Live Blog: Orange Bowl

Clemson-West Virginia kicks off at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN. The Notebook’s live blog starts shortly. The game preview is here.

WVA makes first mistake kicking the ball out of bounds. Clemson starts at their own 40.

West Virginia has to pick its poison with trying to defend Ellington in the backfield and Watkins on the flank. I normally don’t say this, but I’d make sure to shut down the receiver and take my chances with the running back. No knock on Ellington, but Watkins is that good.

Dropped pass by a tertiary receiver forces a punt. I like it when I can use fancy words like “tertiary” and sound smart.

WVA ball at their own 22, 13:50 mark of 1Q

Creative play calling right away. Austin is a receiver and they ran that sweep to him out of the slot as smooth as though it were a conventional running play. Tirico just said he’s no stranger to running the ball, it’s his 14th carry of the year. That means he’s averaging one carry a game, it’s hardly a regular part of the offense.

I won’t complain about WVA establishing the run early, but over the long haul, it’s Geno Smith, not the run that Clemson has to worry about.

Clemson defense holds about midfield, forces the punt. Gets ball back at their own 4, after a friendly roll on the punt, 11:17 left 1Q.

DeAndre Hopkins another receiver to keep an eye on. Boyd found him inside to get some breathing room, and Hopkins is a good #2 option who should be able to get free.

Ellington taking it to the house shows why I’m not a defensive coordinator. 7-0 Clemson.

WVA with the ball at their own 26, 9:28 mark of 1Q

Per Gruden’s breakdown of the West Virginia defensive strategy, why are the Mountaineers blitzing? Clemson’s got weapons everywhere, but you can get a couple mistakes if you force them to drive the field.

Jaworski’s made two references to his old Eagles’ teams and the first quarter isn’t half over. Maybe if ESPN brought Joe Theisman back this could be a seminar on the NFC East in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Beautiful pass by Smith hitting his man perfectly in stride. Called to mind Montana-to-Rice. Or Jaworski-to-Carmichael, to stick with Jaws’ theme of the night. Ball down to about the 30.

Great alertness by the back in continuing to move forward after bouncing off the defender and not the ground. Good point by Tirico comparing it to the play all but settled the national title last year when Michael Ryder did that against Oregon.

Clemson looks to be running slow on defense. WVA consistently getting guys to the edge only one move away from a big play. Ball inside the 5, easy touchdown up the middle. 7-7 tie.

Alright, Gruden just called that TD run “Alstott-like” a reference to his old fullback in Tampa Bay. Is this Nepotism Night in the ESPN booth?

Clemson ball at the 38, 6:48 left in 1Q.

That’s what Watkins can do if you get him the ball. Simple throw at the line of scrimmage and gets 10 yards.

I love the way Boyd throws the ball, another solid strike to Hopkins to convert 3rd-and-6. Clemson at the WVA 40.

Easy call to go it for on 4th-and-1 here. Run Ellington…although that little fake and having Boyd dart up the middle wasn’t bad. First down inside the 30.

SAMMY! Touchdown strike from Boyd. If you can’t tell I’m rooting for Clemson, if for no other reason than I picked them, and I wasn’t a fan of the whole drama involved with the way Dana Holgorsen became the WVA coach and they forced out Bill Stewart.

14-7 Clemson.

Solid return by Austin. WVA ball at their own 43, 4:18 mark of 1Q.

WHO BLEW THAT COVERAGE?! Wide-open receiver over the middle and Smith almost overthrew him. Jaws notes that the linebackers came up too quickly on play-action. He should’ve refererenced how Bill Bergey would never have let that happen in the Eagles’ Super Bowl year of 1980.

Clemson forces Smith out of the pocket, but again they look slow outside. Smith very quick in getting first down, but just not good pursuit.

Looks like a touchdown as Smith got the ball on the pylon. At worst, it’s 2nd and inches on the goal line.

Touchdown, 14-14 tie.

Clemson with the ball at midfield after a quick strike by Boyd.

Easiest interference call you could ever make. Gruden says he saw it coming a mile away (the play call, not the penalty, which is obvious). Helps if you say so before the snap, not after.

Boyd got lucky there. Lousy underthrown pass that nearly got picked off. He’s great, but he can give you a couple picks because he throws so often. Hence, play bend-but-don’t-break if you are WVA.

Field goal try coming from 42, sneaks it through. 17-14 Clemson.

