The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 5, 2012

Clemson couldn’t keep up with WVU

MIAMI — Say this for Clemson: When the Tigers go to the Orange Bowl, they put on an unforgettable show.

National champions, 30 years ago.

Simply embarrassed, this time around.

Clemson allowed 35 points in the second quarter alone, on the way to allowing the most points given up in any bowl game ever played — a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday night. It was the second-most points allowed by any Clemson team ever, topped only by the 74 posted by Alabama on Nov. 14, 1931.

So it wasn’t the worst game Clemson ever played. It only looked that way.

“I’ve never been down in such a deficit like that,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “I don’t know how it got to that point.”

Geno Smith threw for 401 yards and had six touchdown passes for the Mountaineers (10-3), four of them to Tavon Austin — all those stats being Orange Bowl records. And to think: Clemson actually led 17-14 after the first quarter, before giving up 49 of the game’s next 52 points.

“Our players have gotten a taste of where we want this program to consistently be,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I think it’ll be great lessons for us as we move forward and try to continue to build our program.”

Hard as it might be to believe in a game that was so lopsided, but everything seemed to change on one play in the second quarter.

With Clemson down 21-17, Tigers running back Andre Ellington followed a mass of orange-clad blockers on a first-and-goal from the West Virginia 3, lowering his head and closing in on the goal line. A pair of Clemson players raised their arms, making the touchdown signal.

They were right. Premature, and for the wrong team, but right nonetheless.

West Virginia’s Darwin Cook grabbed the ball away from Ellington and took off on what became the longest defensive score in Orange Bowl history, a yard longer than Greg Mather’s 98-yard fumble return for Navy in 1961. And at the end of the play, Cook wound up tackling Obie — the overstuffed orange mascot for the game.

“Our guys felt like they weren’t getting too much credit,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “And they wanted to make a statement in this game.”

The woman inside the mascot costume later said she was fine.

The orange-clad crew on the Clemson sideline couldn’t say the same.

“Huge,” Swinney said. “That was a big, big play.”

Boyd threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers, but had two turnovers late in the first half that led to a pair of West Virginia touchdowns as the Mountaineers took a stunning 49-20 lead at the break. Ellington finished with 116 yards on 10 carries and a score for the Tigers (10-4), the Atlantic Coast Conference champions who finished with losses in four of their last six games.

And now, until September, they’ll have to live with the stigma of being the team that got walloped like no other team in bowl history.

“Next year we’ll have expectations to come here,” Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins said. “We’ll know what to do and what it feels like. We won’t be so uptight and the coaches won’t be so uptight. We’ll know how it feels. We had a great year. ... They won a game. They played great. We didn’t play too good. We’ve got the whole next year to get right.”

Ellington’s first three carries of the night delivered a total of zero yards. His fourth went into the Orange Bowl record books, a 68-yard untouched burst for a touchdown that was the third-longest scoring run in the game’s history.

It was one of the rare times Clemson could celebrate.

Undeterred, West Virginia answered quickly, thanks in large part to a spectacular play by Andrew Buie, who caught a pass from Smith and was tackled at the Clemson 28 by Tigers safety Rashard Hall. Small problem: Hall’s body hit the ground, but Smith’s never did, other than his hand. He rolled off Hall, sprung back to his feet and darted about another 15 yards, helping set up Alston’s first rushing score.

If there was a harbinger of things to come for Clemson, there it was. Everything was going West Virginia’s way.

“Hopefully, we come back here again next year — for the national championship game,” Smith said.

By halftime, that Buie play was all but forgotten. Clemson hadn’t given up 49 points in a game — forget a half — since losing 55-15 to Texas Tech in 2002.

“It was like a virus,” Swinney said.

Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins had touchdown catches for Clemson, which gave up 589 yards and 31 first downs.

Clemson’s return to the Orange Bowl came loaded with symmetry.

The Tigers last played in the game 30 years ago, winning the school’s only national title by beating Nebraska 22-15. And in the month since Clemson won the ACC title, players heard plenty about both that game and what a return to the Orange Bowl means to the Tigers’ fan base.

But by the time this game was over, virtually all those Clemson fans who made the trip were long gone, into an unseasonably cold South Florida night.

“It won’t be 30 years,” Swinney said. “We’ll be back.”


Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos