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West Virginia beats down Clemson on way to the Big 12 (maybe)

Discover Orange Bowl - West Virginia v Clemson Getty Images

We’re assuming that latter portion of the headline holds up the way West Virginia admins are insisting it will.

The first half, though, held true and No. 23 West Virginia shattered just about every Orange Bowl and BCS record that has ever existed as part of their 70-33 beat down of No. 14 Clemson.

Geno Smith‘s 6 passing touchdowns — four of which were little flips on fly sweeps that count as passes — and 401 passing yards broke Orange Bowl records. Smith’s six TD’s also tied an all-bowl record. Tavon Austin‘s four receiving touchdowns — again, three of which were those little direct flips from Smith — were also an Orange Bowl record.

West Virginia’s 70 points were an all-bowl record, beating out Baylor’s Alamo Bowl win just last week.

Not bad for a team many didn’t think should have been in the BCS — myself included.

But the Mountaineers didn’t make it look that easy at first. WVU fell behind early when Clemson running back Andre Ellington ripped off 68-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead. WVU and Clemson exchanged scores in what looked like another bowl shootout until the second quarter.

But it wasn’t until WVU safety Darwin Cook took an Ellington fumble 99 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter that the Mountaineers began to take over.

Oh yeah, that fumble recovery for a touchdown was a record too.

Then, quarterback Tajh Boyd committed two lethal turnovers deep in his team’s own territory that led to two more WVU touchdowns. The Mountaineers scored 35 second-quarter touchdowns and took a 49-20 lead into the half.  But it was that Cook fumble recovery for a touchdown that set the tone; the Mountaineers outscored Clemson (10-4) 42-17 after that moment.

WVU didn’t cut the Tigers any slack in the second half and rolled into Year 2 of the Dana Holgorsen era — and the Big 12, barring legal holdups — with style.

I’d say Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas is happy right now.

The Mountaineers will have Smith and a solid group of receivers back next year. Combine that with a 10-win season and a spanking of a Top 15 opponent on national TV, and WVU has a one-way ticket to a ton of preseaon kudos in 2012.

Shoot, they may not need a defensive coordinator like Jeff Casteel, who, it should be noted, did as good of a job of slowing  All-Americans Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen as anybody this season.

It could be a matter of days before Casteel moves on to Arizona with former WVU coach Rich Rodriguez as he’s been rumored to do. If he does, WVU has lost one of the best DC’s in the business.

Not that defense is much of priority in the Big 12 anyway.

If WVU does begin Big 12 play next season like they think they will, they’ll take with them the resume as one of only a handful of college football programs to win the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls.

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38 Responses to “West Virginia beats down Clemson on way to the Big 12 (maybe)”
  1. drummerhoff says: Jan 5, 2012 1:29 AM

    The SEC should take another long look at WVU.

    Wow are they exciting to watch on TV. How many yards did WVU’s offense total versus LSU’s defense? It would be funny to watch that team against SEC defenses week-in, week-out.

  2. goforthanddie says: Jan 5, 2012 2:05 AM

    If you’re already a DC, why leave a team that just did what they did, to join up with Rodriguez? He hasn’t done anything but suck since…oh yeah, since he ran out on WVU.

  3. thatobnoxiousguy says: Jan 5, 2012 3:04 AM

    That was a true beatdown. Clemson should be ashamed of themselves for that disgraceful performance

  4. woebegong says: Jan 5, 2012 3:27 AM

    I would like to see them stay in the big east just long enough to play Boise one time. What a game that would be between those two. I can understand the reluctance of the big east to give up WVU. They completely destroyed Clemson, between Clemson’s miscues and WVU’s offense. These bowl games have got to let go with their conference tie ins. Clemson should not have been in the bowl game against WVU, as they proved last night.

  5. LogicalConsideration says: Jan 5, 2012 5:25 AM

    @drummerhoff (and the 6 nuts giving him a thumbs up), simmer down and quite drunk posting in the middle of the night.

