Orange Bowl: West Virginia 70, Clemson 33
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 5, 2012
By Steven Wine
MIAMI — The West Virginia Mountaineers were tough to slow down, and only the Orange Bowl mascot could stop Darwin Cook.
Geno Smith tied the record for any bowl game with six touchdown passes, and the No. 23-ranked Mountaineers set a bowl scoring record Wednesday night with their high-powered offense. But safety Cook made the pivotal play by returning a fumble 99 yards for a touchdown to break the game open and help beat No. 14 Clemson 70-33.
Cook collided comically with mascot Obie after scoring one of the Mountaineers’ five TDs in the second quarter, including three in the final 2:29 for a 49-20 lead. It was the highest-scoring half by a team in a bowl game.
Tavon Austin tied a record for any bowl game with four touchdown catches. Smith went 31 for 42, and his 401 yards passing broke Tom Brady’s Orange Bowl record. He also ran for a score, helping West Virginia break the bowl record for points established six nights earlier when Baylor beat Washington 67-56 in the Alamo Bowl.
The Mountaineers (10-3) won in their first Orange Bowl appearance and improved to 3-0 in three Bowl Championship Series games. Clemson (10-4) lost playing in its first major bowl in 30 years.
The offensive showcase was the latest in a succession this bowl season, and perhaps the last. Defense is expected to dominate in the final BCS game Monday when Louisiana State faces Alabama for the national title.
Tacklers had their hands full — or rather, they didn’t — on a chilly night in Miami. Smith and Austin combined on scoring passes of 8, 27, 3 and 37 yards, and Shawne Alston scored on two short runs for West Virginia, which totaled 589 yards and 31 first downs.