MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, the top-ranked Clemson Tigers defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 37-17 in a College Football Playoff semifinal Thursday in the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium.
Clemson (14-0) will play for the national title on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz. Oklahoma, ranked fourth, finished its season 11-2.
The Tigers trailed 17-16 at halftime, but they drove 75 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter to move in front for good. Oklahoma was shut out in the second half.
Watson, who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, ran 24 times for 145 yards and one touchdown. He also passed for 187 yards and one touchdown, completing 16 of 31 attempts. He was intercepted once.
Clemson running back Wayne Gallman also had a big day, running 26 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 26 of 41 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. However, he was sacked five times and intercepted twice. He also left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent head injury.
Oklahoma scored on its first drive. The Sooners put together a 10-play, 75-yard march, capped by running back Samaje Perine’s 1-yard run. The Sooners converted on third-and-7 and third-and-3 plays.
Clemson pulled within 7-3 on kicker Greg Huegel’s 26-yard field goal. The Tigers needed nine plays to drive just 19 yards, but they were already in field-goal position when they got the ball, thanks to a short punt — 24 yards — by Austin Seibert.
The Tigers went up 10-7 in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Watson, capping a seven-play, 96-yard drive.
There were two big plays on the drive: a 46-yard run by Watson to start the march and a 31-yard pass from punter Andy Teasdall to defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. The fake punt came when Clemson faced a fourth-and-4 from the Oklahoma 44.
Clemson retained its lead, 13-10, after the teams traded field goals — 36 yards by Huegel and 22 yards by Seibert.
Huegel then hit a 43-yarder to give Clemson a 16-10 lead, but Oklahoma closed the first-half scoring on Mayfield’s 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mark Andrews. That capped a four-play, 76-yard drive and gave the Sooners a 17-16 lead.
Clemson took the lead with Gallman’s 1-yard run with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
Watson’s 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow gave the Tigers a 30-17 lead late in the third quarter. Gallman added to the advantage with a 4-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Clemson DE Shaq Lawson (left knee) left the game in the second quarter and did not return. … K Greg Huegel’s third field goal of the game was his 25th of the season, a Clemson record. … Three Clemson players failed drug tests and were ruled out for the rest of the postseason: WR Deon Cain, K Ammon Lakip and TE Jay Jay McCullough. The biggest loss was Cain, who was second on the team in receiving yards (582) and touchdown catches (five). Lakip was the kickoff man. … Clemson was also without WR Mike Williams (neck injury) and DB Korrin Wiggins (knee). … Oklahoma was without RB Rodney Anderson (leg). … Clemson took a 3-2 lead in the teams’ all-time series. Oklahoma won in 1963 and 1972 before Clemson prevailed in 1989, 2014 and 2015.