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West Virginia throttles Clemson in Discover Orange Bowl, 70-33
Miami, FL - Trailing, 21-17, early in the second period with the ball at the West Virginia one-yard line, Clemson's Andre Ellington plunged into the line for a supposed Clemson go-ahead touchdown, but Mountaineer DB Darwin Cook stripped the ball from him within a tangle of bodies and raced 99 yards to the opposite end to the field for a WVU TD to instead extend the Big East's champs lead, 28-17. Later in the period, the Tigers would draw slightly closer with a Chandler Catanzaro field goal, but before the half ended, the Mountaineers scored three more TDs following a kick return, a fumble recovery and an interception return to take a commanding 49-20 halftime lead. In the end they scored an Orange Bowl record 70 points to overwhelm the ACC champs, 70-33. I thought the Tigers would overwhelm the best of the Big East since their play both in person and on the tube this season left me very unimpressed, but as several Clemson fans warned before the game, it depends on which Clemson team shows up. The good one showed up, but it evidently it left early.
The game started off as a seesaw battle in the first period. Neither team scored on it first possession, but then both offenses got hot! Andre Ellington of the Tigers roared off to a 68-yard TD run and Catanzaro converted for the 7-0 lead. The Mountaineers responded with Shawne Alston's four-yard TD rum following a big gain by Andrew Buie. Tyler Bitancurt converted for the tie. Clemson drove 62 yards capped by a TD pass over the middle from Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins for a 27-yard scoring pass. Tavon Austin returned the ensuing kick to his own 43 and on an eight-yard pass to the right from Geno Smith, he tied it up for WVU again, 14-14. Catanzaro put the Tigers back in the lead with :45 left in the initial period with a 42-yard FG.
The second period stared the same way, and GGA Charlie Murren and I wondered aloud, "can anybody play defense any more?" Some of these bowl games showed the offenses could take advantage of poor tackling and pass defense on the other side of the ball. WVU was driving again starting from their own 20. Austin took a pass from Smith at the CU 27 and took it around the left side for a 21-17 Mountaineer lead. Back comes Clemson starting from their own 24-yard line down to the Mountaineer one. This is where Cook decided to take matters into his own hands for the defense and stripped the ball out of the hands of Ellington from behind him in a scrum to return the ball 99-yards for a 14-point swing which the Big East team would not relinquish. Ahead now 28-17, Catanzaro's 42-yarder tightened the margin by three, but for the rest of the half, it was all Mountaineers! Their next drive went 64 yards with Smith taking a drop before running seven yards for the next WVU TD and a 35-20 lead. The Mountaineer defense toughened up and CB Pat Miller picked off a Boyd pass to set up at the Clemson 32. Austin scored again on a three-yard TD pass from Smith for a 22-point West Virginia lead. The Mountaineers recovered a fumble on Clemson's next offensive series at the CU 22. With :04 left, Alston took it in from the one for a commanding 49-20 lead for the Mountaineers at the half.
Train played at halftime. A classic rock listener, I had no idea who they were until they played "Soul Sister", a song that I recognized. After that, I recognized other tunes that were older than him and younger than me.
The onslaught continued in the third period. WVU started the second half possession on their 27 before driving the length of the field to the one where Smith fired a TD pass to WR Stedman Bailey in the right flat for a 56-20 lead. On their next offensive series with Smith still firing away, he hit Austin with a 31-yard TD pass for a 63-20 lead. "Charlie, let's leave at the end of this quarter." He agreed as most Clemson fans had already gone even though it was tough to tell as their orange colors blended in with the orange colored seats at Sun Life Stadium. We both had early a.m. flights out of Florida the next morning. Boyd connected with deAndre Hopkins for a 28-yard TD pass with 1:37 left in the third. Clemson attempted a two-point conversion and failed. We left before the period ended with WVU enjoying a comfortable, 63-26 lead. When we got to our rental car to drive back to our hotel, it was already 11:34 pm. Between the scoring and the long TV time-outs, this game continued when most other mid-week ballgames went off the air before Sports Center.
After we left, Smith would throw another TD pass, seven yard to Willie Milhouse, and Clemson would respond with a drive finishing up with a four-yard rum by Roderick (not Roddy) McDowell. Final score, 70-33. The total of 103 points is the second highest in the annals of the history of Collegefootballfan.com, but I guarantee that we did not leave early nor disappointed when we watched Army defeat Louisville, 59-52, back in 1999 playing in 2 OTs. That was a game worth remembering. This is a bowl game worth forgetting about with respect to everything wrong with the BCS "championship" series for anybody except the WVU fans. We'll be back next year for the BCS Championship game. We'll finally get to see a bowl game that means something.
Extra points: Geno Smith finished 31/42 for 401 passing yards and 6TD passes. He ran for 26 yards and a TD. Tavon Austin tallied 11 receptions for 117 yards and four TDS. Shawne Alston carried 20 times for 77 yards and 2 TDs. WVU's offense was well balanced despite losing their top RB for the game. Andre Ellington carried for 116 yards and one TD, and could have had one more of each had he not let Cook strip the ball away from him. Despite all the offensive fireworks for the Mountaineers, it was Darwin Cook's 99 -yard TD that was the play for the game and the turning point.
