The Times West Virginian

January 8, 2012

FURFARI COLUMN: Seeing bordered on disbelief at bowl

By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — I thought the West Virginia University-Clemson match-up in the Discover Orange Bowl might be a high-scoring shootout.

But I most certainly could never have dreamed that it would be a blowout!

The underdog Mountaineers’ explosive 70-33 devastating defeat of the shocked Tigers last Wednesday night before a crowd of nearly 68,000 fans in Miami still borders on disbelief.

Sitting there in the press box, even with three TV monitors before my eyes, seeing was not believing this cold night. Honest.

It goes down in my book as one of the top five greatest victories in WVU’s storied football history.

This was a near-perfect performance in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams.

The Mountaineers set numerous records in the process and wound up with a 10-3 record for the 2011 season. They also should be several notches higher when the final national ranking comes out.

West Virginia should be a shoo-in for the Lambert Trophy, too. That award, sponsored by ECAC and the Meadowlands, is symbolic of NCAA Division I football supremacy in the East.

Dana Holgorsen and members of his coaching staff deserve tall tributes along with their players for a job well-done.

A variety of key things fell in place for the team as it won the final three games of the regular season and even the scoreboard-watching worked out right.

The bottom line: West Virginia emerged from a three-way tie for the Big East Championship as the conference’s BCS bowl representative.

Icing for the cake would follow in the crushing conquest of Clemson (10-4). It turned the Atlantic Coast Conference champion into a chump.

Take that, ACC, for your constant snubbing of WVU dating back to your birth in 1953!

WVU rolled up 589 yards to Clemson’s 443, and first downs were 31 to 24. The Mountaineers scored on 10 of 16 possessions.

Turnovers were major factors, too. WVU defenders came up with four — two interceptions and two fumbles — and Clemson just one interception, thrown by No. 2 quarterback Paul Millard.

Quarterback Geno Smith, playing in front of relatives and friends, really deserved being named the Most Valuable Player.

The Miami native’s 401 passing yards are a BCS bowl record. What’s more, his six touchdowns are a BCS record and notch the mark for all-time bowl play.

Tavon Austin tied a BCS bowl record with four receiving touchdowns. And Darwin Cook’s 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown is an Orange Bowl defensive record.

WVU’s 49 first-half points and 70 total points both are all-time bowl records.

Again, the whole performance bordered on disbelief. It was a show of rare greatness.