By Paul Tenorio
Tribune News Service
Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt shrugged off questions this week about the unflattering nicknames and criticisms he has heard from Tigers fans and said he just wanted to have fun.
The senior, so maligned by the Clemson faithful, took his last shot at redemption and cashed in on Monday night with what could have been the best performance of his collegiate career. Led by Stoudt, Clemson was dynamic on offense and even more suffocating on defense in a 40-6 win over Oklahoma in front of an announced crowd of 40,071 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
"I wouldn't say it'd be redemption," Stoudt said. "I just knew that this was my last game here, and I knew that I prepared to be my best. I just wanted to do it for the guys around me, because that's what really mattered to me, was the people I played with over the years."
The Tigers (10-3) forced two early turnovers and cashed in on two big plays to build a comfortable four-score lead by halftime. Oklahoma, meanwhile, only avoided the first shutout under coach Bob Stoops after Clemson removed the seniors from its defense midway through the fourth quarter.
Stoudt -- nicknamed "Three-and-Out-Stoudt" by some Clemson fans -- was effective and smart in his final collegiate game, earning most valuable player honors. The senior got the start due to standout freshman Deshaun Watson's ACL injury and surgery and completed 26 of 36 passes for 319 yards and three TDs. He ran for another score.
His touchdown pass in the final minutes of the third quarter floated perfectly into the hands of Germone Hopper even as he was crushed by an Oklahoma linebacker.
"Cole Stoudt was awesome," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "And you know what, nobody deserves it more than 18. He's hung in there, he's shown class, he's represented us the right way even when things didn't go his way and all that kind of stuff. ... I just couldn't be more proud of No. 18 right here."
The blowout was on from Clemson's first offensive snap.
Freshman wide receiver Artavis Scott took Stoudt's first pass of the night, made one cut and raced 65 yards into the end zone. The Tampa-product's touchdown would be the opening act of an absolutely dominant performance by the Tigers.
Clemson's top-ranked defense, headed by former Oklahoma coordinator Brent Venables, was as good as advertised. The Sooners (8-5) didn't move the ball into Clemson territory until the final two minutes of the first half. Oklahoma promptly fumbled two plays later.
"Those guys went out there and earned it and they took the victory regardless of my familiarity," Venables said. "I can't go tackle or cover anybody. They got to be the ones that line up and put their hand in the dirt and fight the fight. That had everything to do with the win."
Sooners' standout running back Samaje Perine finished with 113 yards and a fumble on 21 carries. Quarterback Trevor Knight looked plenty rusty after missing Oklahoma's final three games, throwing three interceptions and completing just 17 of 37 passes for 103 yards.
Only a touchdown with 6:57 left prevented a shutout.
How badly did things go for Oklahoma? The Sooners looked to have scored on a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter only to have it called back due to a penalty. The flag gave Clemson a first down, and the Tigers found the end zone a few plays later.
"I'm not going to give you headline words," Stoops said, when asked if the loss was embarrassing. "Obviously it doesn't feel good and it isn't something we are used to. ... So you can use those words, I don't need to."
The blowout continued in the second half, and Stoudt's pretty touchdown pass to Hopper was the final bow on the win -- and a sweet ending for the senior quarterback's career.
Texas A&M 45 West Virginia 37
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (TNS) -- Something happened to West Virginia when the calendar struck November.
If not exactly pumpkins, the Mountaineers became something less than what they were -- a 6-2 team that appeared fit to contend for the Big 12 championship.
Make it four losses in five games to close the season. Once again, this time Monday at the chilly Liberty Bowl before an announced crowd of 51,282, the shortcomings of the past two months revealed themselves and set up a 45-37 loss to Texas A&M that was less close than it looked.
The Aggies have had their issues and came in with the same 7-5 record as the Mountaineers. But they compete in the toughest league, the SEC, which means a) they have athletes, lots of them, and b) spotty quarterback play, an inconsistent running game and defensive lapses makes a poor recipe for beating them.
"Didn't play good enough, too many missed opportunities," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said.
He congratulated his old friend and former colleague, A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who is "obviously doing some good things," Holgorsen said. "Doing a heck of a job recruiting. Those guys looked pretty good, and they played pretty good. Bigger, faster, stronger than we were."
Better quarterback, too, in freshman Kyle Allen, although WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said, "Hell, I could have made those throws, too."
Allen, named the game's MVP, was making just his fifth start since replacing Kenny Hill. He played like a veteran, completing 22 of 35 passes for 294 yards and four TDs.
Allen made one big mistake, an interception safety KJ Dillon returned 35 yards for a TD to give WVU a 17-7 lead with 4:54 left in the first quarter. It was the Mountaineers' high point before A&M came back and led 28-27 at halftime.
Then came the third quarter, "atrocious offensively," Holgorsen said. By the fourth quarter A&M led 45-30. The Mountaineers moved 91 yards against a loose-playing defense and scored with 2:32 remaining but could not get the ball back.