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Dr. Saturday

Video: West Virginia defense turns the tables in highly offensive Orange Bowl

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

The Orange Bowl was close for about a quarter, until West Virginia cornerback Darwin Cook flipped the field and the momentum with one play.

Down 21-17 with the ball deep in Mountaineer territory in the second quarter, Clemson sent tailback Andre Ellington into the line for what looked like a go-ahead touchdown. Instead, Cook emerged from the pile with the ball and took the fumble the length of the field for the defensive score, extending the Mountaineers' lead to 28-17.

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A couple Clemson players made a futile attempt to chase the play down, but the vast majority of the Tigers — and coach Dabo Swinney — stood dumbfounded at the turn of events. What they had just witnessed was the end of what had been shaping up as a back-and-forth shootout and the beginning of a West Virginia rout.

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Cook's return was the second-longest play in Orange Bowl history (Iowa returned a kickoff 100 yards in 2003), and the turning point in a wild first half. From there, West Virginia went on to outscore Clemson 21-3 over the rest of the quarter — all three touchdowns coming in the final 2:29 of the half — to give WVU a 49-20 edge heading into the locker room. The Mountaineers' 49-point outburst is the most ever allowed in the first half of a bowl game. Any bowl game.

"We're going in to score, to take the lead over, and it's a 14-point swing," Swinney told ESPN at the half. "You fumble the ball and they go 99 yards and that just kills you."

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While Cook's defensive heroism will probably go down as the play that changed the game, he might also be credited with the best hit of the night — on a celebratory collision with a poor, unsuspecting orange.

After Cook crossed the goal line, Cook decided to use Obie the Orange Bowl mascot to stop his momentum, sending the top-heavy Orange tumbling to the ground. Obie responded like a champ, popping up with just a little bit of nausea from all the excitement. And maybe just a little from Clemson's defense.

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Video courtesy of Throw The Flag
Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham

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