FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The inevitable question was asked to West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen: Any lessons learned from what Nick Provo did to the defense back in October that can be applied to Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen?
"You had to bring up the Syracuse game," Holgorsen said.
Well, yes. We had to bring up the Syracuse game. Provo had his best game of the season against the Mountaineers, catching six passes for 61 yards and three touchdowns. The way Syracuse continued to run the same play to Provo certainly was vexing for fans as they watched the game, as it seemed West Virginia could not get a handle on Provo.
Now comes Allen, the Mackey Award winner as the best tight end in the country and one of the highest-rated prospects heading into the 2012 NFL draft. West Virginia has not played anybody as good as Provo since the Syracuse game, so this will be a gigantic challenge for the defense.
"If anything we can look back at that, and if he's an eligible receiver you probably ought to cover him, and I think we've got a lot of good work on that," Holgorsen said.
Allen, at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, is a major matchup problem for any team. Want to know what he does well?
"He runs like a wideout," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "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.
"You put all that with just the physical gifts he's got. He's a great player. It's hard for people to match up with a guy like that. I mean, what do you do? Do you play nickel the whole game? Match up a little guy on him? Put a linebacker on him? He's just a tough guy for defensive people to deal with, and you'd better know where he is."
During his media availability earlier in the week, Allen knew exactly who Provo was, and said he had studied that game tape. But he also said he didn't think it was fair to judge West Virginia on that one game because it happened so long ago.
"That can be a bit misleading," he said. "[Provo] created mismatches, but that was in a loss. Teams look at that, correct their mistakes."