West Virginia 70, Clemson 33
2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central
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West Virginia 70 … Clemson 33
relative to each
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
West Virginia: Total offense: WVU 589 – Clemson 443 … Geno Smith completed 31-of-43 passes for 401 yards and six scores. … Shawn Alson ran 20 times for 77 yards and two scores. … Tavon Austin caught 11 passes for 117 yards and four scores. … Eain Smith made 12 tackles.
Clemson: Average yards per rush: Clemson 7.1 – WVU 4.3 … Tajh Boyd completed 24-of-46 passes for 250 yards and two scores and two picks. … Andre Ellington ran ten times for 116 yards and a score. … DeAndre Hopkins caught ten passes for 107 yards and a score. … Sammy Watkins caught five passes for 66 yards and a score. … Rashard Hall made eight tackles with a pick.
MIAMI (AP) -- The West Virginia Mountaineers were tough to slow down, and only the Orange Bowl mascot could stop Darwin Cook.
Geno Smith tied the record for any bowl game with six touchdown passes, and the No. 23-ranked Mountaineers set a bowl scoring record Wednesday night with their high-powered offense. But safety Cook made the pivotal play by returning a fumble 99 yards for a touchdown to break the game open and help rout No. 14 Clemson 70-33.
Cook collided comically with mascot Obie after scoring one of the Mountaineers' five TDs in the second quarter, including three in the final 2:29 for a 49-20 lead. It was the highest-scoring half by a team in a bowl game.
"I always envisioned making great plays," Cook said. "If you think it will happen, it will happen."
Tavon Austin tied a record for any bowl game with four touchdown catches. Smith went 31 for 42, and had 401 yards passing to break Tom Brady's Orange Bowl record. Smith also ran for a score, helping West Virginia break the bowl record for points established six nights earlier when Baylor beat Washington 67-56 in the Alamo Bowl.
"Never could we imagine we'd put up 70 points," Smith said.
The Mountaineers (10-3) won in their first Orange Bowl appearance and improved to 3-0 in Bowl Championship Series games.
"The guys wanted to come in and make a statement, and the only way you can do that is if you play well on all three sides of the ball," coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Clemson (10-4) lost playing in its first major bowl in 30 years.
"We're a better team than we played tonight," coach Dabo Swinney said. "Just too many mistakes. But we'll be back."
The offensive showcase was the latest in a succession this bowl season, and perhaps the last. Defense is expected to dominate in the final BCS game Monday night when Louisiana State faces Alabama for the national title.
Tacklers had their hands full - or rather, they didn't - on a chilly night in Miami. Smith and Austin combined on scoring passes of 8, 27, 3 and 37 yards, and Shawne Alston scored on two short runs for West Virginia, which totaled 589 yards and 31 first downs. Smith was chosen the game's outstanding player.
Even when Clemson managed to corral the Mountaineers, the play wasn't always over. Andrew Buie rolled over a defender but was never downed, so he got up and ran for an additional 18 yards.
Clemson couldn't keep up with the Big East Conference co-champions, although Andre Ellington did score the game's first points on a 68-yard run. First-team All-Americans Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen combined for only seven catches for 87 yards.
"We kind of got down when they scored so many points in such a short amount of time," Watkins said.
Amid the flurry of points, it was a defender who came up with second-longest scoring play in Orange Bowl history.
Clemson was on the verge of taking the lead in the second quarter when Ellington ran up the middle and disappeared into a heap at the 1. A teammate signaled touchdown, but the ball came loose and Cook grabbed it, then took off with nothing but the end zone in front of him.
"I saw the ball come loose," he said. "I grabbed it. I didn't hear a whistle, so I ran."
After Cook crossed the goal line, he gleefully leaped on mascot Obie, a smiling orange, and they both tumbled to the turf. Obie rose unhurt and resumed her duties.
Cook and Obie met on the field after the game and shared a hug.
"I didn't know you were a girl," he told the mascot. "I apologize."
Smith, standing in the sideline, watched a video replay of Cook's touchdown in disbelief.
"Crazy, man," Smith said. "When I saw that, I knew things were breaking our way."
The potential 14-point swing seemed to deflect the Tigers, who had moved the ball almost at will to that point.
"It was a pretty big moment," Swinney said. "They hadn't really stopped us. That was huge. Then it snowballed quickly."
The Tigers were doomed when quarterback Tajh Boyd committed subsequent turnovers on consecutive Clemson plays.
After Smith ran 7 yards on a keeper for a 35-20 lead, Pat Miller intercepted Boyd's pass. Smith flipped a 1-yard touchdown pass to Austin and, on the next play, a call was overturned, with the replay official determining Boyd had lost a fumble.
Alston then ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 4 seconds left in the half.
