Thursday, January 5, 2012
Final: WVU 70, Clemson 33
By Andrea Adelson
MIAMI -- West Virginia beat Clemson 70-33 in the Discover Orange Bowl on Wednesday night, putting up an NCAA record for points scored in a bowl game. Here is a quick instant analysis:
How the game was won: The second quarter. West Virginia went on a scoring blitz, thanks to its impressive and opportunistic defense. Darwin Cook got the spree started when he picked up an Andre Ellington fumble and returned it 99 yards -- the longest defensive score in school bowl history. It was the fourth defensive score of the year for the Mountaineers, the most since 2007. After that turnover, it was all downhill for the Tigers -- who turned the ball over a total of three times in the second quarter. West Virginia turned that into 21 points, and when halftime came the Mountaineers had outscored Clemson 35-3 in the period.
Turning point: That Cook fumble recovery changed everything. Clemson was down 21-17 and about to go in for the go-ahead score. Instead, Ellington fumbles and Clemson did not get a touchdown again until late in the third quarter. That one turnover brought Clemson's momentum to a halt and had a snowball effect. The Tigers simply could not get out of their own way.
Stat of the game: Hard to top the incredible bowl-record 70 points the Mountaineers scored. Consider this: West Virginia scored a TOTAL of 75 points in its final three games.
Player of the game: West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin. The best, most versatile player on the field, Austin finished with four receiving touchdowns, a career, Orange Bowl and BCS record. That also tied the record for all bowl games. He ran the ball, he caught the ball, he returned the ball to the tune of over 280 yards in yet another stunning display of his speed and escapability. Folks in the Big East knew all about his talents. Hopefully the entire nation knows as well.
Unsung hero of the game: West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. Clemson ran up and down his defense, scoring touchdowns on two big plays and taking a 17-14 lead after the first quarter. It appeared a shootout would be in order. But the Tigers scored 16 points the remainder of the game, and the defense created four turnovers -- including its third score in the past four games. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins were completely shackled and ineffective after that opening period. Speculation has swirled about Casteel's future in Morgantown, so if this was indeed his last game with the Mountaineers, it was his best of the season.
What Clemson learned: It's not so easy being the ACC rep in a BCS game. The league moved to 2-13 in BCS bowls, including 0-2 this season. It's one thing for Virginia Tech to be the punching bag because it has represented the league so many times in BCS games, but no ACC team has ever been embarrassed this badly in a BCS game. It's one thing to lose. It's another to give up a bowl record for points scored. This is a young team, and will have every opportunity to bounce back from this loss. But it's going to be a stinging offseason.
What West Virginia learned: This team has one heck of a future in the Big 12. The Mountaineers showed they can score with the best of them, and their bowl record for points scored just surpassed the 67 points future conference partner Baylor put up in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Geno Smith and nearly every skill player returns on offense, and Dana Holgorsen won 10 games in his first season as a head coach. It's also West Virginia's first 10-win season since 2007.
Record performance: Where to begin? You already saw the scoring record. Geno Smith had a career-high six touchdown passes, breaking an Orange Bowl and BCS record, held by USC quarterback Matt Leinart against Oklahoma in 2005. His 401 passing yards also set an Orange Bowl record, surpassing Michigan quarterback Tom Brady, who had 369 against Alabama in 2000.