MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia will take on ACC champion Clemson in the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl to be played on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
West Virginia (9-3) earned its bid by winning a share of the Big East title in coach Dana Holgorsen’s first season guiding the Mountaineers. WVU defeated Cincinnati, Pitt and USF in its final three regular season games to capture its third BCS bowl appearance since 2006, and its first since 2008.
The 23rd-ranked Mountaineers are making their sixth major bowl appearance in school history.
"It's just really an exciting opportunity for the West Virginia University football program to be able to go the Discover Orange Bowl for the first time," said Holgorsen. "I think we've been in three BCS games in the last five years, but it's the first time that we've been able to go to South Florida, which is an important recruiting territory for us."
Clemson (10-3) is making its first-ever trip to a BCS bowl game by routing Virginia Tech, 38-10, in last night’s ACC championship game in Charlotte. Led by third-year coach Dabo Swinney, the 14th-ranked Tigers are making their first major bowl appearance since 1981 when Danny Ford led them to a 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to capture their only national title.
Clemson has also made Orange Bowl trips in 1956 and 1951. Overall, this will be Clemson’s sixth major bowl appearance.
West Virginia and Clemson met once previously in the 1989 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., where the Tigers overcame an early 7-0 deficit to rout the Mountaineers 27-7.
This year’s game features two of the most dynamic offenses in the country.
"I think we match up pretty good," said Holgorsen. "I think offensively these are two exciting teams and defensively that's the only way you can win a championship is by playing good, quality defense."
West Virginia finished the regular season ranked seventh nationally in passing offense (341.8 ypg.), 17th in total offense (459.6 ypg.) and 19th in scoring offense (34.92 ppg.) while Clemson is ranked 21st in passing offense (284.8 ypg.), 27th in scoring offense (33.62 ppg.) and 29th in total offense (440.6 ypg.). Both teams have enjoyed outstanding quarterback play this year.
West Virginia’s Geno Smith has completed 314-of-483 passes for 3,978 yards and 25 touchdowns, ranking ninth in the country in total offense (325.6 ypg.) and 22nd in passing efficiency (148.38 rating).
Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has been equally impressive, completing 271-of-450 passes for 3,541 yards and 30 touchdowns. Boyd finished the regular season ranked 18th in the country in total offense (289.5 ypg.) and 30th in passing efficiency (145.00 rating).
And both QBs have big-time weapons to go to in the passing game.
Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is one of the most exciting freshmen in the country, finishing the regular season with 77 catches for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. Watkins caught five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in the ACC championship game to establish a Tiger record for receiving yards in a season.
DeAndre Hopkins, who caught seven passes for 92 yards against Virginia Tech on Saturday night, also had an outstanding season with 62 catches for 871 yards and four touchdowns.
"They play with a lot of enthusiasm and they've got a lot of good players," said Holgorsen.
Meanwhile, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey have put up big numbers for West Virginia. Austin finished the regular season with 89 catches for 1,063 yards and four touchdowns, while Bailey snared 67 passes for 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Austin-Bailey receiving tandem is the first in WVU history to produce 1,000 yards in the same season.
Clemson also boasts a 1,000-yard rusher in junior Andre Ellington, who became the 12th different player in Clemson history to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier when he ran for 125 yards against Virginia Tech in last night’s ACC championship game. Ellington now shows 1,062 yards for the season, becoming the first Tiger since C.J. Spiller in 2009 to do so.
West Virginia’s Dustin Garrison is coming off a strong 16-carry, 87-yard, one-TD performance in last Thursday night’s win at South Florida to boost his season rushing total to 742 yards. Garrison set a WVU freshman record with 291 yards on the ground against Bowling Green earlier this season.
Watkins, Boyd, center Dalton Freeman, and tight end Dwayne Allen each earned all-ACC first team honors on offense for the Tigers.
Defensively, both teams have given up some yardage this season. Clemson ranks 59th in total defense allowing 379.4 yards per game, while the Mountaineers have allowed 340.3 yards per outing to rank 27th. Clemson is 80th against the run permitting 176.5 yards per game while West Virginia is 51st in that category surrendering 140.8 yards per contest.
Senior defensive end Andre Branch, a first team all-ACC pick, leads Clemson with 10 ½ sacks and 16 tackles for loss while also accumulating 72 total stops. Branch ranks 11th in the country in sacks and 36th in tackles for a loss.
Cirico Hawkins (89) and Rashard Hall (74) are Clemson’s top two tacklers.
Senior linebacker Najee Goode leads West Virginia’s defense with 84 tackles, four sacks, 12 ½ tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and an interception. It was Goode’s forced fumble late in the game against South Florida that enabled West Virginia to score the winning field goal in its 30-27 come-from-behind victory - WVU's eighth this year.
Senior defensive tackle Julian Miller shows six sacks and 11 tackles for a loss while senior defensive end Bruce Ivin has 7 ½ sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. Senior corner Keith Tandy leads the Mountaineers with 12 career interceptions.
Clemson is making the 34th bowl game appearance in its history; the Tigers own a 16-17 all-time bowl mark.
West Virginia, which became only the 14th program in NCAA history to record 700 victories last Thursday night at South Florida, is making its 31st bowl appearance and has a 13-17 all-time record in bowl games.
"I think our fans are going to be excited about going to South Florida and we should have an unbelievable crowd and a great atmosphere for a great BCS matchup," said Holgorsen.
Tickets can be purchased now through the Mountaineer Ticket Office by logging on to WVUGAME.com
or by calling toll-free 1-800-WVU GAME beginning Monday morning at 9 a.m. The Mountaineer Ticket Office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Also, be sure to follow Mountaineer football's official Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/WVUFootball
and click the "Like" button to have the latest Mountaineer football news and Orange Bowl information delivered to your Facebook wall. Fans can also receive Mountaineer football and Orange Bowl updates on athletics' official Twitter site WVUSportsBuzz
Mountaineer fans looking for great travel packages to Miami are encouraged to go to the web site www.wvusportstravel.com
For more information on the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl, log on to www.orangebowl.org
The 2012 Orange Bowl will kick off at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.