The Russell Athletic Bowl was particularly embarrassing though, and no one avoids a grade – or a bad grade – in that debacle.
Here are the full classroom Russell Athletic Bowl grades:
Quarterback Trevor Knight – F: Knight had a chance to play his way into the heavy frontrunner for the Oklahoma starting quarterback job in the spring. Instead, he played more like he would rather just hold a clipboard as the No. 4 quarterback. He finished with more interceptions (3) than yards per attempt (2.8). It was horrible. He was inaccurate, made bad decisions and couldn’t complete a pass to wide-open receivers. Knight’s time as Oklahoma’s starter has come to an end.
Running back Samaje Perine – B-: You can give kudos to Perine for his effort. The freshman never gave up and finished with more than 100 yards, although most came in the fourth quarter. He was far too easy to bring down. Perine wasn’t able to break the one-on-one matchups that he decimated during the regular season.
Wide receivers – D-: Remember when Knight scrambled for what felt like an eternity and no one was open? Yeah, that actually happened. Sterling Shepard couldn’t find separation against triple teams, Durron Neal proved that he can’t get open like a Division-I receiver should. Save Michiah Quick’s 7-catch, 46-yard day, and Oklahoma’s pass-catching unit would have been a failure – but this game only exemplified the Sooners’ season through the air. It was a constant struggle and a routine failure.
Offensive line – C: All season long, Oklahoma’s massive offensive line was considered invincible – capable of dominating every game. The Sooners were far from dominant against Clemson though. The final stats make it look a little better, but Oklahoma couldn’t get much of a push all game. They were without guard Adam Shead to start ,and star offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson was burnt on the first play of the game for a sack. The O-line was a strength but take that with some relativity. Nothing else was very good at all. Even Aaron Ripkowski was occasionally man-handled as a blocker.
Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel – F: In all, Heupel wasn’t that bad. He’s going to take a ton of the blame though because the offensive gameplan has to stop with him. He can’t block though. He can’t throw or catch the passes. He can’t break tackles. He obviously can’t motivate either, because Oklahoma came out with little desire on offense, and it was completely gone even sooner. This was not his worst game, but the season as a whole was a failure – with the exclamation point of what might as well have been a shutout. Heupel can thank Brent Venables for calling off the dogs and maybe saving his job.
Defensive line – C: Oklahoma got a pass rush, but only occasionally and with blitz help. It held Clemson to less than 100 yards on the ground and of all things, was pretty good. There’s not a lot of negative. Charles Tapper’s individual effort on the Pick 6 was the jolt Oklahoma needed. There were just too many ill-timed penalties and still a small handful of turnovers to come from the offense.
Linebacker Eric Striker – B+: If Striker was trying to play his way into the NFL, he did everything humanly possible. It’s hard not to look at that first play though, when he overran an opening bubble screen that went for a touchdown. He had 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack and a half.
Secondary – D-: Imagine what this game might have looked like if Deshaun Watson, Clemson’s starting quarterback, had played. Instead, Oklahoma’s shaky secondary allowed another mediocre quarterback to play his best game of the season – maybe the best game in Cole Stoudt’s career. More than 300 yards and three passing touchdowns, it became a consistent theme for the Sooners’ back end. Nothing ever changed.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops – F: The defense wasn’t a complete mess, but it was close enough that Stoops doesn’t deserve a passing grade. All season, Stoops has failed to make the right changes when the defenses needed it. With almost a month to prepare, there might as well have been none. Oklahoma was not ready to play from the first play. Only once the Clemson starting offense came out did the Sooners resemble the defense they were supposed to be. Venables definitely showed who the better coordinator was on this day.
Head coach Bob Stoops – F: It’s impossible not to fault Stoops. Clemson’s choice to pull its starters with more than half a quarter to play was the only thing that kept Stoops from the most embarrassing loss in his tenure and possibly program history. It should have been a shutout. It should have sent ripples through the program. It might still. Oklahoma didn’t belong in the state of Florida for this game let alone the Russell Athletic Bowl. That falls on the head coach, who has plenty of re-evaluation to do in the offseason.