The day before the game, temps dropped into the 30s and game time temperatures were predicted to be the same. Charlie and I weren't prepared for that so we went out and bought new gloves and extra shirts. Luckily, game temps were in the low 50s. Northwest wind were prevalent on the Hollywood and Ft. Lauderdale beaches. You could see tourists from the north trying to make it work on the colder Tuesday, but the weather was much more tolerable on Wednesday.
We hung around the outdoor tailgate party to get beers and watch the bands and get free snacks before the game. This year was a learning experience as it was the first time either of us spent some time on the east coast of Florida. I'll be more prepared for next year's BCS game now that we know places to go and where things are and how the parking lot is set up.
Talking to some Clemson and WVU fans beforehand, it's hard to find anyone happy with the current bowl situation. Neither team bought their full allocation of tickets. The attendance was announced at 67,653. There were more empty seats than that. One Clemson fan said that the Wednesday night game is just not convenient for a lot of people as after the holidays, adults have to go back to work and kids have to go back to school. When these games were played on New Year's day, people had that day off and a few before. It's one of those things they did not think about when they came up with this system. I just think it's a shame that we had #14 playing #22 in what we call a BCS Championship game. First of all, they should go back to allowing only top ten ranked teams play in this game. Secondly, it has nothing to do with a national championship. It's basically become a consolation game. Without a playoff, these games mean nothing. Only the BCS championship means anything. For many reasons, for players, schools and college football fans, this system needs to be fixed. I heard one radio show host call it the worst post-season of any sport. He's right. At the extreme opposite end is the NCAA basketball tournament. How come the NCAA can't learn from that? The Sun Sentinel headline on Jan 3 said that the BCS had taken the luster off this game. It's so true.
When we attended the Air Force-Toledo game, Air Force didn't have its usual support systems in place. Their Wings of Blue Parachute team and glee club were here for the Orange Bowl. We saw a trumpet player for the WVU band go down with a knee injury during their performance - a first for us. They played the "unofficial state song" by John Denver, "Country Road, Take me home."
Rutgers is too tall an order for undermanned Cyclones in second New Era Pinstripe Bowl, 27-13
The Bronx, New York - When I ordered our two bleacher seats through Stubhub in section 202 of Yankee Stadium, home of the infamous die-hard Yankee "Bleacher Creatures", I didn't know that we'd be sitting among the Iowa State faithful and the section adjacent to their Cyclone Marching Band which trekked all the way out from Ames, Iowa on seven buses, but I did know it would provide us with one of the better views of a football field in a stadium built for baseball. We sat ten rows up from the corner of an end zone with a good view right up the sideline in front of the ISU bench. With State rallying to score on a 20-yard TD run by Jeff Woody earlier in the period to cut Rutgers lead, 20-13, close to six minutes remained in the game and Rutgers started its next possession from their own14. I watched 6-6" Brandon Coleman of Rutgers split wide to the left right in front of us. I eyed the short DB lined up all by himself right in front of him. I turned to Eric Koreivo, my son and Guest Game Analyst (GGA) here in the House that the Steinbrenner's rebuilt, and said, "Look at this mismatch. I'm sure Rutgers has to see this." Sure enough, QB Chas Dodd just dropped straight back and lofted a pass down the right sidelines where DB Jeremy Reeves, listed at 5-7" in the program, would not have a chance to catch the high-arching pass to RU's very tall wide-out. Not only could he not come close to taking the ball away or knocking it down, but once Coleman started churning those long legs down the sideline, Reeves didn't catch up with his long strides until he tripped him up in the end zone for an 86-yard TD pass to seal a 27-13 lead to finalize the game's scoring. I never predicted a play call or the outcome of a play after attending 419 previous games as easily as this one! Maybe I finally understand game strategies after all these years.
The game started with Iowa State getting into FG range twice with starting QB Jared Barnett setting up the running game and completing passes to set up Zach Guyer on their first two possessions for FGs of 46 yards and 45 yards for a 6-0 lead going into the second period. The FGs sandwiched around a three and out for Rutgers and were scored before an RU FG attempt by San San Te went wide right. Going into the second, I made a wrong prediction and a keen observation. I predicted that ISU was about to break off long run. On several occasions, fake handoffs by Barnett opened up huge holes up the middle for him. On several occasions, the only thing that seemed to stop him was tripping over his own two feet. The observation I made was that the Rutgers O-Line protected their QB very well. When the quarter ended, ads for Yankees season tickets were broadcast on the big board. As one ISU fan shouted, "This is football season!" It may have been the only intelligent thing one of their fans said all day, and I couldn't agree more. I paid for their tickets indirectly through Stubhub, and I had no choice but to pay $45 to park, but that and my $10 program were all the proceeds the Steinbrenners would be getting from this Mets fan. The Pinstripe Bowl is for the benefit of the New York Yankees. BOOOO!!! I'm not a Yankee fan, a Rutgers fan, and after today, I know that I will never be a fan of the Iowa State Cyclones. More on that later.
