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Exclamation Point

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Well, I didn't see that one coming.  How many people had Clemson up 40-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter? Wow.

I thought we would see a mentally fragile Cole Stoudt go out and play game manager/ not to lose.  I thought we would see our defense on the field for most of the game.  I thought we would see a competitive game early on turn into a 10+ point win for Oklahoma as the game progressed late.  I thought we would see a similar outcome as we saw against Georgia and Georgia Tech. I thought wrong.

I couldn't be more happy to see the opposite happen!  Here are my takeaways from the complete dismantling of Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

  • Player Development- Much like we saw against Ohio State last year, we were clearly the better team athletically.  One could surmise that this is yet another sign that Dabo and his staff are capable of developing elite talent OR the southeastern athlete is superior to the athlete anywhere else. I'd guess it's a little bit of both (maybe we get a little more clarity watching the playoff).
  • Brent Venables is a Bad Man - In 2011, I examined HUNH defenses across the country to see how they are affected by their own offense and how they counter that. That research led me to believe that Brent Venables was the best possible DC we could hire to replace Kevin Steele.  The STS opinion of the hire at the time was: "We are not terribly thrilled with the hire, as OU fans were not, in general, thrilled with Venables. I do not believe him an elite DC capable of putting Clemson where it should be based on our talent." Even last year, some were citing (an untruth) that Oklahoma had gotten better defensively sans Venables.  Now, it is clear that what Venables has been able to do has far exceeded anyone's expectations, including my own.  To all the disgruntled OU fans who wanted Venables gone, and to Bob Stoops who rehired his brother to "help" Venables, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my orange blood pumping heart.  When I did "Hurry Up Defense" in 2011, my personal goal was for Clemson fans to better educated than other team's fans.  Those same OU fans that wanted to run Venables out of town in 2011 watched their defense get dismantled by Cole Stoudt and their own offense get dismantled by Venables #1 ranked defense.  The jury is in and the verdict is unanimous. 
  • "Tenderfoot Triumvirate" - Speaking of exceeding expectations, and it has only been one game, but that was quite a debut performance by Dabo, Elliot, and Scott.  We did have a clear talent advantage but still, the play calling and gameplanning was quite competent and there were no rookie mistakes.  As the season progresses next year, and we move further away from Morris, we will truly begin to see whether or not we will miss The Chad. Right now though, I'm content with his salary being allocated elsewhere on the staff.
  • Cole Stoudt - Who are you and what have you done with Cole Stoudt?  Cliff Stoudt's baby boy delivered a resounding offensive performance against an Elite Level Program.  Decision making, accuracy, and poise were not the words I would use to describe Cole lately, but they were last night. All of the sudden, he can throw a deep ball?  I'll buy into the "he was hurt" idea.  Ok, so some of them weren't as accurate as DeShaun but, that throw to Hopper was beautiful. He threw out-routes, fades, and even roll-outs with accuracy and zip.  Then the TD run where Cole lowered his shoulder and powered into the endzone was a sweet exclamation point.  The look on Daddy Stoudt's face after that score summed up an entire fan base's emotional release of what became the kind of memorable redemption that Will Proctor, Cullen Harper, and Kyle Parker never got.  Pride. Get Some.
  • Germone Hopper - got his redemption on that over the shoulder TD catch. I'm glad it was him because that kind of fit in with the theme of the evening and will hopefully build his confidence heading into the offseason.
  • Bowl Games Matter - Is this really a debate?  These are out-of-conference matchups that help form the opinions of committee members, writers, talking heads, and fans.  It's the last thing they see when they close the book on the season.  Ask yourself, why was Oklahoma ranked #3 to start the season?  Baylor won the Big 12 last year, right?  Shouldn't they have been #3 if bowls don't matter?  Why did Ohio St. get in to the playoff and not TCU and Baylor?   I guarantee you that if Oklahoma had 1 loss, they would've gotten in over Ohio State because of that Alabama win the year before. Ask yourself why the SEC is running college football right now and please go back to 2006 and track bowl games. 
  • Danny to Dabo -  One thing that Danny was revered for was notching his belt with wins over National Championship winning coaches. Danny beat Woody Hayes, Vince Dooley, Tom Osbourne, Joe Paterno, Barry Switzer, and Bobby Bowden.  Well, in the past three years, Dabo has notched victories over National Championship winning coaches Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and (cough) Steve Spurrier.
  • Defensive Legacy -  We faced 5 Top Ten Offenses according to F/+ this year and we ended up #1 in Total Defense...and we run a HUNH offense.  That is RIDICULOUS.  We embarrassed SC (#9) and OU (#10). We were on the field the entire game against GT (#1) but they only found the endzone once.  The only small regret that this defense may have is that Jameis Winston didn't play when we played FSU (#6).  However, holding FSU to 0.5 "yards per carry" and their lowest rushing total in a half of football in 10 years was an elite level statement any way you spin it. I'm now prepared to say that this is the Best Defense I have ever seen at Clemson.  With all due respect to the 1990 team and their NFL roster, based on the competition and how the game is played today, this defense performed better as a team.
  • Recruiting - As if we needed any more momentum, we just got some more ammo for the recruiting-pitch arsenal. I wonder if it's possible to capitalize on that with a February surprise or two?

This was a great Clemson win and I couldn't be happier with the desire and motivation we saw on the field last night.  Kudos to the coaching staff and the players for going to work and putting an exclamation point on a season of "what might have beens."  Thank you Chad Morris, who had a hand in this win and brought a desperately needed offensive identity to Clemson. Good luck at SMU!

Congratulations to our Senior class who will graduate as the winningest class in school history*!  As a defensive guy, special congratulations to all the players on defense that can tell their kids and grandkids, "we were the best defense Clemson ever had."   They will be missed but not forgotten anytime soon.  They set the bar awfully high. Time for the underclassmen to get to work, right Mike Patrick?