Posted by Chip Patterson
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The four teams in action in the first BCS bowl games combined to score 162 points on the first college football day of 2012. But despite all the offense on display, the outcome of each game has been one score or less and determined by big plays on defense and in special teams.
Whether it was Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis dropping the ball just inches from the sideline, or Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson unable to hit a potential game-winning field goal from 35-yards out; the plays that have determined the first BCS bowl games have come in unexpected ways.
"You can't relax, however many plays are in the game, 160, plus your special teams, you've got to play every play like it's the play that's going to determine the outcome of the game," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney explained on Tuesday. "That's the mentality you have to have, because when you look back, that's what you see. It's usually four, five, six plays that changed momentum, created opportunity and so forth."
In fact, neither of these teams would be in South Beach this week if it wasn't for a few key plays that led to wins earlier this season. Clemson's hot 8-0 start included huge comeback wins against Maryland, Florida State, and Auburn. West Virginia overcame a fourth-quarter deficit in each of their final four wins in the regular season. If Monday's BCS games were any indication of the way the Orange Bowl will play out, both of these squads should be ready to face the challenge.
"It's a three-sided game, and that's the one thing that we learned about a month and a half ago when we lost to Louisville," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. "Our team came together, and on all three sides of the ball we figured out that if all three sides of the ball don't play together and pick each other up to try to be fighting for the same goal, then you're probably not going to win very many games. That's the one thing we did over the course of the last three games was play together."
More highlights from Dabo Swinney and Dana Holgorsen on Tuesday:
- While there are many upsides for the extra preparation time given to BCS bowl participants, Holgorsen did offer one interesting take on a downside. As coaches try to to do the best to prepare for the contest, the West Virginia head coach pointed out it is important not to over prepare.
"Yeah, you've got to be careful with time on your hands," Holgorsen said. "Coaches have a tendency to outsmart themselves at times, so you've got to figure out what your team does well, which we've had a lot of time here in the last four months to figure out what our team does well, and we've just got to put them in those positions to be successful."
- Dwayne Allen is clearly a focus of this game. He is a key weapon that needs to get going for Clemson, and one of the primary concerns for West Virginia's defense. Dabo Swinney, ever the salesman for his program, gave his glowing explanation of why Allen is the best tight end in the country.
"Well, Dwayne is 6'4", about 255. He runs like a wide out. He blocks like a tackle and has really improved in other parts of his game as far as running with the ball after the catch, his flexibility, and he's got great ball skills, and he's got a high football IQ. So you put those things together, you're going to get a very, very good football player. He's tough and aggressive, likes to play. The moment is never too big for him. And he practices hard, studies and prepares."
- There was plenty of discussion on both sides about the opportunity to showcase and promote their program around South Florida this week. Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, and Ivan McCartney all hail from nearby Mirmar, and Swinney mentioned a Monday night visit from the family of wide receiver Jacoby Ford, now with the Oakland Raiders. With the recruiting potential in the area - not to mention the competition to land those recruits - the opportunity to play in South Florida as the only bowl game of the night is one that any program would hope to seize.
- Both teams spent Monday night attending the Miami Heat's game against the Atlanta Hawks in American Airlines Arena. The experience of watching LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and the rest of the defending Eastern Conference Champs in person was a huge deal to the players.
Also? A huge deal to Dabo Swinney. When asked about the most fun part of the week, Clemson's head coach quickly and enthusiastically mentioned Monday night's activity.
"Lebron James, man! Even thought I didn't get to meet him, I love basketball. That was pretty neat to get to go down to the Heat game. What a great arena that is. I really enjoyed that."
For all the latest on Clemson and West Virginia up until kickoff, check out the Orange Bowl Pregame
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