"Momentum swung not in our favor, and it was hard to recapture," Boyd said. "West Virginia is a great offense. You can't really get behind them. We couldn't stop them. Guys were gassed. Their legs were going. It was a tough loss - pretty embarrassing."
Defensive woes were nothing new for the Tigers, who won their first Atlantic Coast Conference title in 20 years but gave up at least 30 points in six regular-season games.
Clemson kept pace for a while, leading 17-14 after one period. It was the highest-scoring first quarter and first half in Orange Bowl history.
West Virginia went ahead for the first time early in the second period on an 80-yard touchdown drive capped by Austin's 27-yard catch, making the score 21-17. Cook's takeaway touchdown came next, and the Mountaineers were off to the races.
"You don't score 70 points by being good on offense," Holgorsen said. "You score 70 points by being good on all three sides of the ball."
Clemson (10-3) vs. West Virginia (9-3) Jan. 4, 8:30, ESPN
Here’s The Deal … Clemson and West Virginia are set to meet at Sun Life Stadium in Miami with a chance to pocket one of the most important postseason wins in school history. For a time in November, it didn’t look as if either program was going to qualify for a BCS bowl game.
For Clemson, 2011 has been a tale of two teams … at least. The Tigers exploded out of the gate, quickly adjusting to first-year coordinator Chad Morris’ new offensive system. With wins in its first eight outings, the 40-point-a-game team emerged as a legitimate national title contender, ascending from unranked in the preseason to as high as No. 6 at the end of October. However, the final leg of this unlikely journey was littered with missteps. Clemson dropped three of its final four regular season games, looking suddenly flummoxed against Georgia Tech, NC State and Palmetto State rival South Carolina. Heck, the Tigers needed to rally at home versus Wake Forest in an outcome that would have shifted the balance of powers in the Atlantic Division. Same old underachieving Clemson, right? Maybe not.
With expectations plunging, very few people gave Clemson a shot of defeating red-hot Virginia Tech in the Dec. 3 ACC Championship Game. Oh, how the Tigers proved the masses wrong. Tapping into their early-season form, the Tigers bludgeoned the Hokies in Charlotte, 38-10, to capture their first league title in two decades. For Dabo Swinney, the awakening could not have come at a better time. The head coach, who began the season in a very tenuous spot, was on the verge of squandering much of the goodwill he’d harnessed during the first two months. With an Orange Bowl victory, he’ll be even more untouchable heading into 2012.
For much of the year, West Virginia was in charge of carrying the Big East’s weathered banner. None of the other seven league members seemed to want the responsibility. Heck, the Mountaineers started to run from the obligation as well. The lone ranked conference team for the longest time suffered a couple of head-scratching losses that put its supremacy in severe jeopardy. On Oct. 21, the ‘eers got roughed up by Syracuse, 49-23, and two weeks later, they were picked off by Louisville in Morgantown. The program was down, but not quite out.
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, West Virginia pulled together, and rallied to three consecutive gut-check wins by no more than a field goal. With a break or two in November, the Mountaineers pulled into a three-way knot atop the Big East, and won the tiebreaker that unlocked the door to the Orange Bowl. All in all, it’s been a successful campaign for rookie head coach Dana Holgorsen, who was originally slated to be the coach-in-waiting until Bill Stewart ran himself out of a job with off-field shenanigans. This is also the fall that the school agreed to join the more stable Big 12, though it might require the courts to decide whether that officially occurs in 2012 or 2012.
Players to Watch: When the Clemson offense clicks, it’s among the most combustible in the country. There’s speed, balance and complimentary options up and down the depth chart. Morris’ attack worked in such a hurry because of the rapid maturation of sophomore QB Tajh Boyd, and the arrival of precocious rookie WR Sammy Watkins. Boyd lived up to his advanced billing, accounting for 36 touchdowns, throwing just 10 picks and generally looking comfortable at the controls. It helped to have access to Watkins, one of the most electrifying young receivers to enter the scene in years. Looking nothing like a true freshman, he’s caught 77 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was a gamebreaker as a kick returner. Making life tougher for West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will be the presences of 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington, who’s as healthy as he’s been all year, and Mackey Award-winning TE Dwayne Allen.
Casteel’s defense has been more erratic and unpredictable than in recent years. It had 10 sacks in the Backyard Brawl, yet just 17 in the other 11 games. It can shut down Connecticut’s quarterbacks one week, only to be burned for four touchdowns by Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib on the next one. Basically, you never quite know what you’re going to get with this crew. In order to stunt the progress of the Clemson offense, it’ll need to get a solid effort from the first and last lines. The Tigers have been marginal in pass protection, which could open the door for linemen Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin to disrupt Boyd’s rhythm. Irvin, in particular, plays the game at a different speed, getting around the edge in an instant. Out of the secondary, Keith Tandy is likely to draw the assignment of covering Watkins. More than just a 200-pound bump-and-run corner, he’s a student of the game, and skilled at the little things that make a cover guy successful.
