|Monday, January 4, 2016, 9:38 AM- -|
Thursday was one of the greatest days in my life and the second biggest win in Clemson football history.
Analyzing the game itself is pretty simple. Clemson ran the ball and stopped the run. The Tigers won the turnover battle. They won the battle on both lines of scrimmage. They won the time of possession, and they imposed their will on Oklahoma for the second time in 53 weeks.
When I was a kid, I saw Barry Switzer and the Oklahoma Sooner program as the national powerhouse everyone wanted to be. In my lifetime, Clemson is 3-0 against the Sooners. In the last 53 weeks, Clemson has outscored Oklahoma 77-23. I think it is clear to see who has the better program now.
The Tigers looked like the better team throughout the game but trailed at halftime due to costly mistakes and inefficiency in the red zone. However, in the second half, the Tigers imposed their will and dominated Oklahoma up front on both sides of the ball.
Yes, this one was simple. Clemson ran for 312 yards, and the Sooners had 67 yards on the ground. Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson combined for 295 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Clemson held Samaje Perine to 15 carries and 58 yards. Joe Mixon and Alex Ross had five carries for three yards. The Oklahoma tailbacks had 20 carries for 61 yards.
Once Oklahoma got behind and became one dimensional, the Tiger defense turned up the heat on Baker Mayfield. The Oklahoma quarterback had given defenses fits with his feet, but Clemson held him to minus 15 yards on ten carries.
The Tigers pounded the football throughout the game and ended the contest with 18 consecutive runs. When Clemson threw the ball, it wasn't easy. Watson was 16-of-31 for 187 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Clemson got two impressive receptions from Hunter Renfrow and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Renfrow expanded the lead with a 35-yard touchdown reception and Wilkins's 31-yard catch on a fake punt was the one play that turned the momentum of the game.
Defensively, Clemson lost Shaq Lawson in the first quarter, but the rest of the defense stepped up and made big plays. Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson turned in key interceptions and the depth along the defensive line paid big dividends.
The Tigers won the special teams battle as well. The fake punt was the biggest play, but Greg Huegel was 3-4 on his field goals, and the Tigers coverage teams were excellent.
Clemson fans packed Sun Life Stadium and stayed long after to share an amazing celebration with the players and staff. Yes, Thursday was a special day in Clemson football history. The win sets up the Tigers chance at a second national title.
The Brad Hughes All-State Insurance Agency
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