WVU's Orange beatdown a blessing, curse

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Near the end of a recent practice, someone walked up to West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen and asked him a question.

Well, rather, he told Holgorsen a joke that's floated around Morgantown since last January.

"How do you make a Clemson cookie?" he asked, before interjecting with his own answer. "Put 'em in a big Orange Bowl and beat 'em for four hours."

It's funny. A harmless joke birthed from West Virginia's season-defining 70-33 win over the ACC champions in January's Orange Bowl.

But it's over now, and the Mountaineers are feeling the effects.

"That deal can be a curse, too," Holgorsen told ESPN.com. "We’re probably not as good as people think we are."

West Virginia left a sweet, citrusy taste in the mouths of poll voters to close the season. The lasting image of 2011 was an unstoppable offense led by Geno Smith, hitting Tavon Austin with pass after pass, and no one seemed to be able to tackle him as the Mountaineers piled on the points.

That night of fun rolled over into the offseason and had plenty of plusses, too.

"The 70-point deal is a blessing from a motivational standpoint from the kids," Holgorsen said. "It makes it easier to go to class and makes it easier to do the voluntary stuff, which has to exist in college football because of the eight-hour rule. Attendance from that standpoint has been a lot better, the motivation in the weight room, the motivation to do your study hall stuff."

Offseason distractions have been minimal, and the beatdown came even without starting running back Dustin Garrison, who tore his ACL in practices leading up to the bowl game.

"It makes our job easier as coaches, because the confidence and the excitement exists with the players as opposed to not going to a bowl or losing a bowl," he said, "which can be motivation to get there, but it’s a different type of motivation."

Expectations will be high for West Virginia, and if they crack the top 10, the Mountaineers could fall from even greater heights if they struggle.

WVU might not be as good as people think yet, but the spring and preseason camp might give the Mountaineers a chance to validate the hype emanating off one of the most memorable bowl wins in school history.