by CFP Staff
January 5, 2012
Wait a minute - West Virginia may have just scored again. It was that kind of night for the Mountaineers as they rolled over Clemson 70-33 in their first-ever appearance in the Orange Bowl.
Both teams entered the Discover Orange Bowl among the hottest teams offensively in the country, and both teams started hot. But Clemson turnovers in the 2nd quarter aided a 35-point West Virginia outburst.
Within the first four minutes of the period, the Mountaineers turned a 17-14 deficit into a 28-17 lead. and after a Clemson field goal cut the lead to 8, West Virginia scored 21 points in just over two minutes to explode to a 49-20 halftime lead.
Clemson was actually about to retake the lead at 24-21 on a short Andre Ellington run when he fumbled inches shy of the goal line as he fought to crawl over a pile of defenders to cross the goal line. Darwin Cook grabbed the ball as it came loose and sprinted 99 yards in the other direction for the 28-17 advantage.
West Virginia QB Geno Smith scored on a 7-yard run with 2:29 left until intermission and West Virginia intercepted Tajh Boyd on the second play after the kickoff to set up Smith's short TD pass to Tavon Austin a little over a minute later. Boyd then fumbled on Clemson's first play after the kickoff and Shawne Alston scored on a 1-yard run five plays later to close a spree of 21 points in 2:07.
The lead would balloon to 63-20 before Clemson would score again.
Smith finished 31-of-42 for 401 yards to break an Orange Bowl record held by Michigan's Tom Brady since 2000. His 6 TD passes eclipsed the BCS record of five that was set by USC's Heisman-winning quarterback Matt Leinart in a 2005 Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma.
Tavon Austin scored 4 touchdowns while catching 11 passes for 117 yards. He also added 46 yards rushing on just 4 carries and 115 yards in returns.
West Virginia amassed 589 total yards, but Clemson still managed to gain 440 led by a 116-yard rushing performance by Ellington and a 107-yard receiving night by DeAndre Hopkins. Sammy Watkins 143 yards in returns and 66 receiving.
With Clemson's loss, the ACC completed the 2011 bowl season 2-6. Combine Clemson's with Virginia Tech's 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl and the ACC dropped to 2-13 in BCS games.
West Virginia improved to 3-0 in BCS bowl games. The Big East can finish the bowl season 4-1 if Pittsburgh beats SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl on January 7th.
Clemson finished the season 10-4. The Tigers earned the ACC’s automatic berth in the Discover Orange Bowl following its 38-10 victory over No. 5 Virginia Tech in the seventh annual Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Boyd earned MVP honors in that game as he went 20-for-29 with 240 passing yards and three touchdowns.
The Tigers were making their fourth appearance in the Orange Bowl and their first in 30 years. Clemson earned the 1981 National Championship following its 22-15 victory over Nebraska that year. Clemson also played in the 1950 and 1956 seasons and is now 2-2 all-time in Orange Bowls. Clemson has lost 5 of its last 6 bowl games overall, and 11 of its last 15.
West Virginia finished Dana Holgorsen's first season as head coach at 10-3 for its first 10-win campaign since 2007, the final year of the Rich Rodriguez era.
West Virginia earned the Big East’s automatic BCS bid by virtue of a higher BCS ranking Cincinnati or Louisville after the three teams tied for the conference title.
Clemson won the only other meeting with West Virginia 27-7 in the 1989 Gator Bowl.
53.1% of CollegeFootballPoll.com voters picked Clemson to win and the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com forecasted a 0.87-point victory for the Tigers.