,'' Nassib said. "If you work hard and the guys around you work hard and want to get better it usually happens.''

Every once in a while, though, wouldn't it be nice to play not in Syracuse's balanced offense but in a throw-it-around-the-lot scheme like Smith does?

"It's the system and the offense,'' Nassib said. "I'm a quarterback. Sure, I wish I could throw the ball every play. But I also understand that in our system there's a balance that's needed. It may be different in different offenses, but in ours we've always tried to maintain a good balance.''

Truth be told, Syracuse has opened up its offense this season. Nassib is playing in a faster attack with better receivers and more chances to throw the football. He averaged 37 passes per game, not far off Smith's 41. He owns every single-season and career passing record in Syracuse history, save for career touchdown passes.

"Ryan's done a great job of just getting better every year, especially this year when we changed the offense and put a lot of it in his hands,'' Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said.

It has put Nassib on the radar of NFL general managers, one of whom will select the 6-foot-3, 227-pounder. First, though, he has that non-showdown with Smith and West Virginia's high-powered offense.

"We've been in high-scoring games and as long as offense stays consistent and tries to play as mistake-free as possible we can score points,'' Nassib said.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.


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