West Virginia's Perfect Night

Posted Jan 5, 2012

Rich Cirminiello on the explosion of West Virginia in the Orange

Orange Bowl - West Virginia 70, Clemson 33
Cirminiello - WVU's Big O Moment
Fiutak - WVU's Big Night
Sallee - THE Fumble
Zemek - At Least Clemson Won Something
Harrison - Where's the D In The BCS?

Richard Cirminiello

It took a while, an entire regular season really, but Dana Holgorsen's offensive system appears to have finally started sinking in at West Virginia.

For those who forget or didn't pay close enough attention, it was not a great fall for the Mountaineers. Good, yes, but the team shared the Big East crown with two other teams, and second-half losses to Syracuse and Louisville were indications that the program was still a year away from being dangerous or consistent.

The Orange Bowl, however, provided very different signs about where this team might be headed in the coming years.

This evening's rout of Clemson showcased what Holgorsen, his staff and his players are capable of when they're afforded the luxury of preparation. You see, despite the laid-back demeanor and Shaggy Rogers do, the coach is a certified perfectionist when it comes to his attack.

And perfection takes time; the kind of time that bowl-eligible teams get in December to prepare for a postseason appearances. West Virginia used its time masterfully, while Dabo Swinney & Co. got thoroughly exposed.

On this night, everything clicked for the Mountaineers. The routes were tight. The speed was in space. The tempo? Up. And it's likely to be just the beginning. Don't forget that this was originally supposed to be Holgorsen's final game as the coach-in-waiting. It could up being the first game of the rest of his life.

This was so much more than the proverbial statement game or breakthrough moment. No, this was a four-hour showcase, in talent-rich Florida no less, to future recruits that West Virginia is about to take a veer in the road, and begin traveling down a very different path.

The Mountaineers are now 3-0 in BCS bowl games, but this latest triumph has a very different feel to it than certainly the last one. When West Virginia shocked Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, it was a particularly special moment in Morgantown. However, it was just that … a moment.

The 2012 Orange Bowl, like the 2006 Sugar Bowl upset of Georgia, feels so much more like a transformation—a defining win that could set the program on a new course of prosperity and eventually national contention.

In just one glorious night, the blue and gold finally feel whole for the first time since Rich Rodriguez left town for Ann Arbor four years ago. Holgorsen's offense is on the tarmac, despite still being a feature back away from becoming a finished product.

QB Geno Smith has a year of eligibility remaining, which he could use to contend for a Heisman Trophy. The ‘eers can't help but use the Orange Bowl obliteration as leverage on Signing Day. And 2012 will either be spent as one of the newest members of the Big 12 or as a heavy favorite to represent the Big East in another BCS bowl game next January. The courts will decide that conference squabble.

From underdog to alpha dog in just four quarters, West Virginia used Clemson as a doormat as it opened the gate to a new and exciting future. Who says all but the national championship game are little more than hollow exhibitions?

The Mountaineers just wrapped up a historical and highly significant victory that could resonate in Morgantown and beyond long after the victors arrive back on campus.