West Virginia routs Clemson in Orange Bowl

MIAMI — The West Virginia Mountaineers were tough to slow down, and only the Orange Bowl mascot could stop Darwin Cook.

West Virginia offensive linesman Tyler Rader (55)

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 offence. 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. Defence 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 eight, 27, three and 37 yards, and Shawne Alston scored on two short runs for West Virginia, which totalled 589 yards and 31 first downs. Smith was chosen the game’s outstanding player.

Even when Clemson managed to corral the Mountaineers, the play wasn’t always over. Andrew Buie rolled over a defender but was never downed, so he got up and ran for an additional 18 yards.

Clemson couldn’t keep up, although Andre Ellington did score the game’s first points on a 68-yard run. First-team All-Americans Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen combined for only seven catches for 87 yards.

Amid the flurry of points, it was a defender who came up with second-longest scoring play in Orange Bowl history.

Clemson was on the verge of taking the lead in the second quarter when Ellington ran up the middle and disappeared into a heap at the one. A teammate signalled touchdown, but the ball came loose and Cook grabbed it, then took off with nothing but the end zone in front of him.

After Cook crossed the goal-line, he gleefully leaped on mascot Obie, a smiling orange, and they both tumbled to the turf. Obie rose unhurt and resumed her duties, while the potential 14-point swing seemed to deflect the Tigers, who had moved the ball almost at will to that point.

Subsequent turnovers by quarterback Tajh Boyd on consecutive Clemson plays doomed the Tigers. After Smith ran seven yards on a keeper for a 35-20 lead, Pat Miller intercepted Boyd’s pass. Smith flipped a one-yard touchdown pass to Austin and, on the next play, a call was overturned, with the replay official determining Boyd had lost a fumble.

Alston then ran for a one-yard touchdown with four seconds left in the half.

Defensive woes were nothing new for the Tigers, who won their first Atlantic Coast Conference title in 20 years but gave up at least 30 points in six regular-season games.

Clemson kept pace for a while, leading 17-14 after one period. It was the highest-scoring first quarter and first half in Orange Bowl history.

West Virginia went ahead for the first time early in the second period on an 80-yard touchdown drive capped by Austin’s 27-yard catch, making the score 21-17. Cook’s takeaway touchdown came next, and the Mountaineers were off to the races.

Just Posted

Is the fate of Red Deer’s Parsons House solely in the hands of the province?

Demolition of old police station next door to begin this fall

2019 Winter Games will transform Red Deer: Olympic organizer

Team leader behind 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics provides inspirational pep talk

Red Deer RCMP make series of arrests as part of Project Pinpoint

Seven separate incidents lead police to repeat offenders

Red Deer city council gets the ball rolling on new fees for tax assessment summaries

Changes to provincial legislation has spurred a rise in requests

Red Deer County backs Canadian Finals Rodeo

Council approved $50,000 for the event’s inaugural event in Red Deer

WATCH: Red Deer students take part in annual run

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Smile Cookie fundraiser campaign for Reading College kicks off

Fundraising campaign runs Sept. 12-18 for program that helps children improve their reading

‘Nightmare that won’t end’: Storm evacuees can’t return yet

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Hundreds of people waited in long lines for water… Continue reading

New bridge collapses into river in rural Saskatchewan hours after opening

HYAS, Sask. — A rural politician in eastern Saskatchewan says he’s at… Continue reading

Halifax researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada for first time

HALIFAX — For the first time in Atlantic Canadian waters, scientists have… Continue reading

Liberal riding association president blindsided by MP’s defection

OTTAWA — The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he… Continue reading

Pope gives bishops more decision-making options

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that ordinary Catholics should… Continue reading

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

TRENTON, N.C. — When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category… Continue reading

Glad company: Trailer for Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

LOS ANGELES — A beloved nanny is preparing to take to the… Continue reading

Most Read