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Tigers elated with success

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Clemson seeks to build off win over Oklahoma

By Robert Howey

Clemson University football fans are excited about the Tigers’ upcoming clash with Alabama to decide college football’s national champion.
The No. 1 Tigers, fresh off a 37-17 rout of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, battle the No. 2 Crimson Tide, which mauled Michigan State, 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl, for the national crown on Jan. 11 at 8:30 p.m. in the University of Phoenix Stadium at Glendale, Ariz.
“I’m very happy with what we did in the Orange Bowl,” said Dr. Bill Williams, a retired Lancaster dentist and a longtime IPTAY member and Tigers’ season ticket holder. “I didn’t think we would win that easily. I thought we dominated.”
Clemson, 14-0, trailed the Sooners, 17-16 at the half, but ignited in the second half with a 21-0 surge on the way to the solid 20-point victory.
Clemson, despite a 40-6 pounding of OU in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., last year, was a slight underdog to the Sooners, but came on strong in the final two periods to win going away.
“I was a little worried at the half with some missed opportunities in the first half,” said veteran Clemson fan and 1965 CU graduate Frank Roberson, who attended the Tigers’ second straight shelling of the Sooners at the game in Miami Gardens on Dec. 31. “In the second half, it looked like we got a burst of energy. We came out refocused.
“Our running game wore them down and we stopped their running game,” said Robertson, a 49-year member of IPTAY who attended the game with his family, including wife Sheila.
The Tigers were bolstered by the 1-2 punch of quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Wayne Gallman.
Watson , the game MVP, ran for 145 yards and a TD. Gallman generated 150 yards and a score on 26 carries to aid the Tigers’ school bowl record of 312 yards.
The stingy Clemson defense held the potent Sooners to 67 ground yards.
“I think that drive to open the second half set the tone for the rest of the game with Oklahoma,” said Rodney Thomas, the Lancaster County Clemson Club president. “We took the ball down the field and Gallman was running like he was mad at the world.
“Coach Danny Ford always said that first drive of the second half is important in the game.
“We made a statement with that drive and I think Oklahoma knew they had bit off more than they could chew,” Thomas said.
Williams is hoping for the same type effort in the game with the Tide.
“I think it’s going to be interesting,” he said. “We have to do a good job of spreading them out and mixing it up.
“We need to keep them guessing. One key factor for us is that Deshaun Watson doesn’t lack confidence in what he does.
“I feel we can play with them, but our defense is going to have to do another good job of stopping their running game,” Williams said. “I think having (defensive end) Shaq Lawson, who missed most of the Oklahoma game with an injury, is going to be a help.”
Robertson said the game with the Tide is “a  real test.”
“We’ve got to be able to get first downs and control the football,” he said. “We’re also going to have to do another fine job of stopping the run.
“You don’t have a lot of chances to play for a national championship and you have to make the most of those opportunities.”
Thomas said he feels the Clemson defense will again step up to the challenge.
“Bama’s defense is as good as advertised, but they seem to have trouble with spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks.
“We have to stop their runners, like Henry (Derrick), but we’ve stopped some good runners all season. I don’t know if we completely stop Henry, but we have to corral him.
“I look for turnovers to be the difference,” Thomas said. “If we don’t turn it over, I think we can play them eyeball to eyeball. I think it will be a heck of a game, one of the best national championship games in recent years.”
Williams said the Tigers’ shining season is a boost for the future.
“We’re the fifth youngest team in the country, so I feel that is only going to be good for us going forward,” he said. “This kind of experience is only going to help you.”