Sooners look to end dismal year on high note

OU (Trevor Knight) copy

By Sports editor Kyle Salomon,

After arguably the most disappointing regular season in the Bob Stoops’ era at the University of Oklahoma, the Sooners will take on the Clemson Tigers in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

OU comes into the game with an 8-4 overall record and a mark of 5-4 in Big 12 Conference play. The Tigers enter Monday’s bowl game with an overall mark of 9-3 and a record of 7-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It will be the fourth meeting between the two schools, and the first since the 1989 Citrus Bowl, where Clemson beat Oklahoma 13-6. OU won the other two games against the Tigers and holds a 2-1 advantage in the series.

“We are looking forward to playing Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl,” Stoops said in his pre-bowl site press conference. “They are a terrific football team and Dabo Sweeney and his staff does a great job across the board. We are excited to go to a great bowl site. They are first class in every way. We are looking forward to the opportunity.”

Stoops will coach the Sooners in his 16th bowl game while at OU. Stoops is 8-7 in bowl appearances and has an overall record of 160-39. Tigers coach Dabo Sweeney has an overall record of 51-23 in his tenure at Clemson.

It will be the first time since his departure in 2011, the Sooners will face their former defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who is now roaming the sidelines for Clemson. Venables was with Stoops for his first 13 years at Oklahoma.

“It’s something we hoped wouldn’t happen,” Venables said after hearing the news of bowl matchup with Oklahoma. “Bob (Stoops) and I were texting back-and-forth the past several weeks hoping it wouldn’t happen, but the closer we got to selection day, the more it looked like it was going to happen.”

Oklahoma’s last game was against in-state rival Oklahoma State in Norman where the Sooners were upset 38-35 in overtime by the Cowboys. Clemson’s last appearance on the field was better than OU’s. The Tigers took on their in-state rival South Carolina at home and defeated the Gamecocks 35-17.

Offensively, the Sooners come into the game averaging 38.9 points per contest. They average 480.5 total yards per outing, including 268.6 rushing yards and 211.9 passing yards per game.

Oklahoma has converted 42 percent of their third down opportunities this season. They have committed 19 turnovers and have been penalized 62 times for 568 yards.

In the rushing department, Samaje Perine leads the Sooners on the ground with 1,597 yards and 21 touchdowns on 240 carries. Alex Ross is second on the team with 582 yards and three touchdowns on 86 carries and Keith Ford is the third leading rusher with 393 yards and five touchdowns on 67 carries.

Besides being the team’s leading rusher, Perine is also the leader in the scoring department for OU with 126 points this season. Ross is the leader for the Sooners in all-purpose yards with 1,665 this year.

Under center, Trevor Knight has not seen any game action since he injured his spine in the match up against Baylor. Knight has been cleared to play by the doctors and is expected to start in the bowl game. Before his injury, Knight completed 162 of 279 passes for 2,197 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

If Knight can’t go, OU will go with Cody Thomas, who has started each game since Knight’s injury. Thomas has completed 30 of 66 passes for 342 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions in Knight’s absence.

Through the air, Sterling Shepard is the man for Oklahoma. Shepard, like Knight, has been battling injuries since the middle of the year. Shepard is expected to play in the bowl game, but his effectiveness won’t be determined until the game starts. Shepard has caught 50 passes this season for 957 yards with five touchdowns.

Behind Shepard, OU’s second leading receiver is Durron Neal with 40 catches for 508 yards and three touchdowns. Coming in third is K.J. Young with 19 receptions for 225 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, Oklahoma has been a disappointment this season. The Sooners are allowing 24.8 points per game to their opponents and are allowing 382.2 total yards this year, including 272.7 passing yards and 109.6 rushing yards to opposing offenses.

Opponents have picked up 242 first downs against OU’s defense this year and the Sooners are allowing a 38 percent third down conversion rate. Oklahoma has forced 19 turnovers and forced teams into 73 penalties for 594 yards this season.

In the tackling department, Dominique Alexander is leading the Sooners with 98 on the year. Jordan Evans is second on the roster with 87 and Ahmad Thomas is third with 65.

Zack Sanchez is leading Oklahoma in interceptions with six in 2014 and Quentin Hayes and Thomas are tied for second with one apiece.

In the sack department, Eric Striker is the leader for OU with 7.5 this season. Coming in second is Chuka N’Dulue with 3.5. Third on the list is Charles Tapper with three.

For Clemson offensively, they are averaging 30.1 points per game this season. The Tigers are averaging 410.1 total yards per outing, including 257.1 passing yards and 153 rushing yards per contest.

The Tigers have amassed 245 first downs and have converted 42 percent of their third down opportunities this year. Clemson has turned the ball over 18 times and has committed 48 penalties for 430 yards this season.

On the ground the Tigers are led by Wayne Gallman with 747 yards and four touchdowns on 142 carries. C.J. Davidson is the second leading rusher with 258 yards and three touchdowns on 62 carries and coming in third is Adam Choice with 233 yards and one touchdown on 50 carries.

To start the season, Clemson’s starting quarterback was Deshaun Watson, but he sustained a season-ending injury midway through the year. The Tigers now go with Cole Stout under center. Before he was injured, Watson completed 93 of 137 pass attempts for 1,466 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. Stout has completed 165 of 266 passes for 1,573 yards with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions in Watson’s absence.

Through the air, Clemson’s leading receiver is Artavis Scott with 68 receptions for 851 yards this season with seven touchdowns. Second on the roster is Mike Williams with 48 catches for 918 yards with five touchdowns and third on the team is Germone Hopper with 26 receptions for 307 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams is also the team’s leading all-purpose yardage gainer with 918 this season for Clemson.

In the scoring department, Ammon Lakip is the Tigers’ leading point scorer with 96 on the year.

Defensively, Clemson has shined, as they have the No.1 overall defense in the nation when it comes to statistics.

The Tigers are allowing 17.6 points per game to their opponents and allowing 259.6 total yards to opposing offenses this season, including 161.9 passing yards and 97.7 rushing yards.

Teams have amassed 168 first downs against Clemson’s D this season and have converted on 28 percent of their third down attempts.

The Tigers have forced 19 turnovers against their opponents and have forced teams into 71 penalties for 521 yards this year.

In the tackling department, Stephone Anthony leads Clemson with 73. Coming in second is Robert Smith with 65 and taking third is Jayron Kearse with 57.

Smith also leads the Tigers in interceptions along with Kearse and Jadar Johnson with two apiece. In the sack department, Vic Beasley leads the way for Clemson with 11 on the season. Shaq Johnson is tied for second on the list with Tony Steward. Both players have 3.5 on the year.

“Oklahoma is a really good football team and really good program,” Sweeney said in his pre-bowl site press conference. “They have really good players over there and Coach (Bob) Stoops is one of the best in the nation. We are going to have to prepare really well and do what we need to do in order to get a win.”

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