WVA starts at the 20, 45 seconds left 1Q

First quarter ends, WVA moving past their own 40. Gruden rightly called out the Clemson defensive front before the commercial break.


Great throw by Smith, across the field to a receiver who couldn’t have been higher than third on the list. WVA inside the 30.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Smith play, but the other couple times, just how tall he is and how strong he looks didn’t jump out at me the way it is tonight. This guy is a specimen…and a great play in space by Tavon Austin for the touchdown! Again, WVA gets in space and Clemson just does not keep up. 21-17 West Virginia.

Austin taking away Watkins’ stage so far. The Clemson receiver has to answer.

Clemson starts at their own 23, ball on 13:18 mark of 2Q

3rd and 6, will it be Hopkins on the slant…go outside this time for the first down.

More bad tackling in space…Clemson picks up first down on a WR screen that should’ve been stopped at seven yards.

My defensive advice not to worry about Ellington again looks stupid. He gets inside, bounces it out, down to 15.

WOW! WOW! WOW! Ball stripped inside the 5 and taken the other way! 28-17 West Virginia!

Or is the runner down…what a call ahead…

Looking like the WVA play should stand up…no indisputable evidence to overturn and unless you’re Danny Coale and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl that’s the bottom line.

Play stands. 28-17 West Virginia.

You know maybe I’m just grouchy, but this constant offense does become dull in of itself. When the only real question is whether you’ll see a turnover, where is the tension?

Clemson ball on their own 15, 10:33 left 2Q

Good defensive sequence by WVA. Key was a solid tackle immediately after a catch by Watkins on 2nd down. Clemson punts.

WVA at own 32, 8:56 2Q

Now Clemson steps it up with a good sequence of their own, as Gruden notes, playing soft zone and making the play underneath.

Now Clemson on the move, past midfield, 5:48 left 2Q

Big 3rd and 4, shotgun formation…go back to the slant to Hopkins, but a good throw goes to waste, as WVA able to make a good play on the ball.

Sneaks the field goal in from 42, 28-20 West Virginia.

WVA ball at 36, 4:47 2Q

Again, a simple screen leads West Virginia unobstructed past midfield. Just play soft and make the tackle.

Facemask on Clemson, ball into the red zone.

Hate to keep harping on this point, or something alluding to it, but I was not prepared for how much faster West Virginia appears to be than Clemson. Smith rolls in for another touchdown. 35-20 West Virginia.

Gruden analyzing the defense, Clemson still blitzing. I’m glad I have a written record of second-guessing this gambit throughout. I do like the discussion the announcers are having regarding how Clemson was unprepared for Smith’s running. As obvious as it looks, if you go through the WVA boxscores, Smith didn’t run as much this season as he has in the past. If Holgorsen told him to take off tonight, that’s a solid coaching tactic that’s a huge difference in this game right now.

Clock down to 2:16 2Q, Clemson at 25, 2nd-10.

Boyd makes one of those mistakes I talked about, doesn’t see a guy underneath and we’ve got a pick and WVA’s chance to put this game away…or, given the number of points in this game, at least get some serious breathing room.

Easy throw by Smith to get down to the 1.

Austin again, 42-20 WVA.

Down to 1 minute left, Clemson ball at the 20. Boyd came within a split-second of fumbling. Not only would that have been another dagger, but one more point pushes this game over the Vegas total of 62.5 before halftime.

And they are reviewing the potential fumble…this may be overturned and be WVA ball. Close either way. And the Mountaineers get the ball! Down to the 3-yard line

Short pass to the 1, an Austin gets ANOTHER TD!

35 points in the 2nd quarter. Haven’t seen that since the 1987 Super Bowl and the Redskins burying the Broncos. How’s that for an NFC East reference there Jaws. 49-20 West Virginia.

And those bettors who took the over can cash their tickets early and go to bed…or more likely, roll it all into something else and lose it all back. As Roman reminded us in Oceans 13, “that’s how Vegas works.”


The Notebook’s going to take a break on the live blog through the third quarter and see if Clemson can make a game of it. Otherwise I’m going to come up with more Oceans quotes to fill the time.


West Virginia tacks on two more TDs in their first two drives, 63-20 with 9:16 left 3Q. Hate to do it, but like a political campaign we’re calling this one early. With 65 percent of the vote in, we’ll give an early congratulations to West Virginia. See you tomorrow and each day for regular Notebook commentary. The live blog feature will also be used for Monday’s BCS National Championship Game, along with all 11 games in the NFL playoffs, starting Saturday.