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.
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."
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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