"Crazy, man," Smith said. "When I saw that, I knew things were breaking our way."
The potential 14-point swing seemed to deflect the Tigers, who had moved the ball almost at will to that point.
"It was a pretty big moment," Swinney said. "They hadn't really stopped us. That was huge. Then it snowballed quickly."
The Tigers were doomed when quarterback Tajh Boyd committed subsequent turnovers on consecutive Clemson plays.
After Smith ran 7 yards on a keeper for a 35-20 lead, Pat Miller intercepted Boyd's pass. Smith flipped a 1-yard touchdown pass to Austin and, on the next play, a call was overturned, with the replay official determining Boyd had lost a fumble.
Alston then ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 4 seconds left in the half.
"Momentum swung not in our favor, and it was hard to recapture," Boyd said. "West Virginia is a great offense. You can't really get behind them. We couldn't stop them. Guys were gassed. Their legs were going. It was a tough loss — pretty embarrassing."
Defensive woes were nothing new for the Tigers, who won their first Atlantic Coast Conference title in 20 years but gave up at least 30 points in six regular-season games.
Clemson kept pace for a while, leading 17-14 after one period. It was the highest-scoring first quarter and first half in Orange Bowl history.
West Virginia went ahead for the first time early in the second period on an 80-yard touchdown drive capped by Austin's 27-yard catch, making the score 21-17. Cook's takeaway touchdown came next, and the Mountaineers were off to the races.
"You don't score 70 points by being good on offense," Holgorsen said. "You score 70 points by being good on all three sides of the ball."
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