West Virginia’s answer to Boyd at quarterback is junior Geno Smith. The First Team All-Big East selection has become Holgorsen’s next star behind center, flipping 25 touchdown passes to only seven interceptions. He’ll play on Sundays, flashing good zip on his throws and a nice feel for the pocket. Smith and his cadre of receivers plan to barrage an average Clemson that yielded three touchdown passes four different times in the fall. The current collection of pass-catchers is arguably the best the history of the program. Stedman Bailey is a deep threat, parlaying 67 catches into 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tavon Austin is a dangerous speedster out of the slot, with 89 grabs for 1,063 yards and four scores. And Ivan McCartney will make the Tigers play if they give too much attention to his teammates.
Since Clemson’s defensive backs don’t match up well with the West Virginia receivers, they’ll need plenty of help from the pass rush. And there’s a good chance they’ll get it. The Tigers have excellent size and athleticism on the front wall, getting a steady push from DE Andre Branch on the outside and NG Brandon Thompson and DT Rennie Moore on the interior. Branch will present a particular problem for a Mountaineers O-line that has underachieved in 2011. The 6-5, 260-pounder has long arms and the quick first step to get around lumbering linemen. While Smith doesn’t get easily flustered in the pocket, like any passer, he’s far less effective when his throws and reads are rushed.
Clemson will win if … Ellington plays up to his vast potential.
Yeah, Boyd and Watkins generated more headlines during the regular season, but No. 23 holds the key to the Tigers’ fortunes in Miami. While Clemson can score without the support of a running attack, it can score a whole lot more when the existence of balance puts opposing defenses on their heels. And a decent amount of points will be needed to win this game. When the Tigers hit the skids in the second half of the year, two things happened: The ground game disappeared as Ellington struggled with an ankle injury, and the defense was on the field for way too long. When he was healthy enough to carry 20 times for 125 yards and a score in the ACC title game, the D was markedly better, and the team cruised to a four-touchdown win. The turnaround was not a coincidence.
West Virginia will win if … the defense comes to play.
Whether or not the Mountaineers are victorious in their first Orange Bowl will depend heavily on the performance of Casteel’s D. The team should have success moving the ball, but the regular season proved that Smith’s heroics can be neutralized by shoddy tackling and execution. In West Virginia’s three losses in 2011, it gave up an average of 45 points. Plus, LSU’s Jarrett Lee, Syracuse’s Nassib and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater combined to throw eight touchdown passes and just one pick in those three games. The ‘eers need to assert themselves early on, sending a message to their dynamic opponent that every point and every first down will need to be earned. The more that the scoreboard is changing, the less likely it is that West Virginia will be victorious.
What Will Happen: With Morris and Holgorsen in the same building, the Orange Bowl audience is the one guaranteed winner in this game.
While both schools harbor some defensive talent, this is a matchup built with the offenses in mind. Given time to prepare, Clemson and West Virginia will devise inventive gameplans that accentuate their gobs of talent at the skill positions. The difference—and there aren’t many—will be Ellington. The defenses are similar, and both quarterbacks are capable hurlers. Ellington, though, gives the Tigers a big-play element out of the backfield that the Mountaineers are unable to count on. It’ll also help immensely that Clemson comes in with a tailwind, having shaken a sour finish with its pristine performance a month ago in the ACC Championship Game. The least talked about BCS bowl game could wind up being the most entertaining of the bunch in January.
CFN Prediction: Clemson 35 … West Virginia 31
- Click For Latest Line From ATS:: Clemson -3 O/U: 60.5
Clemson's secondary hasn't faced too many
quarterbacks who can throw. The pass rush isn't good
enough to pressure Geno Smith to slow him and the
Mountaineer passing game down, and Dana Holgorsen's
attack will be the talk around the water cooler on
This is a huge opportunity for Dana Holgorsen, whose Mountaineers took the less traveled path to the Orange Bowl. It’s also a big game for Dabo Swinney, who needs to build on Saturday’s impressive blowout in the ACC title game.
By Matt Zemek
The Orange Bowl finally – and deservedly – got the perfect matchup after several revenue- and attendance-unfriendly games. Clemson’s best brand of ball is better than West Virginia’s best. We’ll simply see if Clemson plays the way it did in its two takedowns of Virginia Tech.
By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
Here we go again. For all of the criticism and vitriol spewed by the fans and media, everyone will still watch it because it’ll once again be college football theatre at its best. Alabama will be better prepared this time.