Rutgers completed their drive early in the second when Jawan Jamison took it over right guard for a one-yard TD plunge. Te's PAT put the Scarlet Knights up, 7-6. Iowa's next possession started from the 33, and a sack of Barnett resulted in a fumble and a Rutgers recovery with NG Scott Vallone returning it to the ISU five. The Knights could only garner a 22- yard FG by Te off the turnover to lead, 10-6, but even bigger, the sack knocked Barnett out of the game for good. We did see him throwing up warm-up passes during half time and on the sideline for the duration. We assume that he was injured since the misfired passes by Steele Jantz had a lot to be desired. The ISU third-stringer must really be hurting. The Cyclones did get into FG position with Jantz leading the way with some big runs, ones that I would have expected to be even more effective if Barnett was still under center. Guyer's 51-yard attempt came up short. RU HC Greg Schiano went with frosh QB Gary Nova. He led the Knights on a 66-yard scoring drive with Jamison (27 rushes for 131 yards) taking it in with a 12-yard TD run up the middle aided by a beautiful juke move on the final Cyclone defender. RU now led, 17-6. ISU returned the ensuing kickoff for a supposed TD that got called back for an illegal block. Jantz kept his team moving though after their revitalized drive started at the 46, but Guyer's next 44-yard attempt was blocked by RU. ISU could only get to around the 30-yard line of the Knights, but could not penetrate any farther on each drive. How did these Cyclones score 37 points to defeat No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 and screw up the entire BCS scenario? Well, Barnett threw for 376 yards and three TDs while rushing for 84 yards against the Cowboys. That evidently was not going to happen today.
The ISU band performed at halftime after the grounds crew fixed the divots churning up over the reseeded clay infield. The Yankees advertised and held drawings for prizes that RU fans constantly won. Iowa State fans seemed shocked that they didn't win anything. The fix was on. The Yankees know where their fan base comes from. Was any Cyclone fan coming back to a Yankee game for the overheard cost of $1500 to get to The Bronx? I was surprised to hear it was that cheap. Last year, I heard the few UConn fans at the Phoenix airport crying about the three grand it cost to get out to the Fiesta Bowl to see their team get leveled by Oklahoma. Besides, the ISU fans most likely root for the Cubs. They've been to as many World Series as ISU's been to bowls. There must be some correlation.
The third period was a quick, inept punt-fest until LB Steve Beauharnais picked off a Cyclone pass to start a Knight drive from the 45. Eight members of the Rutgers Glee Club came on the field the sing "God Bless America", a Yankee tradition since 9/11 during each seventh-inning stretch. The turnover resulted in a 29-yard FG by Te for a 20-6 lead by RU. ISU's ensuing drive resulted in Woody's TD to close the gap, but before his run, an interesting holding call was walked off against ISU after RU almost picked off a screen. The sudden realization was brought to light by the back judge to the referee who walked off the yards against Iowa State when the holding call was against Rutgers instead to keep the Cyclone drive alive. The big play to Coleman came up later with 5:27 left and the RU advantage. The score held and the ISU fans left before Eric and I left. Like I've said over the years, I'm not a Rutgers fan, but to be honest, based on where I sat yesterday, I'm glad that they won.
Extra points: I've seen over 200 teams play, been to
120 stadiums to attend college football games around the country in 38 states
and DC, been to some of the most intense rivalries, seen some intense
confrontations, some good-natured ones, etc, but I have to say that the Iowa
State fans were the most rude, insensitive, foul-mouthed, drunken "fans" I've
ever sat amongst. It must be from their many years of being doormats in
the Big 12, but as far as I'm concerned, I hope that they stay there. Not
only could nothing be said without saying f___ or s___', and I'm no saint
myself, but after a while, it's not only uncalled for, but it sounds so stupid
and monotonous. When LB Khaseem Greene, Big East defensive player of the
year, went out with a leg injury, one Cyclone attempted to make "jokes " that
weren't funny ( and I told him that they weren't) while another made references
to Greene being "crippled" now in reference to recovering Eric LeGrand
introduced on a scoreboard interview earlier. He took it back after the
drunken idiot realized what he had said after imbibing too many $8 beers from
the Steinbrenners, but the damage done
Prior to the game, the media talked about the respect the two head coaches, RU's Greg Schiano and ISU's Paul Rhoads, have for each other. They must have gone to the same school of offense together because neither has any imagination when it comes to running their offense.
We noted that the Line Judge was a woman, first I ever remember seeing.
Some of the 50-yard line seats in Yankee Stadium are not only about 50 yards away from the sideline, those people have their views partially obstructed by foul poles. The whole game is a winterized New York Yankee commercial. I'm glad we ate lunch at home and drank our own beers in the parking lot. The Yankees love having Rutgers, Syracuse, or UConn playing there. They'll cringe in the future when the Big East rep is San Diego State, SMU, or Central Florida hosting the Big 12. The reported turnstile count was 38,328 on a surprisingly comfortable "fall" afternoon in December.
The hype is already coming out about RU primed for big things next season. Here we go again! They're already undefeated and on their way to a BCS Bowl in 2012. Maybe they're going to play ISU 12 times next year. Look for more RU-tude regressions in upcoming "Salvos"!