    It was an awesome win by WVU, but ONE win does not make a program. Nothing in WVU’s history indicates they have the ability to compete year in and year out in the SEC. Besides which, both Texas A&M and Missouri are higher profile universities ( and not just in football) on a national basis. WVU only got into the BigWhatever because that conference was desperate not to fall apart.

    Again, I take nothing away from WVU’s win. Clemson may or may not have deserved their bowl slot, buy they are a pretty good football team. It’s hard to score 70 on anybody. But keep it in perspective.

  6. acieu says: Jan 5, 2012 5:30 AM

    I guess if you live in SC it is better this year to be a USC fan. I am sure the collective hearts of all University of South Carolina fans go out to DABO the Clown with a tear rolling down his cheek. The ACC may wish to convert to a basketball only conference.

  7. alligatorsnapper says: Jan 5, 2012 7:39 AM

    I congratulate the Mountaineers. They truly played a good game. Clemson probably should not have been there, maybe in a year or two more.

    We wish WVU the very best in whatever they are able to work out in the Big 12, etc. Somehow these impasses will be worked out, hopefully in time for them to begin the 2012 season. Some really good fans and good folks who support the Mountaineers. I met them in Baton Rouge in 2010. Some are working with SouthernPatriots and the other professionals to help the children and elderly in rural areas of WVA now. Good people. Great work.

    Clemson did really well this season. It is really hard to change so much so quickly but some good changes have been made and something Dabo can build on. I wish those Tigers the best next season.

  8. njligernj says: Jan 5, 2012 7:47 AM

    “Not bad for a team many didn’t think should have been in the BCS — myself included.”

    LOL. Yes it’s almost as if basing a post-season on arbitrary rankings and opinions from a small sample size isn’t fair or rational. It almost makes one think maybe we should have a system in which teams actually play games against each other rather than just picking two teams to play for a title. Not sure how many examples people need that these polls aren’t accurate but apparently thousands of examples isn’t enough.

  9. gamecockinfl says: Jan 5, 2012 8:07 AM

    Any clempson loss is a good one, especially historic ones!, eh Jonkybong????

  10. wvuandsteelers says: Jan 5, 2012 8:07 AM

    Obviously happy over last night.

    As for Casteel, I have heard (and it’s pure rumor) that he and Dana do not get along. If that’s true, then I could see why he would leave. But he didn’t leave to go to Michigan, so it wouldn’t make much sense to leave for Arizona, a lesser job IMO than definitely Michigan and WV as well.

    Also heard a rumor (from the same source, so take it with a grain of salt) that Dana is not happy at WV. Supposedly he and the wife hate Morgantown (which if you’ve ever been there, is understandable). Something to keep your eye on next go round.

    But back to happy thoughts. I’m really looking forward to seeing the core group on offense back next year. I think we could be a Top 10 team next year nomatter what conference we’re in.

  11. kcrobert10 says: Jan 5, 2012 8:13 AM

    Great win for wv but its going to be a lot harder to make bcs bowl games when u get into the big 12. 1st u have been cut off from ur recuiting grounds in Fla then its no longer the easy big rest schedule ur going to have to beat Texas Oklahoma and ok st every yr. Not predicting doom and gloom for ur program but I like Missouris chances of being good in the sec east more than ur chances of getting threw the big 12.

  12. midwestfan says: Jan 5, 2012 8:32 AM

    Time to call into question the ACC automatic qualifier. WVU might not even be in this bowl had UC’s QB not broken his ankle.

  13. steveoz49 says: Jan 5, 2012 8:34 AM

    I ain’t seen a beatin’ like that since they stuck a banana in my pants and turned the monkey loose —Cousin Eddy Vegas Vacation

    That quote seems to sum this game up

  14. TxGrown says: Jan 5, 2012 8:34 AM


  15. klownboy says: Jan 5, 2012 8:35 AM

    ACC football sucks.

  16. lottsmissingfinger says: Jan 5, 2012 8:36 AM

    Last night was the first time John Gruden has not completely ruined a televised football game since he began working the booth.

