West Virginia and Clemson are very similar schools; are relatively close in the same region of the country, once even played in the same conference, albeit briefly, yet the two will be meeting on the gridiron for only the second time in about 120 years of playing college football.
“That’s kind of surprising,” admitted Clemson coach Dabo Swinney earlier this week.
Swinney pointed out there are some Clemson-West Virginia connections, beginning with former Tiger coach Tommy Bowden, a WVU alumnus.
“Of course Tommy Bowden is a West Virginia grad and I’ve talked to him many times about West Virginia,” he said. “They’ve got great tradition there and it’s a program I’ve followed for many years.”
Swinney says he has seen highlights of Clemson’s only meeting against West Virginia in the 1989 Gator Bowl – a 27-7 Tiger victory.
“I saw some footage of (the 1989 game) the other day because I was watching film of Chester McGlockton, one of our former greats who just passed away, and he was playing in that game against West Virginia.”
Although the two schools haven’t met during the regular season, they will be hooking up once again in another bowl game next month, this time with a little more at stake than the first meeting 22 years ago.
“That’s kind of surprising, but I look forward to getting back together down in Miami,” Swinney said.***
The 2012 Discover Orange Bowl will represent a Sunshine State homecoming for 18 West Virginia players, including several from the Miami area. In fact, Miramar High products Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, Ivan McCartney and Josh Taylor grew up just a couple miles from Sun Life Stadium.
To them, the Orange Bowl was always THE GAME to play in - something West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is keenly aware of.
“I’m sure they’re excited,” Holgorsen said. “I want them to be excited about going to the game and playing the game. But we’re not going to treat it like a vacation. We obviously want to have a good time down there and let them enjoy it and be close to home and let a bunch of their friends and family come and watch the game, but we’ve still got to get our work done and prepare and do the best that we can to make it a competitive game.”***
Clemson has an extremely young football team and Swinney noted earlier this week that will be something his coaching staff will have to pay attention to in the weeks leading up to the game.
“It is their first post-season game,” Swinney said. “I think we played 29 freshmen this year, which I think is the most in the country. We do have a lot of freshmen on the roster – true and redshirt, but the biggest thing is we’ve played 13 games now. It’s not like they haven’t been exposed to preparation and the way we do things and stuff. We’ll have a good plan.”
Of course Sammy Watkins may be a freshman, but he certainly doesn’t play like one.***
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has an interesting connection to West Virginia – he once made a verbal commitment to the former WVU coaching staff and almost became a Mountaineer. For those who don’t follow recruiting, Boyd publically stated that he was going to sign with West Virginia before later changing his mind and signing with Clemson instead.
“I think Tajh was going to West Virginia at some point,” Swinney said yesterday during an Orange Bowl media session in Miami. “We got on him late. I just got the job and literally within a week was trying to find a quarterback. At some point along the way, I know he was going to West Virginia.”
Interestingly enough, Boyd’s void was filled by Geno Smith.
Those two will square off against each other in the Orange Bowl.***
Did you realize Virginia Tech owns the dubious distinction of being the highest-ranked football victim for both Clemson and West Virginia? And both losses were in blowout fashion.
Clemson knocked off the third-rated Hokies 38-10 in the 2011 ACC Championship game in Charlotte last weekend – matching the Tigers’ 2003 victory over third-ranked Florida State.
Eight years ago in 2003, West Virginia also routed the highly-rated Hokies, 28-7, in Morgantown. Virginia Tech’s ranking that year? You guessed it, No. 3.***
Ticket sales for the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl continue to be steady, according to WVU Sports Marketing Director Matt Wells. Sales have now topped 5,000 this morning and the Mountaineer Ticket Office continues to process orders. For those interested in purchasing tickets and want to sit in the West Virginia University section at Sun Life Stadium, log on to WVUGAME.com
Wouldn't an Orange Bowl t-shirt be a nice gift for Christmas? The official WVU online team store, ShopWVU.com
, is stocked with Orange Bowl gear, so be sure to check that out before you run out of holiday shopping days.