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West Virginia Crushes Clemson, 70-26, In Orange Bowl, Destroys Bowl Records

West Virginia celebrates one of its many Orange Bowl scores.
Streeter Lecka, Getty Images

Clemson led West Virginia 17-14 after the first quarter of the Orange Bowl. But from that point on, it was all Mountaineers as West Virginia shattered record after record on their way to a 70-26 victory.

With 10:28 to go in the second quarter, Clemson had driven 75 yards to the West Virginia three-yard line. But running back Andre Ellington fumbled at the one and Mountaineers safety Darwin Cook returned the ball 99 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown from which the Tigers could never recover. West Virginia rolled up 35 points in the second quarter to put the game out of reach and only continued to pile on from there.

Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith came into the game ranked sixth in the nation in passing yards per game running first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen’s up-tempo, pass-happy offense. But even by his high standards, he had a monster night in the Orange Bowl, racking up 401 yards and six touchdowns (no interceptions). His top target, slot receiver Tavon Austin, was the beneficiary of much of that effort, catching 11 passes for 117 yards and four touchdowns on the night. Austin, who ranks second in the nation in all-purpose yardage, also added 118 return yards on five kicks. West Virginia finished with 589 total yards and 31 first downs.

In the first quarter, we appeared headed for another BCS shootout as both teams scored on three of their first four possessions. But after the second-quarter fumble return touchdown by West Virginia, the wheels really came off for Clemson. The Tigers managed just three points and 64 total yards on their next eight possessions. In that same stretch, the Mountaineers scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives to blow the game open.

After setting school records for passing yards, total yards and scoring this season, the Clemson offense seemed out of rhythm much of the night, managing just 255 yards in the final three quarters after putting up 185 yards and 17 points in the first period. Quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw for nearly 3,800 yards and 31 touchdowns in the regular season, was held to just 250 yards on the night. He threw two touchdowns but also had two costly interceptions and a fumble that resulted in 21 West Virginia points. Running back Andre Ellington did have 116 yards in the game, but the vast majority of that came on one play, a 68-yard touchdown drive to open the scoring early in the first quarter.

Some of the records broken Wednesday night include:

  • West Virginia’s 49 points at halftime and 70 total points are both new bowl game records, not just for the Orange Bowl, but for any bowl game ever.
  • The Mountaineers’ 35-point second quarter is the highest-scoring quarter in bowl game history.
  • Geno Smith’s six touchdown passes ties the record for most touchdown passes in any bowl game.
  • Tavon Austin’s four touchdown receptions also tied a record for any bowl game.
  • The 69 combined points by both teams at halftime was the record for halftime points in any bowl game.

Ironically, the outcome of this game really wasn’t great news for either conference involved. With Clemson’s loss, the ACC drops to 2-13 all-time in BCS games. And West Virginia, which now owns three of the four BCS wins by current Big East teams, is planning to bolt to the Big 12 next year.

 

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