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Orange Bowl Grades: A Unit By Unit Look At The Mountaineer Victory Over The Clemson Tigers

I'm sitting here replaying the game over and over in my mind looking for things that happened Wednesday night to criticize. There isn't much. WVU's allowed a big run in the first quarter and let Sammy Watkins get behind them once...that's about it. That said, let's just agree to give the whole team an A+ for the greatest bowl game performance in history. Um K? K. We will still take a look at each unit, so let's get started.


Geno Smith played his best game of the year, earning MVP honors. Records were set or tied for touchdown passes and total offense by Geno Wednesday. He used his feet when necessary and didn't take any sacks (that I can recall). This seemed to be his best overall game in his decision making. The only black mark on the quarterbacks was an interception thrown by Paul Millard that meant virtually nothing (but led to a Clemson score) in terms of the outcome of the game.

Running Backs

When Dustin Garrison went down with a knee injury during an Orange Bowl practice session, many people wondered if WVU could run the ball effectively enough to keep Clemson's defense honest. Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie stepped in and helped the Mountaineers run up almost 200 yards on the ground (with some help from Geno and Tavon).


Tavon Austin stole the show setting records with 11 catches, 4 TD receptions and 280 all purpose yards, giving Geno a run for his money for MVP honors. Stedman Bailey and Willie MIlhouse also chipped in TD receptions. In all, seven different receivers caught passes on Wednesday night with no obvious drops coming to mind.

Offensive Line

Best game of the season they've played since LSU. No sacks come to mind and Geno was only hurried a couple times, but was able to escape for positive yardage. The running backs also clearly benefited from their outstanding performance. I said from the beginning, if the line held up, WVU had a chance. Well, they did and 70 points later...

Defensive Line

They didn't get a lot of pressure on Boyd the whole night, save a couple of times. Then again, that's kind of hard to do when some of the most obvious holding since the 2008 Fiesta Bowl is happening. Bruce and Co did get pressure enough to force a couple bad throws and generated a fumble that was key to the rout.


Allowing the long TD run by Ellington was one of the few black marks on the game. But, Rigg was able to force the fumble that Darwin Cook returned 99.99 yards the other direction for the score. They, along with the secondary, also kept monster TE Allen in check and frustrated all night.


Again, one play when they let Sammy Watkins get by them early in the game was their only real black mark. We can't emphasize enough the impact the fumble return by Cook was. At a point when Clemson was looking to recapture the lead in a tight game, a 14 point swing was HUGE. Interceptions by The Tandy and Pat Miller kept Clemson completely out of their game.

Special Teams

Bitancurt set a record for 10 PAT attempts and makes during his flawless night. A couple of the pooch kicks kept Watkins from being a factor in the return game. Only a shanked punt and kickoff out of bounds marred this night on special teams for the Mountaineers. Tavon had several nice returns, averaging 23.4 yards. Devon Brown was not much of a factor in the punt return game, but at the same time, he didn't make any real errors back their either.


The month leading up to the game, Coach Holgorsen constantly reiterated the need for balance in the preparation for the Orange Bowl. Balance in getting work done, yet still allowing the players time to enjoy the various events that were available to them. Motivation tactics were there as well, making sure the players saw all of the publicity that the Clemson team was getting and letting them feel some disrespect.

Play calling was never really suspect, as just about everything worked. The defense was able to generate turnovers in the second quarter and Clemson was forced to try and play catch up, playing right into Coach Casteel's hands.

I've seen WVU score 80 points in a football game before, but that was against a mediocre-to-bad Rutgers team in the regular season at home. Never would I have comprehended that any team could do what WVU did to Clemson Wednesday night. 70 points against a quality opponent on a national stage when it's the only game being played.

Straight A's folks - Athletic Director's List, Dean's List, President's List and whatever other list there is.