By Russ Mitchell
Clemson earned this - WVU backed its way in. This should be an exciting affair with a lot of points. Expect the crowd to be heavily pro-Clemson, which is a reflection more on proximity and dearth of recent big game opportunities for Clemson than an indictment on the Mountaineers ability to travel.
By Terry Johnson
This game could be one of the highest scoring Orange Bowls in history, given each team’s recent struggles on defense. Keep an eye on Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and West Virginia’s Taveon Austin who are capable of taking the ball to the house every time they touch the ball.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
This game will probably have the lowest ratings of the BCS games because of the rankings and fan bases involved, but it’ll be entertaining enough with the wide open attack of WVU and the talents of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins lighting it up for Clemson.
Best Bowl Moments
Best Mountaineer Bowl Moment: The postseason had been a horror show for West Virginia…until the 2006 Sugar Bowl and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The same program that had lost 11 of its previous 12 bowls jumped all over heavily-favored Georgia in the Georgia Dome on the second night of 2006, holding on for a 38-35 win that ranks among the most important in school history. In January of 2008, the ‘Eers, seemingly a rudderless ship, rallied around interim coach Bill Stewart to stun Oklahoma in Arizona, 48-28, behind the heroics of Pat White and Noel Devine.
Best Tiger Bowl Moment: It’s been 30 years since Clemson participated in one of college football’s marquee bowl games. Back in 1982, the Tigers played No. 4 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, with national supremacy hinging on the outcome. Danny Ford’s underrated defensive unit frustrated the star-studded Husker offense in a 22-15 win that gave the Tigers a perfect season and their only national championship. How fitting it is that Clemson, in its hour of renewal and joy, comes back to the Orange Bowl on the 30th anniversary of the school’s biggest gridiron achievement.
Orange Bowl History
2011 Stanford 40, Virginia Tech 12
2010 Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 14
Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7
Kansas 24, Virginia Tech 21
Louisville 24, Wake Forest 13
Penn St 26, Florida St 23 3OT
USC 55, Oklahoma 19
Miami 16, Florida State 14
USC 38, Iowa 17
Florida 56, Maryland 23
Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
Michigan 35, Alabama 34 (OT)
Florida 31, Syracuse 10
Nebraska 42, Tennessee 17
Nebraska 41, Virginia Tech 21
Florida St 31, Notre Dame 26
Nebraska 24, Miami 17
Florida State 18, Nebraska 16
Florida State 27, Nebraska 14
Miami 22, Nebraska 0
Colorado 10, Notre Dame 9
Notre Dame 21, Colorado 6
Miami 23, Nebraska 3
Miami 20, Oklahoma 14
Oklahoma 42, Arkansas 8
Oklahoma 25, Penn State 10
Washington 28, Oklahoma 17
Miami 31, Nebraska 30
Nebraska 21, LSU 20
Clemson 22, Nebraska 15
Oklahoma 18, Florida State 17
Oklahoma 24, Florida State 7
Oklahoma 31, Nebraska 24
Arkansas 31, Oklahoma 0
Ohio State 27, Colorado 10
Oklahoma 14, Michigan 6
Notre Dame 13, Alabama 11
Penn State 16, LSU 9
Nebraska 40, Notre Dame 6
Nebraska 38, Alabama 6
Nebraska 17, LSU 12
Penn State 10, Missouri 3
Penn State 15, Kansas 14
Oklahoma 26, Tennessee 24
Florida 27, Georgia Tech 12
Alabama 39, Nebraska 28
Texas 21, Alabama 17
Nebraska 13, Auburn 7
Alabama 17, Oklahoma 0
LSU 25, Colorado 7
Missouri 21, Navy 14
Georgia 14, Missouri 0
Oklahoma 21, Syracuse 6
Oklahoma 48, Duke 21
Colorado 27, Clemson 21
Oklahoma 20, Maryland 6
Duke 34, Nebraska 7
Oklahoma 7, Maryland 0
Alabama 61, Syracuse 6
Georgia Tech 17, Baylor 14
Clemson 15, Miami 14
Santa Clara 21, Kentucky 13
Texas 41, Georgia 28
Georgia Tech 20, Kansas 14
Rice 8, Tennessee 0
Miami 13, Holy Cross 6
Tulsa 26, Georgia Tech 12
LSU 19, Texas A&M 14
Alabama 37, Boston College 21
Georgia 40, TCU 26
Mississippi State 14, Georgetown 7
Georgia Tech 21, Missouri 7
Tennessee 17, Oklahoma 0
Auburn 6, Michigan State 0
Duquesne 13, Mississippi State 12
Catholic 20, Mississippi 19
Bucknell 26, Miami 0
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