Eleven Most Influential Plays of Orange Bowl Season

December 30, 2011

Ivan McCartney TD vs Marshall

11. In the second quarter of the Friends of Coal Bowl the Mountaineers lined up in Coach Holgorsen’s notorious ‘Diamond Backfield’ formation facing 2nd and Goal from the Marshall four yard line. Geno Smith hit Ivan McCartney on a quick slant in the end zone. This was the Mountaineers’ first touchdown of the 2011 season, a score that put West Virginia on top for good against the Thundering Herd.

10. Maryland stormed back in the second half to erase a 27-10 West Virginia advantage. The Terrapins threatened to take the lead in the 4th quarter with under two minutes to play when Eain Smith picked off a Danny O’Brien pass at the West Virginia 13 yard line and preserved the win on the road.

9. The day was cold and rainy, a passing attacks worst nightmare. True Freshman Dustin Garrison was granted the start after solid, if not impressive, carries against LSU.

West Virginia was force feeding Bowling a steady dose of Garrison and early in the second quarter Garrison had his 16th carry of the game and it became a season changing carry for both the Mountaineers and Garrison. He hauled the ball 42 yards from deep in West Virginia territory en route to a 291 yard rushing game. Garrison cemented his place on the starting roster.


8. Down 12-10 in third quarter against UConn, the Mountaineers were in need of a big play and once again the defense came up with a monster. Facing a solid potential scoring drive by UConn, Pat Miller jarred the ball loose of Johnny McEntee’s hands at the West Virginia ten yard line. Jewone Snow scooped up the pigskin and ran it back to the Husky twelve. The ensuing touchdown began a 23-point Mountaineer third quarter route.

Geno Smith celebrates after a TD run against Rutgers

7. Down 31-28 to Rutgers around the halfway mark of the 4th quarter, the Mountaineers were in dire need of points. Coach Holgorsen elected to go for it on 4th and goal from the one yard line and Geno Smith did not make Mountaineer fans regret the decision.

From the shotgun two-back set Smith faked the hand-off and rolled right looking for a receiver before tucking the ball diving across the frozen tundra for a touchdown. West Virginia would not relinquish the lead for the remainder or the game.

6. West Virginia dialed up a blitz that sent Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros scrambling for room deep in Bearcat territory. Najae Goode and Bruce Irvin closed quickly and trapped Collaros in the end zone, but not before the football popped loose. Julian Miller jumped on the rogue pigskin and put six more points on the board for West Virginia and gave the Mountaineers a solid lead at 17-7.

Bruce Irvin sacks Cincinnati's Zach Collaros. The play resulted in a fumble and TD for West Virginia.

Unfortunately, the brutal game is sometimes dictated by injuries. The great defensive effort illustrated in the sack-fumble-touchdown trifecta also resulted in a regular season ending injury for Collaros. The Bearcats were still in the driver’s seat after the Mountaineer loss, but suffered another loss the following week in the wake of the absent Collaros. I don’t wish to gloat on Collaros’ injury, but the play set-up one of, if not the, most influential play of West Virginia’s season.

5. After Cincinnati clawed back in the game with a 14-0 run, compliments of Isaiah Pead, West Virginia was in dire need of finding some kind of offensive rhythm. Facing the second 3rd and long of the Mountaineer’s first possession in the 4th quarter, Geno Smith hit Tavon Austin on a 23 yard strike to set up 1st and 10 at the Cincinnati 13 yard line. The drive would end in a touchdown capping a 12 play 74 yard drive that consumed four and a half minutes.

4. The Bearcats forced their way to field goal range fueled by Munchie Legeaux passes to Kenbrell Thompkins of 34 and 14 yards. Cincinnati lined up the 31 yard field goal and attempt with three seconds on the clock. For the second time this season, Eain Smith showed his senior leadership and experience by climbing to height capable of batting down the game tying field goal as time expired. West Virginia won 24-21.

3. Pitt led the vast majority of the 104th Backyard Brawl and the Mountaineers were struggling to find any consistency on offense. Down 20-14 in the 4th quarter West Virginia was able to drive down to the Pitt 24 before stalling out. Looking at 4th down and six, Coach Holgorsen was faced with a decision: Kick the field goal and trail by three, or go for the glory and risk losing the ball.

Coach Holgorsen chose glory. Geno took the snap and found Tavon Austin on a nine yard pick-up and Mountaineer first down. Three plays later West Virginia found pay dirt and took the lead 21-20.

2. The game in Tampa Bay against the Bulls was anything but pretty from an offensive stand point. It was the Mountaineer defense and special teams that came up big when West Virginia needed points. First Pat Miller took and interception 52 yards to make the score 10-0.

Then in the third quarter, just as the Bulls began to climb back, Tavon Austin showcased his speed for all to see. He picked up the kick-off on the first bounce at the ten yard line, then headed up field. Austin quickly turned it outside, then turned on the burners as he rounded the edge and headed to the house. A short moment later Austin crossed the end zone and helped the Mountaineer pad the lead, something desperately needed as the Bulls found momentum.

1. Out of field goal range with time ticking away, the Mountaineers were facing a 4th and ten in a grungy grudge match against South Florida. The score was tied at 27 and West Virginia did not want overtime with the hot-handed Bulls.

Geno Smith took the snap and released a fast moving football placed where only one man could make a play. That man was Stedman Bailey and he made a spectacular diving catch and landed easily within field goal range. Tyler Bitancourt did what he does best and the Mountaineers 30th point hit the scoreboard as time expired.

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