    Maybe his neverending love-fest just seemed much more appropriate when focused on “amateur” players as opposed to guys making millions.

  17. latrobe21 says: Jan 5, 2012 8:38 AM


    Really? 35 second-quarter TOUCHDOWNS?

  18. davidjcu says: Jan 5, 2012 8:54 AM

    I would like to see them stay in the big east just long enough to play Boise one time. What a game that would be between those two. I can understand the reluctance of the big east to give up WVU. They completely destroyed Clemson, between Clemson’s miscues and WVU’s offense. These bowl games have got to let go with their conference tie ins. Clemson should not have been in the bowl game against WVU, as they proved last night.
    Hindsight is 20-20. Taking away conference tie-ins, neither Clemson or WVU deserved to truly be there. Should of been Boise, TCU, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kansas State, or Houston.

  19. phillyb6 says: Jan 5, 2012 9:15 AM

    latrobe give the guy a break… he’s posting articles at 1:15am, and 16 commenters before you either missed it or were able to ignore it… everyone knows what he meant. Maybe your career in copy editing is calling…

  20. dkhhuey says: Jan 5, 2012 9:22 AM

    Wow that was fun to watch!!! WVU just administered one massive butt-whoopin last night! Nicely done guys!

  21. bangitfootball says: Jan 5, 2012 9:26 AM

    Holgorsen got these guys rockin las night and they are just about all coming back for next year!!! They are right up there with Ok State and Oregon for explosiveness and quickness. Im thinking pre season top 5 or 6 ranking.

  22. thefiesty1 says: Jan 5, 2012 9:54 AM

    Clemson quit early. WVU wore them out with their up tempo style. Just proves that automatic qualifiers in BcS games needs to stop. Clemson had no business in the Orange Bowl.

  23. cowboycjn says: Jan 5, 2012 10:05 AM

    This game supports what I have been saying in other post. Too many bowl games and they allow just any team to play in them – even if not worthy of being in a bowl game. This game was so one sided it became boring to the point that Clemson should not have returned on the field after halftime.

    Bowl games were intended for the top teams, not for 7-7 teams or 10-4 teams to bring in more money for their town, group or whoever rakes in the big money. Its nothing but a joke to have so many bowl games and a team could be a bottom feeder yet still end up in a bowl – a mockery of the system altogether.

  24. sssjim7 says: Jan 5, 2012 10:36 AM

    Clemson had a bad night… it’s too bad, but every team has ups and downs. West Virgina took advantage of it.

    All those saying Clemson and West Virginia should not have been in bowl games are idiots. They both had great seasons and should be congratulated.

    Clemson is plenty good enough to beat any team in the country on a good day… and get wooped on a bad one.

    So is West Virgina.

    This was one game… played by 18-22 year olds who are still young enough to be overwhelmed by all the things surrounding bowl games. This kind of thing happens all the time. No big deal.

    Both these teams should have great years next year!

    Just my .02

  25. whyalwaysthehate says: Jan 5, 2012 10:51 AM

    I hope the Clemson guys enjoyed their gift baskets. Stop the bowl system and give us a playoff. Clemson had nothing to play for and didn’t show up. Congrats to WVU for playing hard and again showing the form of a top program.

  26. woebegong says: Jan 5, 2012 11:04 AM

    I think Clemson had just as much to play for as any team in a bowl game. A good ending means you can attract more recruiting possibilities. It gives you momentum going into the following season. It certifies your achievements from the previous season. It also can bolster the standing of your conference. It also shows you are ready to compete against the NCAA teams that may not be in your conference. If you like your coaches, it helps to solidify their positions as the leaders of your team.
    I think there are plenty of reason to win any bowl game or any game period. Just think about how much easier it is for LSU and Alabama to recruit the top talent than it is for other schools.

