The Oklahoma Sooners offensive line knew a physical battle was ahead entering the Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers defensive line. Responding to the challenge early, Samaje Perine burst through the first line of defense on the third play from the line of scrimmage gaining 17 yards on the ground. Later on the drive, Baker Mayfield found Mark Andrews as the tight end found himself just shy of the goal line. The 22 yard reception marked the second 15+ yard play Clemson gave up on the first drive.
Scoring two plays later, the Sooners appeared to be in control of the game while the defense took the field forcing the Tigers to punt the ball away after six plays. For the remainder of the half, Oklahoma collected five more plays of 15 or more yards including a 42 yard pass caught by Dede Westbrook taking the Sooners into the red zone. Eventually scoring their second touchdown of the game with 1:34 left before the break, OU took the lead 17-16.
While play could certainly improve, fans were happy to cling to a lead. However, the excitement quickly faded as Clemson forced Oklahoma to punt after three straight losing yardage plays. Learning just how good Kevin Dodd and the rest of the defensive front can be, one thing became clear...the Sooners could not run ball.
Borrowing an idea from our DHazlewood, here are the decisive numbers of the game for OU's offense:
The number of rushing yards Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combined for on 18 total carries. While both sustained injuries, Perine returned to the field leaving Mixon on the sideline. If a team is forced to become one dimensional, that team suffers greatly on the offensive side of the ball. Credit the Tigers for doing just that throughout the game.
Clemson's defensive front collected nine tackles for loss. With Kevin Dodd leading the way without Shaq Lawson on the field, the Tigers also sacked Baker Mayfield five times on the afternoon. We knew that this was a young and inexperienced offensive line. Yet, I don't think anyone in crimson and cream could predict what would take place on the field.
Converting on third down clearly helps sustain a drive. Unfortunately, Bob Stoops watched his offense convert 5-of-13 attempts
For the first time since losing to the Texas Longhorns, the Sooners also lost the turnover battle by a margin of negative one. Knowing the stat line would be one to watch, Oklahoma could not afford the mistakes. With the final interception of the game, the hopes of playing for a national title completely faded away.