MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Preparing for their Orange Bowl rematch with Clemson, Oklahoma’s Sooners spent much of their time ramping up their motivation to atone for a 34-point bowl loss to the Tigers a year ago. But the Sooners simply got overpowered on both sides of the ball by a No. 1 ranked Clemson team that proved physically superior in a 37-17 College Football Playoff semifinal win Thursday.
Clemson gained 530 yards, including 312 on the ground as quarterback Deshaun Watson rushed for 145 yards and running back Wayne Gallman had 150. Their defense held OU to 67 yards rushing total and shut out the Sooners in the second half.
As much as it hurt, Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker had to admit the obvious. “In this championship drive, talent doesn’t win the game,” Striker said. “It’s the will. They just seemed to have that will and edge about them in the second half, and we didn’t. They’re a great team, and Watson and Gallman are great players and they showed that in the second half.”
The Sooners held a 17-16 halftime lead after intercepting Watson to end the half. But the Tigers took the second half kickoff and drove 75 yards to score on a one-yard run by Gallman. The turning point came late in the third quarter when Clemson stopped OU running back Samaje Perine for no gain on fourth-and-one at the Tigers’ 30-yard line. On the next play, Gallman ripped off a 21-yard run to begin a four-play scoring drive.
“I want to compliment Gallman, as well,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “There were plenty of times where we had two guys coming off the edge right at him, and he makes one of the two miss and gets eight yards when you were right there to make the tackle.
“They showed why they’re undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country. You just have to give it to them.”