  27. whyalwaysthehate says: Jan 5, 2012 11:23 AM

    not sure that’s the way the players look at it woe. it’s more like a vacation and celebration of the season they had. maybe the coaches look at it your way, but the players are there to enjoy themselves for the week and for some to hang around together for the last time as a team. no way this game was more intense than the conference championship, sorry.

  28. drexelvol says: Jan 5, 2012 11:26 AM

    “The Mountaineers scored 35 second-quarter touchdowns and took a 49-20 lead into the half.”

    35 second-quarter touchdowns? C’mon, Ben. Every one of your posts lately has something really laughable in it.

  29. burntorangehorn says: Jan 5, 2012 11:39 AM

    The defense-is-optional thing is a myth, Ben. The points and yards allowed are higher in that league much of the time, but not usually when compared on a per-drive basis. There are more drives per game in the Big 12 than in any other league, because the offenses are so prolific, much like the opposite side of the coin (defense) in the SEC, which results in fewer drives, points, and yards per conference game.

  30. snuffysmif says: Jan 5, 2012 11:42 AM

    Hey wvuandsteelers.

    In regards to your statement:

    “Also heard a rumor (from the same source, so take it with a grain of salt) that Dana is not happy at WV. Supposedly he and the wife hate Morgantown (which if you’ve ever been there, is understandable). Something to keep your eye on next go round.”

    You might want to stop spreading gossip.

    Dana is not married. He has an ex-wife that lives in Texas.

  31. tommythek says: Jan 5, 2012 12:46 PM

    Clemson players enjoyed South Beach the week before Orange Bowl and Mountaineers ejoyed the night afterwards

  32. txn4sooners says: Jan 5, 2012 1:18 PM

    Welcome to the Big 12, WVU…glad to have you! I’m sorry to see a good DC leaving you though. I was hoping for some good defense coming into the conference…we need that emphasis. The better the defenses that we play, the better we’ll all have to be. Texas (and to a lesser extent Oklahoma) *should* have a great defense every year with the talent that they perennially have on the roster, but we can’t count on that can we?

    Come on over Mountaineers…and bring some defense!

  33. txn4sooners says: Jan 5, 2012 1:24 PM

    I will say this…the quarterback quality in the SEC pales in comparison to the Big 12 and the Pac 12. That’s one (big) factor in the lower scoring within the SEC.

    But there’s no doubt..until the rest of the league begins to play defense like the SEC does, the SEC will continue to own the championships. Defense rules in college football.

  34. thekatman says: Jan 5, 2012 1:49 PM

    That game last night was misplaced. There is no reason to place a #15 vs #23 in The Orange Bowl. The top 5 elite bowl games are for the top 10 teams. That game was an embarrassment for the BcS schedulers, though the BcS is an embarrassment in and of itself.

    Great game? Yeah, like the Baylor / U-Dub game. Both horrible excuses for defense.

  35. mikedpinson says: Jan 5, 2012 4:28 PM


    WVU cannot compete against SEC teams week in & week out? Are you crazy? With the exception of the top few teams in the SEC every year every team in the conference is beatable. Let’s just take a look at the conference this year.
    Florida was pathetic, Miss. St. was not great, Ole Miss was pathetic, Arkansas had a good offense but beat 1 good team (missing their top RB), Auburn was not very good, Tennessee was pathetic, Vandy got beat by a Big East team, Kentucky was pathetic, South Carolina was pretty good but lost to Auburn @ home & did not look as good against Clemson as WVU, Georgia beat NO ONE with a good record & blew out by Boise St. & LSU.. Alabama & LSU were great this year but WVU gave LSU all they wanted for 3 quarters. The year before they did the same thing at Baton Rouge. Did I miss anyone?
    I also think WVU is 7-3 against the SEC in the past decade including a beatdown of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl a few years ago. ( don’t quote me the score of that game either because if you do then you didn’t watch the game). Your SEC ego is overrated. The top of the SEC is the best, I agree but WVU can play against anyone of them.

