MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- In the days leading up to West Virginia's Orange Bowl date with Clemson, one of the hottest topics of discussion was whether or not Dana Holgorsen would have to look for a new defensive coordinator following the game.
Well, in the immediate aftermath it still wasn't clear if Jeff Casteel was staying or leaving to join Rich Rodriguez in Arizona. But there was also something else to consider.
To borrow from the movie Blazing Saddles, "Defense? We don't need no stinking defense.''
In what will surely go down as one of the most amazing performances in school and BCS bowl history, No. 23 West Virginia absolutely dismantled No. 14 Clemson Wednesday night in a record-shattering Orange Bowl. The Mountaineers exploded in the middle of the game behind Geno Smith and Tavon Austin -- and even with that defense lending a huge hand -- and rolled to a 70-33 win over the Tigers.
In West Virginia's third BCS bowl game in the last seven years the Mountaineers improved to 3-0 and this one was just as impressive or perhaps more so than the others. And that's saying something considering the first two were a win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl after the 2005 season and a huge upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2007 season. In both games WVU was a lopsided underdog.
This time Clemson was favored by only a few points, but WVU's middle-of-the game explosion rocked a crowd of 67,563 at Sun Life Stadium. At halftime WVU led 49-20 and two possessions into the third quarter the score was 63-20.
Afterward, Holgorsen said the game was a tribute both to the seniors he inherited in his first year as a head coach -- he joined Miami's Larry Coker and Boise State's Chris Peterson as the only coaches to win a BCS bowl in their first season -- and to the future of West Virginia's program with the underclassmen.
"I can't imagine it being any brighter than it is right now,'' Holgorsen said. "The future is pretty bright for West Virginia.''
Yes, well, the present isn't bad either, particularly with the offense that Holgorsen was hired to install, but which had sputtered at times late this season. There were no glitches at all Wednesday night, though, with the Mountaineers rolling up 592 total yards and Smith, named the game's MVP, going 31-of-42 passing for 401 yards.
"It's just amazing,'' said Smith, who shattered almost every significant school passing record this season. "I'd be selfish to say it was all about me tonight. It's also about making a statement to the nation that we're contenders and that we're coming back next year and, hopefully, we come back here next year for the national championship game.''
Oh, and if it mattered, that defense was also outstanding after a shaky start. Clemson scored on three of its first four possessions to lead 17-14 and had gained 185 yards by the end of that first quarter. But Darwin Cook forced a fumble and returned it 99 yards to change the momentum, while Bruce Irvin had a forced fumble and Pat Miller an interception to set up scores.
After Cook's return for a touchdown, Clemson had 260 yards. The Tigers gained less than 200 the rest of the way and finished with 449 yards.
"We're still a work in progress,'' Holgorsen said. "You don't score 70 points by being good on offense. You score 70 points by being good on all sides of the ball.''
Smith broke Orange Bowl and BCS records and tied the all-time bowl record with six touchdown passes and shattered a Tom Brady Orange Bowl mark with 401 passing yards as West Virginia improved to 10-3 and figures to move up to its highest final ranking since that Fiesta Bowl season.
Austin, meanwhile, had four receiving touchdowns, tying Orange Bowl and BCS bowl game records. He caught 11 passes for 117 yards and ran the ball four times for 46.