Clemson’s return to the bowl destination of its greatest glory turned into the site of its most embarrassing postseason loss. The Tigers went down to West Virginia by the eye popping score if 70-33 In Wednesday night’s Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. No team in bowl history, BCS or non, has ever allowed 70 points in a game.
Clemson led 17-14 after one quarter before the bottom fell out. West Virginia scored 35 points in the second quarter, 21 of which came off turnovers. The big momentum shift came when Andre Ellington was stripped as he was diving for a touchdown and the Mountaineers returned it 99 yards for a score the other way.
“We got off to a fast start, but we could not sustain the momentum on defense,” Swinney said. “And then all of a sudden we’re getting ready to go up 24 21, looks like it’s going to be a shootout and we’re getting ready to go up 24 21 and it’s a 14 point swing, a 99 yard touchdown, which all of a sudden that just opened the door for it’s just like a virus with turnovers.”
Tajh Boyd accounted for three of the Tigers four turnovers. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. All three turnovers led to West Virginia touchdowns. He finished the game 24-46 for 250 yards with two touchdowns and the two picks.
Boyd’s counterpart, West Virginia signal caller Geno Smith tossed six touchdowns and ran for another. He was named the game’s MVP.
Even before the turnovers Clemson’s defense was having problems slowing down the West Virginia offense. Swinney called it one of the worst performances he’s ever seen on that side of the ball.
“It’s probably as bad a defensive performance I’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s incredibly disappointing.”
Swinney said he is confident the defense will improve and said he would do whatever is necessary to make sure that happens. He compared it to the way he addressed the offensive woes after last season. That involved the firing of his offensive coordinator. While Swinney did not mention staff changes, he did point out his coaches can do better.
“We’ve got to look at what we’re doing and make sure that guys know what they’re doing, because again, missed assignments lead to big plays,” Swinney said. “We’ll look at everything and how we’re doing it and come back next year. We were the ninth scoring defense in the country last year and top 25 the year before. Ain’t nobody forgot how to coach or anything like that.”
Clemson finishes its season at 10-4. The loss drops the ACC to 2-13 all-time in BCS games.