Second-Half Surge Carries Clemson into National Championship Game


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. ( — A dominant second half on both sides of the ball propelled the No. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers to a 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Thursday at Sun Life Stadium. With the win, the Tigers advanced to the College Football Playoff National Championship in Glendale, Ariz., on Monday, January 11.

The ground attack of Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman once again proved to be a formidable 1-2 punch, and the Tiger defense stiffened in the second half with a performance that evoked memories of the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl, a 40-6 win over the Sooners. Watson, named the game’s Most Valuable Offensive Player, finished with 24 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown, while Gallman rushed for 150 yards and a score on 26 carries. The Tigers finished with a school bowl-record 312 yards, and held the Sooners to just 67 for the game on the ground.

Looking for a spark early in the second quarter, the Tigers found it in the form of 315-pound freshman defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. A member of Clemson’s punt team all year, he ran down the left sideline and caught a 31-yard pass from punter Andy Teasdall. It was the first reception in Clemson history by a defensive lineman. It led to a Deshaun Watson rushing touchdown that gave Clemson its first lead at 10-7.

The back and forth second quarter saw OU reclaim a late lead at 17-16 when Baker Mayfield found tight end Mark Andrews for a score. Watson quickly brought Clemson into the redzone after converting a 3rd-and-long, but he forced a pass to Jordan Leggett that was intercepted in the endzone. 

The Tigers turned to Gallman on the opening drive after halftime, and the move paid off. His one-yard plunge pushed Clemson ahead again by six at 23-17. Later, with OU moving the ball and threatening in Tiger territory, freshmen Austin Bryant and Kendall Joseph combined to stuff Samaje Perine to thwart a drive. Watson made the Sooners pay, this time hitting Hunter Renfrow on a 35-yard touchdown strike that put Clemson up by a 13-point margin.

Gallman capped a nine-play, 50-yard drive with 10:48 to play with his second touchdown of the contest. Ben Boulware, the Most Valuable Defensive Player, halted an Oklahoma drive deep in Clemson’s end with an interception to thwart the Sooners’ final scoring try. 


Postgame Notes

• Clemson is just the eighth FBS team to win 14 games in a season, the second ACC team to do it (2013, Florida State).
• The Tigers extended their school record for wins in a season to 14.
• The Tigers have now won 17 games in a row and 23 of the last 24, both bests in Clemson history.
• This was Clemson’s seventh win away from home, tying a school record. The 1948 Clemson team finished 11-0 overall, but seven of the 11 wins were away from home.
• Clemson won its eighth game over a team with a winning record, its fifth against a team with at least 10 wins this year, most in the nation, most in school history.
• Won its fourth game against a team ranked in the top 25 entering the game. That ties the school season record that was also accomplished in 2011 when Clemson had four top-25 wins.
• The Tigers tied the school record for wins over top 10 teams in a season with three. The 1981 team also accomplished the feat.
• Clemson has a 3-2 record against Oklahoma and is now the only school in the FBS with a winning record against Oklahoma, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
• Clemson is 3-0 in bowl games against Oklahoma.
• Clemson has defeated rival South Carolina, won the ACC Championship and won a bowl game in the same year for the first time since 1988.
• Tigers won their 20th bowl game in history today. Fourteen of the wins have been against teams ranked in the top 25 entering the game.
• Clemson won a bowl game for the fourth straight year, the longest streak for the program since winning five in a row from 1986-90.
• Clemson seniors are now 46-7.
• Clemson is now 13-4 in the last five years against the top 20 winningest programs in FBS history. That includes wins over No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 11 Florida State and No. 15 Miami this year.
• Clemson has won a bowl game against a team ranked in the top 25 of at least one poll each of the last four years, the only FBS team to do that.
• Clemson has now won a bowl game against a coach who already had a National Championship on his résumé each of the last four years (Les Miles, Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops twice).
• Clemson defeated the same team in a bowl game in consecutive years for the first time.
• Clemson has won two games in the same stadium outside of Clemson, S.C., for the second time in history. The Tigers also did it in 2012 at the Georgia Dome.
• Clemson amassed over 500 yards of total offense for the 10th straight game, a school record. The program is now 95-0-1 when posting at least 500 yards of total offense.
• The Tigers rushed and passed for at least 200 yards Thursday. The program is now 75-0-1 when achieving at least 200 yards in both categories in the same game.
• Clemson led the nation in tackles for loss in 2013 and 2014, and the Tigers came away with nine stops behind the line of scrimmage Thursday to push the season total to 117.

• Dabo Swinney is now 9-4 against top-10 teams in his Clemson coaching career.
• Swinney earned his ninth win in last five years over a coach ranked among the top 10 winningest active coaches.
• Swinney is 9-4 in games played in NFL stadiums, including six wins in a row, three this year.
• Today’s co-captains (and permanent co-captains for the year) were Travis Blanks, B.J. Goodson, Eric Mac Lain, Charone Peake, D.J. Reader and Stanton Seckinger.
• Deshaun Watson improved to 18-1 as Clemson’s starting quarterback.
• Watson became Clemson’s single-season leader for total offense (4,731) after accumulating 332 yards Thursday. He passed Tajh Boyd, who had 4,410 yards in 2012.
• Watson recorded his fifth 100-yard rushing game this season, all in the last six contests.
• Watson went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark, becoming only the third quarterback in FBS history with at least 3,500 passing yards and 1,000 rushing in the same season.
• Watson had at least one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown in the same game for the ninth time this season, a Clemson record.
• Watson’s 145 rushing yards set a Clemson bowl record. Tajh Boyd held the record with 127 versus Ohio State in the 2013 Orange Bowl.
• Wayne Gallman became Clemson’s single-season rushing leader (1,482) after compiling a game-high 150 yards on the ground Thursday. He passed Raymond Priester, who had 1,345 for the Tigers in 1996.
• Gallman and Watson have now both gone over 100 on the ground in the same game for the fourth time in Clemson’s last six contests. It was the first time in Clemson history the Tigers had two 100-yard rushers in a bowl game.
• Hunter Renfrow scored on a 35-yard reception in the third quarter, his first touchdown since the NC State game on October 31.
• Greg Huegel broke Chandler Catanzaro’s single-season record for kick scoring. With three field goals and four extra points Thursday, the freshman walk-on now has 128 points. The 128 points tie the overall record for single-season scoring set by C.J. Spiller in 2009.
• Huegel’s three field goals gave him 25 for the season, breaking Jad Dean’s single-season record of 24 set in 2004.
• Christian Wilkins became the first Clemson defensive lineman with a reception on a 31-yard fake punt in the second quarter. It was Andy Teasdall’s second career completion.
• B.J. Goodson and Ben Boulware both secured their second interceptions of the season Thursday. Boulware returned one for a touchdown in last year’s 40-6 win over the Sooners.
• Kevin Dodd posted 3.5 tackles for loss Thursday, giving the redshirt junior a total of 19 for the season.
• Shaq Lawson played only a few snaps before suffering an injury, but he had a sack. It gave him 10.5 for the season, tied for the sixth-best single-season total in Clemson history.
• Cordrea Tankersley broke up two passes Thursday, giving the junior a total of 16 passes defended this season.