Oklahoma-Clemson grades: Deshaun Watson's rushing performance lifts Tigers
Clemson remains undefeated after holding Oklahoma scoreless in the second half to win the College Football Playoff semifinal/Orange Bowl, 37-17. Here are the highest-graded players and notable performances from both sides.
– The Clemson pass rush got to QB Baker Mayfield (-1.7) on a third of his 48 dropbacks, and he looked panicky at times in the pocket. Although that pressure rate was on par with his season average, the rush appeared to affect both his decision making and accuracy throughout the game. Mayfield saw pressure on consecutive plays prior to his third-quarter interception, and his second pick (fourth quarter, 7:32) came on a scramble. He struggled to connect on anything downfield, going two-for-eight on 20+ yard passes, after finishing the regular season as the ninth-most accurate deep passer in the FBS. In the end, the Oklahoma signal caller finished with his lowest grade of the season, and first negative grade since the team’s season opener against Akron.
– Defensively, Oklahoma played without its highest-graded player in DE Charles Walker, and that was evident in their run defense; the unit collectively graded at -3.8 there, and surrendered almost 6 yards per carry on the ground. DEs Matt Dimon (-5.2) and D.J. Ward (-2.4) had the most trouble against Clemson’s option runs, but there’s plenty of blame to go around after the defense missed a combined 16 tackles.
– Those struggles didn’t quite extend to the team’s second and third highest-graded defenders, LB Eric Striker and DE Charles Tapper. Striker played well in all facets, with much of his work coming against Clemson’s tight ends. He finished with four pressures and four defensive stops, including a tackle for loss at 4:28 of the fourth quarter. Likewise, Tapper was mostly solid against the run, giving lineman Mitch Hyatt a difficult time at the point of attack, while adding three pressures and a batted pass. Despite the loss, both players were as impressive, as their regular season grades would indicate.
LB Eric Striker (+6.0)
DE Charles Tapper (+5.6)
WR Dede Westbrook (+3.3)
S Ahmad Thomas (+2.0)
RB Samaje Perine (+2.0)
– DE Shaq Lawson (+1.3) played less than 10 snaps, but managed a pressure and sack in that time. There wasn’t much drop-off once he left the game, with Kevin Dodd picking up the slack. Dodd got the initial pressure on Lawson’s sack (first quarter, 7:32), and after that, had a dominating performance against Oklahoma right tackle Dru Samia (-8.0). He finished the game with 12 combined pressures, effectively using both inside and outside moves to keep Samia off balance. Take a look at his play at 7:54 of the fourth quarter, as Dodd quickly and easily won inside to force a scramble from Mayfield.
– QB Deshaun Watson (+2.4) didn’t have his best day passing the ball. He made a few big time throws, including on his third quarter touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow (+1.2), but struggled with inaccuracy at times, finishing with his second-lowest completion percentage of the season. His second quarter interception also cost Clemson a potential halftime lead, but Watson more than made up for it with an impressive rushing performance, both on designed runs and scrambles. Watson gained more than 5 yards per carry on the ground with two forced missed tackles, while seven of his runs resulted in either a first down or touchdown.
– As good as Watson was rushing, RB Wayne Gallman (+4.2 rushing) was even better after gaining close to 6 yards per carry, with 112 of his yards coming after contact. Most notably, he was responsible for 10 of Oklahoma’s missed tackles. Gallman had success running to all gaps across the offensive line, but he ran most frequently to the right side, where tackle Joe Gore lined up. Gore deserves a lot of credit after handling OU’s Matt Dimon and consistently opening rushing lanes with blocks, such as his one at 6:29 of the first quarter.
RT Joe Gore (+4.8)
DE Kevin Dodd (+4.3)
RB Wayne Gallman (+2.5)
LB B.J. Goodson (+2.4)
QB Deshaun Watson (+2.4)