MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. - Late Wednesday night, Dwayne Allen didn’t sound like a guy with one foot out the door.
Allen, Clemson’s star junior tight end, wrapped up the best season by a tight end in school history. He had only two catches for 21 yards in the Tigers’ 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia, but finished with 50 receptions for 598 yards and eight scores, all program records.
He was a consensus All-American and won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. He is rated by ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay as the No.1 tight end in the 2012 NFL draft, should he declare. The deadline to do so is Jan. 15, but Allen said he has no timetable and hasn’t thought about making a choice.
“Money is definitely not one of the things that’s going into the situation,” he said. “I’m from Fayetteville, North Carolina. If you haven’t been there, you should ride through there. I’ve got more money at Clemson than I’ve ever had.
“(I’ll think about), do I feel like my work at Clemson is complete? Have I given all that I have to give, building a program at Clemson, or do I want to work at something more, coming back to complete the chapter.”
When asked if Wednesday’s ugly night would influence him, Allen was ambivalent.
“You never want to end a season or end something on a down note,” he said. “I don’t know, if I decide to leave, that this would be a down. This is one of the best years Clemson has had in a long time, to win the ACC and get a taste of the Orange Bowl.”
Good seats available: As the Orange Bowl kicked off Wednesday, there were plenty of empty orange seats in Sun Life Stadium’s upper deck. High ticket prices - $75 to $225 through both Clemson and West Virginia’s ticket offices – and the game’s kickoff in the middle of the New Year’s first week – contributed to the poor crowds.
Secondary ticket markets also hurt; last week, the cheapest ticket on StubHub.com, a popular ticket reseller, was $12. Sun Life seats 72,000; the crowd was announced at 67,000, but looked to be around 56,000 fans.
Bowden in the house: Former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden was in attendance Wednesday – in the private box of West Virginia’s president. Bowden coached Clemson from 1999-2008 before being forced out midway through the 2008 season. Dabo Swinney took over and was eventually installed as full-time head coach after leading the Tigers to bowl eligibility and the Gator Bowl.
Watkins continues record-setting season: Sammy Watkins put a cap on his All-America and national freshman of the year campaign with two more records. When he caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tajh Boyd in the first quarter, it was his 12th scoring catch of the season and 13th overall. That set records for most receiving touchdowns in a year and most overall touchdowns by a Clemson freshman.
Aaron Kelly held the previous receiving score record with 11; C.J. Spiller, who was on Clemson’s sideline Wednesday, had 12 touchdowns as a freshman in 2006.
However, Watkins didn’t seem pleased with his night, catching five passes for 66 yards and the score.
“They ran a lot of coverages on me,” he said of the Mountaineers, “and I couldn’t really get open today. They basically just kept behind me and bottled up Tajh (Boyd) and the rest of the receivers.”
Watkins’ score also set Clemson’s single-season touchdowns record. It was the Tigers’ 56th touchdown of the season, passing the 55 scored in 2000 and 2006. They also set a program record with 463 points.
Hopkins sets record: Clemson sophomore receiver DeAndre Hopkins missed the charter flight to Florida with a mild concussion suffered in a frightening wreck on his way to meet the team bus. He showed no ill effects Wednesday, catching 10 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Both were Clemson bowl records.
Price injured: Senior left tackle Phillip Price had struggled with a sprained ligament in his right knee since injuring it Nov. 12 against Wake Forest; he missed the N.C. State game with the injury, played one series against South Carolina and half of the ACC title game before re-aggravating the injury.
He injured the knee before returning Wednesday, and left for good midway through the quarter, walking very gingerly off the field with help from trainers. He crutched off the field, his right knee packed in ice; Brandon Thomas replaced him at left tackle, with David Smith moving into the lineup at left guard.
Senior right tackle Landon Walker set a Clemson record for most plays in a career, and started his 49th game, more than any other player in Clemson history at any position.
Big night for Alston: Boyd’s Phoebus High School teammate, Shawne Alston, got the start at tailback when WVU starter Dustin Garrison tore knee ligaments during bowl practice. He made the most of his start, with two first-half rushing touchdowns. He finished with 77 yards on 20 carries.
Meanwhile, Boyd completed 24 of 46 passes for 250 yards and two scores. He set an ACC record for touchdown responsibility, with 38. The previous record was held by Phillip Rivers and Russell Wilson of N.C. State. Boyd’s 33 touchdown passes are also a Clemson record.