5 Thoughts On The Russell Athletic Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Russell Athletic Bowl

Dec. 29 Russell Athletic Bowl
Clemson 40, Oklahoma 6

And You Care Because … Clemson came out roaring Artavis Scott taking a pass from Cole Stoudt 65 yards for a score on the team’s first play from scrimmage. It wasn’t any better for Oklahoma the rest of the way as Ben Boulware came up with a 47-yard pick six and Stoudt threw two more touchdown passes and ran for another on the way to a 40-0 lead. OU finally got on the board in the final minutes on an 11-yard Alex Ross run – but the extra point was blocked.
What Else? Clemson QB Cole Stoudt completed 26-of-36 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for a score
- Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine ran 23 times for 134 yards and caught three passes for 22 yards, and QB Trevor Knight completed 17-of-37 passes for 103 yards and three picks
- Clemson WR Artavis Scott caught eight passes for 114 yards and a score and Mike Williams caught nine passes for 112 yards and a touchdown
- Turnovers: Oklahoma 5 – Clemson 0
Game Rating: D

By Pete Fiutak
1. Yeah, Oklahoma didn’t seem too interested in playing college football anymore after Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill came up with his shocking score to close out the regular season, but it’s not like the Clemson defense pulled a performance out of its ACC. The Tigers came into the game No. 1 in the nation in total defense while ranking third against the pass and fifth against the run. Cole Stoudt, on the other hand …

When the bowls were first announced, the question mark was the quarterback play. OU’s Trevor Knight was hurt, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson didn’t appear to be ready to roll through a knee injury. But even with his up-and-down season – throwing for over 200 yards in three straight games before firing out a 3-of-11 game against Georgia Tech – to hit 26-of-36 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns and a rushing score was something special. Clemson’s defense won the game, but the Russell Athletic was Stoudt’s. It’s unfortunate that Clemson won’t have him to rely on anymore.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. Stooping to a new low.

In a season of disappointments and unfulfilled expectations, Oklahoma located the bottom floor of 2014 with an absolutely atrocious performance in Orlando versus Clemson. Listen, coaching bowl games is difficult. It’s nothing like the regular season, from the routine to the unique distractions. And getting kids motivated this time of year is much harder than you might think. But the Dabo Swinney-led Tigers figured it out to overcome the losses of their offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, and their best quarterback, rookie Deshaun Watson. The Sooners? Positively clueless across the board and from the top down.

Last winter, OU used a Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama as a springboard to an offseason of runaway hype and a preseason ranking in the top 5. Of the myriad problems facing the Sooners in 2015, the glare of the spotlight and a target on the chest will certainly not be among them. At least there’s that. Now that Oklahoma has failed to meet its preseason forecasts for the fourth time in the last six years, Bob Stoops needs to figure out how to get this team back to the top of the Big 12.

E-mail Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFB
3. Has head coach Bob Stoops lost his mojo? Sure Oklahoma is still contending in the Big 12, but the program used to be in the national picture on an almost yearly basis in Stoops’ heyday. Now, you have to wonder if there needs to be some sort of major shift to get Boomer Sooner back among the elite of elite teams. Other programs like Oregon have made some significant shifts in philosophy over the past decade and it has paid off big-time. Oklahoma has struggled to some extend to adapt defensively to the big hug the college football world has given to spread offenses that push the tempo and fling it around the yard. It might be time to look at the plumbing and make some tweaks to move things forward.

What happened to Big Game Bob just a year removed from whacking Alabama?

Take nothing away from Clemson, but the difference between these teams is far from the 34 difference the scoreboard showed. It was apparent that the Sooners simply lacked any kind of emotion, sense of urgency, or pride. Clemson, on the other hand, played with the purpose that a senior-laden team can show.

4. What’s next for Clemson
Can Deshaun Watson stay healthy? Clemson is a different team when he’s in one piece, but it could be a bit of a problem keeping him upright with just two starters returning to the offensive front. The running back situation is outstanding with Wayne Gallman and C.J. Davidson leading a deep group, and Mike Williams and Artavis Scott form the nucleus of a great-looking receiving corps.

The great defense needs an overhaul losing five of the top six tacklers and only getting back safety Jayron Kearse. The defensive front loses the most talent with Vic Beasley irreplaceable on one end and all four starters done. The linebacking corps should be the strength with Kellen Jones back in the middle and several options on the outside, and there’s promise in the secondary with corner Mackenzie Alexander and Kearse to work around. PK Ammon Lakip is back after a strong season, and solid P Bradley Pinion is back.

5. What’s next for Oklahoma
Can the Sooners be more consistent after a disappointing year? It starts with the health of QB Trevor Knight, who has to be healthy throughout the season while also needing to progress and be more consistent. Samaje Perine is a superstar back to work around, but the O line loses a ton of talent with tackles Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams destined to be NFL starters next year. There’s depth, but four starters have to be replaced up front. The receiving corps might lose Sterling Shepard to the NFL, but the rest of the top targets return.

The defensive front is going to be decimated by the NFL draft, but Jordan Phillips is a big body to shine on the inside. Fortunately, most of the top tacklers return with linebacker Dominique Alexander, Jordan Evans and Ahmad Thomas returning. Eric Striker has NFL talent, but he could be a terror for the OU defensive front seven. The secondary has the most experience, but even after the awful Russell Athletic performance against Clemson, there’s potential – as long as the defensive backs can start to tackle - with three starters back including corners Zack Sanchez and Jordan Thomas. PK Michael Hunnicutt is gone along with P Jed Barnett.

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