  36. LogicalConsideration says: Jan 5, 2012 4:53 PM

    @mikepinson—perhaps a course in reading comprehension is called for. Unlike your reply mostly implies by citing the condition of a few teams THIS season, I said it can’t compete “year in and year out”. Yes, WVU could certainly compete this year, but not on an every year basis. Heck, y’all are going to get walloped in the Big 12ish conference. It ain’t the Big Least. WVU does have a winning record against the SEC in recent years, but let’s look at some of the highlights. No, wait, ESPN has done it for us:

    Notice that in almost all the cases, their wins were against SEC teams having mediocre years in the first place. The exception was the win against Georgia. That’s a great win. The others are nice, but prove little. That Mississippi State team’s win over Alabama was when Saban had just gotten to town and Alabama was still in disarray.
    And trust me, beating any SEC team every few years is a whole different ball game than playing an entire SEC schedule, week after week.
    Through 2008, WVU had played SEC schools 41 times in history. Nearly half of those were against Kentucky, whom it is 8-11-1 against. Think about that. 8-11-1 against KENTUCKY, typically one of the two worst teams in the SEC!

    In the Big 12, you are going to find out what the rest the country is learning. The very best high school players generally want to go where it is reasonably warm and the girls are pretty. There’s a reason the SEC and Southern Cal have dominated in recent years. It’s the same reason Michigan and Notre Dame have fallen on hard times. That’s not to say that there can’t be an occasional northern team with a national championship team (Michigan is getting better), but its going to be few and far between. And it isn’t going to be WVU.

    Run along now, it’s time for the big boys to settle things.

  37. mikedpinson says: Jan 5, 2012 7:31 PM


    I meant this year & every year. Since the SEC has gone to two divisions & the CG, 4 teams from the Eastern Division have gone to the CG. (1 appearance by SC included, most dominated By Florida & Tennessee. (15 appearances).

    It is hilarious that you choose the Kentucky record- the last time they played, 1983, WVU won. Lol
    Are we talking about being able to compete year in & out right now or 1983? If we are talking about a relevant time period then what I said is 100% true. In the past decade WVU played against an SEC champ 5x- Georgia, LSU (2) Auburn (2) with a record of 2-3. (2 of them won the national championship- LSU & Auburn) hardly weak opponents. LSU has proven they are the best this year & WVU gave them a great game until they pulled away at the end. Had them on the ropes last year until that dang Patrick Peterson couldn’t be stopped.

    You say that the wins against Mississippi State shouldn’t count? Not sure what your point is about Saban but MSU is in the SEC and WVU beat them. Is that not competing? If WVU entered the Eastern Div. (makes most geographical sense) then who would be better? Florida was great 3 years ago. South Carolina has been the most consistent from that division over the past 3 years. Again I am talking about can they compete year in & out right now. South Carolina is not leaps & bounds better IF at all.

    WVU does not have the history of the top 5 or so teams in the conference no debate there. They have been building their national recognition since the 80’s. Played for 2 national championships 88 & 94. Got beat by Notre Dame & killed by Florida. History aside we are talking about whether or not they can compete right now. For the past decade they would have been like everyone else in the SEC & been competing behind Florida. But they would have been making bowl appearances every year. Some years better than others. 3 BCS appearances & has dominated against 3 conferences SEC, Big 12, & now the ACC.

  38. helenh777 says: Jan 11, 2012 1:35 PM

    I waited awhile to see what happened after the Mountaineers beat the stuffings out of Clemson. Nothing changed. Before the Orange Bowl everyone thought that Clemson belonged there and W. Va. did not. Now they act as if it was a dream. Maybe it didn’t happen after all. The ACC and the Big Ten both bombed for anouther year. Yet they are still ranked above teams that beat them. Go figure. Maybe the Experts are not Experts after all.They are still talking of changing the system. Then maybe they can put the ACC against the Big Ten so someone can win. Leave out everyone except the SEC. By the way who will the SEC play. No one is good enough!!!!! Maybe everyone can just set back and watch the ACC and Big Ten win the game in overtime. Of course who ever wins will need the help of the refs.

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