MIAMI, Fla.-The question of which conference No. 23 West Virginia (10-3, 5-2 Big East) will be playing in next fall may still have to be decided in the courts, but the one surrounding which was the better team in the Discover Orange Bowl was decided early as the Mountaineers won their third consecutive BCS bowl over No. 14 Clemson by a 70-33 score.
A record setting first half propelled No. 23 West Virginia to a 49-20 halftime lead over No. 14 Clemson (10-4, 6-2 ACC) and the 70 total points broke the all-time BCS scoring mark.
Offense was the name of the game early and often as both teams reached the end zone on their second possession of the game. However, it was the Mountaineers' defense that came up with three big turnovers, returning one for a touchdown and scoring touchdowns on the other two.
West Virginia defensive back Darwin Cook runs for a 99-yard touchdown after Clemson’s Andre Ellington fumbled the ball during the first half.
Clemson got things going when junior running back Andre Ellington broke through the WVU defense and scampered 68 yards for the initial six points of the game. Little did any one understand that those would only be the first fireworks of the game.
WVU, led by junior quarterback Geno Smith, answered on its next possession, marching 72 yards in 2:39 to tie the score at 7 on a Shawne Alston 4-yard run and Tyler Bitancurt's first of seven first half PATs.
The teams traded scores over the next five minutes before a 42-yard field goal by Clemson's Chandler Catanzaro lifted the Tigers to a 17-14 lead after the first 15 minutes of action.
WVU 70, Clemson 33
WVU (10-3) 14 35 14 7 - 70
Clemson (10-4) 17 3 6 7 - 33
C: Andre Ellington 68 run (Chandler Catanzaro kick), 9:33, 1st
WVU: Shawne Alston 4 run (Tyler Bitancurt kick), 6:56, 1st
C: Sammy Watkins 27 pass from Tajh Boyd (Catanzaro kick), 4:38
WVU: Tavon Austin 8 run (Bitancurt kick), 2:49, 1st
C: Catanzaro 42 field goal, 0:45, 1st
WVU: Austin 27 pass from Geno Smith (Bitancurt kick), 13:25, 2nd
WVU: Darwin Cook 99 fumble return (Bitancurt kick), 10:28, 2nd
C: Catanzaro 43 field goal, 4:49, 2nd
WVU: Smith 7 run (Bitancurt kick), 2:29, 2nd
WVU: Austin 3 pass from Smith (Bitancurt kick), 1:13, 2nd
WVU: Alston 1 run (Bitancurt kick), 0:04, 2nd
WVU: Stedman Bailey 6 pass from Smith (Bitancurt kick), 12:35, 3rd
WVU: Austin 37 pass from Smith (Bitancurt kick), 9:18, 3rd
C: DeAndre Hopkins 28 pass from Boyd (Cooper pass from Boyd), 1:37, 3rd
WVU: Willie Milhouse 7 pass from Smith (Bitancurt kick), 6:21, 4th
WVU: Rushes-yards: 45-211. Passing yards: 383. Total yards: 594. Passing: 28-42-1. Fumbles-lost: 0-0. Punts-avg: 5-35.0. Penalties: 8-80.
Clemson: Rushes-yards: 25-206. Passing yards: 237. Total yards: 443. Passing: 25-47-2. Fumbles-lost: 2-2. Punts-avg: 6-39.5. Penalties: 12-130.
WVU: Rushing: Alston 20-76, Austin 5-46, Buie 13-45, Smith 5-26. Passing: Smith 30-41-0, 401 yards; Millard 0-3-0. Receiving: Austin 11-117, Bailey 5-82, Milhouse 3-72, Brown 5-71, Buie 4-32, Woods 1-15, McCartney 2-12
Clemson: Rushing: Ellington 10-116, McDowell 4-34, Boyd 10-29, Soutdt 1-5, Howard 1-4, Watkins 1-2. Passing: Boyd 24-46-2, 250 yards; Stoudt 0-1-0. Receiving:Hopkins 10-107, Watkins 5-66, Brown 2-24, Allen 2-21, Bryant 2-12, Ford 1-0
The 31 points the two teams combined to score in the first 15 minutes of action broke an Orange Bowl record for the first quarter. Georgia (19) and Texas Christian (7) combined for the old mark of 26 points back in 1942.
That would not be the only record that would fall during the first 30 minutes of action, however.
West Virginia opened the second quarter with its third straight scoring drive. This one took 9-plays and covered 80 yards with Austin covering the last 27 for his second touchdown of the first half.
Just when it appeared that the Tigers' Ellington would put Clemson back into the lead with a 3-yard dive into the end zone with 10:28 remaining in the first half, Darwin Cook stripped the ball at the WVU 1 and returned it 99 yards for the Mountaineers' fourth touchdown of the game-first defensive-breaking the old mark of 98 yards set by Navy's Greg Mather in 1961.
Records continued to fall by the wayside as Smith connected with Austin for a third time-this one going for a 3-yard score-and Alston reached paydirt with the final touchdown of the half from 1-yard away with only 22 ticks remaining.
The 49 points was the third most scored by any team in Orange Bowl history and broke the 1953 mark of 40 points scored by Alabama when the Tide took on Syacuse while the 69 combined points eclipsed the 48 totaled by Southern California (38) and Oklahoma (10) in the 2005 classic.
WVU's first half total also set a new bowl record, breaking the old mark of 38 set by USC in 2005.
For the game Smith completed 30-of-41 passes for 401 yards-a new Orange Bowl record breaking the mark set by the New England Patriots' Tom Brady (369) when he played for Michigan in 2000-and a record-setting six touchdowns while Austin set an Orange Bowl record with five receiving touchdowns. Clemson was led by Ellington, who rushed for 116 yards on 10 carries while Boyd completed 24-of-46 attempts for 250 yards, but threw one pick to WVU's Pat Miller and fumbled the ball away when he was tackled from behind by Irvin.