Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt has had several moments during the 2014 season he tried hard to forget.
The senior ended his career with a performance worth savoring.
Stoudt threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, and 18th-ranked Clemson routed Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Monday.
“It all comes down to who makes the big plays and we made the most this game,” Stoudt said. “We really didn’t hit the brakes at all.”
The Tigers (10-3) reached double-digit victories for the fourth consecutive season. Clemson was 10-4 in 2011, 11-2 in 2012 and 11-2 in 2013.
“It was our night tonight. We knew it would be a tough challenge, but we were ready,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said.”
Oklahoma (8-5) had five turnovers, including three interceptions by sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight.
Stoudt began the season as the Tigers starting quarterback, before struggles cost him the job to freshman standout Deshaun Watson.
Injuries to Watson gave Stoudt several opportunities to regain the spot, but he never was able to put together the kind of outing that gave the coaching staff lasting confidence.
The ultimate low point came in November when Watson was lost to a knee injury in the first quarter of the Tigers’ matchup at Georgia Tech. Stoudt came in to replace him, but threw three interceptions in a 28-6 loss that ended Clemson’s six-game win streak.
Stoudt was a different presence against the Sooners on Monday, completing 26 of 36 attempts for a season-high 319 yards. He was sacked four times, but Clemson never turned the ball over.
“I wouldn’t say this was redemption,” Stoudt said. “This was my last game. I was prepared to do my best. I wanted to be the best I could be and just enjoy the last game and that is what we did.”
As good as Stoudt was, the Tigers’ defense was equally impressive.
The Tigers, which came in ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, held the Sooners’ offense to just 275 yards.
With most of the Oklahoma section of the announced crowd of 40,071 already gone from Citrus Bowl Stadium, Swinney pulled the senior starters from his defense early in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t until then that the Sooners were finally able to score their first touchdown with just under seven minutes to play.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops shied away from assigning blame, but acknowledged Oklahoma’s lofty yearly standards aren’t being met.
“You can’t play one-handed,” Stoops said. “I thought overall we did a really nice job of running the football, but the lack of execution in the passing game was a major factor as well.
“We had our chances,” he added. “We had our shots, but we didn’t make anything happen.”
Clemson was efficient in all phases but was also the beneficiary of three early Sooners turnovers in building a 27-0 halftime lead. A 47-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ben Boulware was part of a 17-point first quarter.
Stoudt completed his first six passes and finished the half with a pair of touchdown throws – a 65-yarder to Artavis Scott and a 26-yarder to Mike Williams.
Tigers’ kicker Ammon Lapkip also did his part to deepen the hole for Oklahoma, connecting on a pair of field goals, including a career long kick from 49 yards in the second quarter.
The Sooners were out of sync on both sides of the ball during the opening 30 minutes.
Knight was just 5 for 14, with a pair of interceptions. Samaje Perine rushed for 62 yards but also had a fumble inside the Tigers 25 that ended the Sooners’ best drive late in the second quarter.
Stoops said that changes were possible at quarterback and elsewhere.
“It’s fair to say quarterback position is open,” he said. “With guys we have coming in and inconsistency we have overall. But every position is open come spring time. I’m not going to sit here and create a problem, but of course there will be competition.”
Trailing 20-0, Oklahoma’s defense nearly grabbed a bit of momentum when defensive end Charles Tapper appeared to tip, intercept and return Stoudt’s pass for a touchdown. But the play was called back for offside.
Stoudt then promptly hooked up with Williams for the Tigers’ final scoring play of the half.
SOURCE: The Associated Press