The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

January 5, 2012

WVU bowls over Clemson

Smith throws for BCS record 401 yards and 6 touchdowns in 70-33 win

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The rock group Train might have been the half-time entertainment at Wednesday night’s Orange Bowl.

But the only train Clemson saw was the one in gold, blue and white. It was a runaway juggernaut for which the favored Tigers had no answer and the bowl record book would take a major writing-over.

West Virginia (10-3) pounded and grounded Clemson on a record-setting night as the Mountaineers annihilated the ACC champion Tigers 70-33 before 67,563 at Sun Life Stadium and an ESPN national audience.

The 70 points were the most scored in a bowl game, ever.

It was so bad that Tavon Austin, who had four TD receptions all season, equaled that season mark in just over a half of action.

Clemson had hoped to return to national prominence on the same stage where the Tigers won their last national championship in 1980.

It turned into a offensive showcase for WVU quarterback Geno Smith and coach Dana Holgorsen.

Smith broke the record for passing yards in a BCS bowl game with 401, topping the previous record set by Michigan’s Tom Brady (369) in 2000, as well as the BCS record for touchdowns (six), breaking the record held by USC’s Matt Leinart (five). It also tied Chuck Long of Iowa’s all-bowl record.

Smith became the Mountaineers’ first 4,000-yard passer early in the game, and finished completing 31 of 41 passing for 401 yards and six touchdowns.

He also threw a touchdown pass to fellow Miami native Stedman Bailey on the first possession of the second half, and a seven-yarder to Willie Milhouse.

Smith, who attended Miramar High, not a stone’s throw from Sun Life Stadium, finished the year with 4,379 yards and 31 touchdowns. Both are WVU and Big East records.

It was WVU’s first 10-win season since the 2008 season and the Mountaineers’ third BCS bowl win (3-0). WVU also won the 2006 Sugar Bowl in Atlanta and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

It was also the most points WVU has scored since beating Rutgers 80-7 in 2001.

The first half provided a plethora of big plays, and ultimately, game-changing plays by the Mountaineers, who took a commanding 49-20 lead. The game was, at that point, all but over.

And as good as West Virginia’s offense was in the first half, the WVU defense came up with three big plays in the second quarter, when it would outscore the Tigers 35-3, to put the Mountaineers firmly in command.

And it started when it appeared that Clemson was about to retake the lead it held for a good portion of the first quarter.

Clemson’s Andre Ellington seemed to be heading toward the end zone early in the second quarter when WVU’s Darwin Cook snuck into the pile and pulled the ball away from the Tigers’ ball carrier.

He then retreated 99 yards to Clemson paydirt, and took out Obie the Orange — the bowl’s official mascot — in the process to give the Mountaineers a 28-17 lead.

After Clemson got a field goal to make it 28-20, WVU, spurred by good field position provided by Austin, added another touchdown, when Smith scored from 7 yards out. It was his second rushing touchdown of the season.

But the WVU defense wasn’t done.

A Pat Miller interception of Tahj Boyd, a one-time WVU commit, set up Austin’s third touchdown reception of the game.

And near the end of the half, Bruce Irvin forced Boyd to fumble and recovered at the Clemson 18.

Shawne Alston scored from 1-yard out and that made it 49-20 at the half.

The combined 69 points for a half set the new BCS record, and WVU’s 49 was also a new BCS record.

The first half belong to Austin, though Clemson’s Watkins was the story coming into the game.

Austin had seven receptions for 61 yards, two carries for 17 yards and three kickoff returns for 80 yards in the first 30 minutes.

The game was billed as another potential BCS shootout by well-armed, high scoring offenses. And it didn’t take long to get there.

Clemson led 17-14 after the first quarter, with WVU doing its best to equal the Tigers.

The 38 combined points in the second quarter was an Orange Bowl quarter record, breaking the previous mark of 26 set by Georgia and TCU in 1942.

West Virginia tied the game at 14 when Tavon Austin scored on an 8-yard pass from Smith, which he ended by tight-roping down the sideline, and was able to get the ball to the cone.

Clemson had taken the lead when Boyd found Sammy Watkins across the middle from 27 yards out.

West Virginia got one of its most dramatic plays of the season that helped WVU tie the game at 7-7.

Andrew Buie appeared to get a short gain on a pass from Smith. As he was brought down by Rashard Hall, his momentum brought him down on top of Hall. He never hit the ground, bouncing up to take the ball to the Clemson 10.

Alston scored two plays later to knot the score at 7-7.

Clemson had driven 96 yards to open the scoring, most of that coming on a 68-yard touchdown run from Ellington.

WVU’s Smith was named the Orange Bowl MVP.

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