Clemson Tigers vs Oklahoma Sooners: Tigers Have a Chance to Repeat History

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As the Clemson Tigers prepare to take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the Russell Athletic Bowl, we take a look back at the last time the two teams met, in the 1989 Florida Citrus Bowl.

On December 29, 2014, Clemson and Oklahoma will clash for the fourth time ever in college football history in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Oklahoma currently leads the series 2-1, with a 52-3 win in 1972 and a 31-14 win in the inaugural game between the two schools on September 21, 1966.

The last time these two teams faced off was in Orlando in the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 2, 1989. Oklahoma came into the game ranked 10th in the nation and a nine-point favorite. Their only two losses of the regular season came on the road at No. 5 USC (23-7) and a 7-3 loss to No. 7 Nebraska at home. Clemson, coached by Danny Ford, came into the game ranked No. 13 in the nation coming off a 29-10 victory over hated rival South Carolina.

Rodney Williams (Clemson’s winningest quarterback at the time) took the field with sophomore Terry Allen at tailback. Clemson’s defense was led by big Ed McDaniel, the team’s leading tackler.

In the first quarter, both teams exchanged punts until the Sooners took advantage of a short field and drove the ball down to the Clemson one yard line. It appeared the Sooners would reach the end zone on second down, but Oklahoma quarterback Jamelle Holieway kept the ball on the option and Clemson’s defense chased him down for an 18-yard loss. Oklahoma kicked a field goal and went up 3-0.

Clemson’s ailing offense did not pick up a first down until linebacker Doug Bruster forced an interception and Clemson took over on the Sooner side of the field. Clemson’s Williams picked up a four-yard gain on 3rd and three to move the chains for the first time. A few plays later, Wesley McFadden broke off a 31-yard rush to the Oklahoma four yard line, but the drive broke down and Chris Gardocki need to kick a field goal to tie the game at three apiece.

The Tigers took the field in the fourth quarter with the game tied at six apiece. Clemson was able to drive down the field and Terry Allen, the Citrus Bowl MVP, took the ball in from four yards out. With around three minutes remaining, Oklahoma drove the ball from its own 20 to the Clemson 14 yard line. With four seconds remaining, Holieway dropped back to pass and was pressured by the powerful Clemson defensive line. He threw the ball into the end zone and it was batted down by Freshman Dexter Davis to secure the win for the Tigers.

Clemson’s defense held Oklahoma to 116 total yards and kept the Sooners out of the end zone. According to NY Times, Jesse Hatcher was Clemson’s Defensive MVP and had nine tackles, an 18-yard sack and two pass break-ups. Freshman Ed McDaniel led the team in tackles with 14 on the day. The Tigers disrupted Oklahoma’s offense all day and sent legendary Coach Barry Switzer out with a loss in his final game as the Sooner Head Coach.

The Tiger’s offense was just good enough to win the game. They managed only 13 points and were able to put a touchdown drive together to win the game. Terry Allen had 100 total yards of offense and Rodney Williams was just good enough going 5-for-11 passing.

While the game of football has changed immensely over the past 25 years, many of the same principles apply to this game in 2014. Everyone remembers that victory over Oklahoma because it was a name-brand football team.

On the 29th, Clemson has a chance to repeat history and get a bowl win over a name-brand program the old fashion way: grind it out football. If Clemson’s defense can continue to make plays and the offense can be just good enough, Clemson could beat the Oklahoma Sooners to tie the series at 2-2, as well as gain national respect for beating another significant football program.

Clemson made history on January 2, 1989 in Orlando. Clemson has a chance to make history yet again, in the same city, 25 years later.

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