The West Virginia Mountaineers might not return to the Big East next year, but they certainly gave their conference a going-away present with a huge 70-33 win over the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. As Matt Brooks reported:
The first three BCS bowl games of 2012 were about as competitive as anyone could have hoped. Two overtime finishes. Three games decided by a total of 13 points.
There was bound to be a blowout at some point and West Virginia proved it was more than willing to buck the trend in Wednesday’s Orange Bowl.
Geno Smith tied a bowl game record with six touchdown passes to lead the Mountaineers to a runaway 70-33 victory over Clemson. West Virginia’s 70 points were the most ever scored in a bowl game. They scored five touchdowns in the second quarter alone, including three in the final 2:29 of the first half. It was just that kind of night in Miami.
“Never could we image we’d put up 70 points,” Smith said.
No one did. In Las Vegas, the over-under on total points for the game by both teams was set in the 60s. By halftime, the Mountaineers already led 49-20.
Fresh off a 38-10 rout of Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, Clemson was left stunned by how quickly the game got out of hand. With the win, West Virginia improved to 3-0 in BCS bowl games.
“It was like a virus,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said.
The Mountaineers offense powered by Geno Smith, and Tavon Austin scored seemingly at will against Clemson, which could not match the scoring pace of West Virginia. As AP explained:
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.
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 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.
The critical play of the game was a defensive one, with West Virginia safety Darwin Cook returning a fumble 99 yards for a TD and comically colliding with the game mascot behind the endzone. As AP reported:
As the West Virginia Mountaineers celebrated their first Orange Bowl victory, safety Darwin Cook shared a hug with the game’s mascot, Obie.
They had run into each other earlier in the end zone when Cook scored the night’s pivotal touchdown, then leaped on the smiling orange. Only after the game did he learn a woman was wearing the Obie outfit.
“I didn’t know you were a girl,” he told her. “I apologize.”
Standing in the sideline, Geno Smith 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.”
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.”
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