West Virginia routs Clemson at Orange Bowl, 70-33

MIAMI – The 78th Discover Orange Bowl exceeded the lofty expectations of even those who knew this would be a high-octane extravaganza. It was fast. It was frenetic. And it was ferocious. In other words: an Orange Bowl on steroids. When the clock finally ticked to 0:00, and the season had officially ended, three-point underdog West Virginia left Clemson in a stupor, dominating its first Orange Bowl 70-33 Wednesday at Sun Life Stadium.
The Mountaineers’ 70 points were the most ever scored by one team in the history of bowl games, witnessed by 67,563 fans.
This wasn’t “Almost heaven, West Virginia,” the lyrics of a John Denver song traditionally sung by Mountaineers fans. This was heaven.
“It means a lot for me,” first-year WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’ve got about 23 seniors behind me that have done a heck of a job in helping with this transition. I said from Day One this is not about me, it’s about these seniors that deserve this win.
“You don’t score 70 points by being good on offense. You score 70 points by being good on all three sides of the ball.”
The first half of the game featured a combined 69 points – the most scored in any half of an Orange Bowl, and most scored in a half in BCS bowl history. The 49 points by West Virginia in that half were the most scored by any team in any bowl game in history.
The most shocking play of the night – the game-changer – occurred at 10:28 of the second quarter, with West Virginia leading 21-17. On first-and-goal from the West Virginia 3, Clemson tailback Andre Ellington fumbled in a heap of orange, white, gold and blue as he approached the goal line. At first, Clemson – and much of the crowd – thought Ellington had scored, with Tigers All-American safety Dwayne Allen jubilantly raising both his hands to signify a touchdown. But suddenly, like a made-for-TV movie, Mountaineers safety Darwin Cook emerged from the heap and sprinted 99 yards into the opposite end zone for a West Virginia touchdown.
In the process, Cook took down Obie – the plump, fuzzy, Orange Bowl mascot – as he charged into the padded end zone wall. With a hand from Cook, Obie sprang back up, right along with the Mountaineers.
Ruled official after a replay review, it was the second-longest scoring play, and longest defensive score, in Orange Bowl history. What could have been a 24-21 Clemson lead, turned out to be a 28-17 West Virginia advantage, and pumped even more adrenaline into an already crazed Mountaineer crowd.
In the second quarter, West Virginia outscored Clemson 35-3 and led 49-20 at halftime. Over the second and part of the third quarter, the Mountaineers increased the run to 49-3, and led 63-20. Clemson led 63-26 at the end of three quarters.
The Mountaineers, clearly the pride of the Big East, finished their season 10-3.The Atlantic Coast Conference Tigers finished 10-4, losing three of their last four and four of their last six.
With an amazing performance by hometown hero Geno Smith, the West Virginia quarterback from Miramar. Fla., who grew up watching Orange Bowl games on the Jumbotron from the hood of his mother’s car, the Mountaineers had a night that will long be remembered. In the first half alone, Smith completed 20 of 27 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns – all of those touchdowns caught by nationally heralded receiver Tavon Austin. The 5-9, 176-pound junior from Baltimore scored his fourth touchdown in the third quarter to set an Orange Bowl touchdown receptions record.
Austin finished with 11 catches for 117 yards and the four scores.
“First of all it’s not about me, it’s about those seniors back there and about my team,” said Smith, as the OB crowd repeatedly chanted “Geno!” behind him. “Eighty-four percent of the nation said we couldn’t come play with these guys, and that’s what we did today. We made a statement today, let everyone know we’ll be contenders for next year.”
Smith, a junior, finished 31 of 42 for 401 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for 26 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown. He was 27 of 36 for 362 yards and five touchdowns after three quarters. He came out of the game for a few minutes late in the third quarter, replaced by freshman Paul Millard – but not before Smith became the first Mountaineer to surpass 4,000 passing yards in a season.
His 385 passing yards with 10:23 left in the game surpassed the previous OB passing record set by Tom Brady (Michigan) against Alabama in 2000.With 6:21 left in the game, Smith threw his career-record sixth touchdown pass, this one a 7-yarder to Willie Milhouse.
After three quarters, Smith’s counterpart – equally heralded Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd – had completed 22 of 39 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He threw his second interception early in the final quarter.
Boyd had the misfortune of losing his left tackle Phillip Price in the second quarter with a knee injury. Boyd finished 24 of 46 for 250 yards and the two touchdowns and two picks. The teams combined for 1,032 yards on 163 plays.
By the time the game ended, nearly the entire Clemson fan base, which was considerable at the start, had left the stadium.
“It is what it is,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “The season is over. The biggest thing I said in there was that I love them and we’ve got to live with this offseason. “Just too many mistakes.”

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