MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04: Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers celebrates after they won 70-33 against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
The stats that mattered in West Virginia's 70-33 destruction of Clemson in last night's Discover Orange Bowl, from Geno Smith's near-perfection, to a second quarter apocalypse, to Orange Bowl defensive battles.
22.2: Value, in equivalent points, of Clemson's three second-quarter turnovers. It is odd blaming a team's offense when their opponent scores 35 points in a quarter, but that was certainly the case for the Tigers in last night's apocalyptic second quarter. CU trailed just 21-17, had gained 256 yards (9.1 per play) in their last four drives, and was about to drive into the end zone to take the lead, but Andre Ellington fumbled as he was attempting to ride his blockers into the end zone, and Darwin Cook picked up the ball and ran 99 yards for a touchdown. The teams traded punts, then traded scores (Clemson a field goal, WVU a touchdown), and then Clemson landed the death blow on themselves. Tajh Boyd was picked off by Pat Miller with 2:05 left in the half, then was stripped by Bruce Irvin and lost a fumble with 1:02 left. WVU had to drive just a combined 50 yards to score two touchdowns, and what looked to potentially be a single-digit halftime lead turned into an all-out massacre.
9.5: Average gain on Geno Smith's 42 pass attempts. While I slightly acquitted Clemson's defense above, they were quite clearly not without fault. They could not lay a finger on Geno Smith all night. Boyd was picked off twice and sacked three times. Smith? Zero and zero. He was 31-for-42 for 401 yards and six touchdowns, and the only time he got touched was when he voluntarily tucked and ran with the ball (five carries, 26 yards, one touchdown). He was spectacular, and he showed a staggering ability to throw accurately on the run. Clemson's front four never stopped working, and they did relatively well against the run (just think if Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie had averaged better than 3.7 yards per carry). But as I put it in the preview, "If [Clemson] cannot disrupt the play near the line of scrimmage [...] then only poor execution will prevent WVU from putting up big numbers." Well, WVU's execution was nearly perfect. Clemson's band girl was justified in her slow motion terror.
8: Touchdowns scored by West Virginia in a nine-drive span. The Mountaineers punted on their first possession, and in clock-killing mode only scored once in their final five possessions. In between, they put on a clinic. They scored 56 points in nine possessions and gained 454 yards in 49 plays (9.3 per play). Smith's passing line before they took their foot off of the accelerator was amazing: 25-for-33, 362 yards (11.0 per pass), five touchdowns. It was so close to perfect that I began to very much look forward to Chris Brown's next Grantland piece, presumably about what Dana Holgorsen's Air Raid looks like in fifth gear. (While we wait, Brown put together a nice Holgorsen primer of sorts. Not sure if he has anything left to say about it at this point, actually.)
2: Times in the first 77 Orange Bowls in which two teams combined to score 70 points. Florida crushed Maryland's hopes and dreams (56-23) in 2002, and USC wiped the floor with Oklahoma (55-19) in 2005, and that's it. Those were also two of only three times in which a team scored more than 50 points (the other: Alabama 61, Syracuse 6 in 1953). West Virginia played in a game mostly known for solid defensive battles (Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2 in 2001; Florida State 18, Nebraska 16 in 1994; Colorado 10, Notre Dame 9 in 1991; Notre Dame 13, Alabama 11 in 1974) and turned it into a video game.