Cole Stoudt

Small school stars take center stage in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

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Division 2 standout running back Terrell Watson, representing Azusa Pacific, won NFLPA Collegiate Bowl MVP honors on Saturday. Watson led the National team of college all-stars with 55 yards and a touchdown in leading his National team to a 17-0 victory on Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is down the ladder in terms of star power in the college all-star circuit, but it is a terrific opportunity for some players from smaller schools to compete and catch the eye of an NFL coach or scout. Watson had his chance to do just that, as did Southern Illinois Malcolm Agnew, who complimented Watson’s production with 53 rushing yards for the National team. Eastern Kentucky running back Channing Fugate got one rushing attempt, and he made the most of it with a short touchdown run in the third quarter.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl did have some names most college football fans might be more familiar with though.

South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge led the National passers with 51 yards and Miami Ohio quarterback Andrew Hendrix added 47 yards. Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley had the most efficient day at receiver, leading the National team with 45 receiving yards on two catches.

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt was the leading passer for the losing American squad, completing seven of eight passes for 48 yards. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato finished the game with 31 passing yards with a 50 percent completion percentage. Cato was also second on the American team in rushing with 15 yards. Prairie View A&M quarterback Jerry Lovelocke mixed in 40 passing yards. Missouri running back Marcus Murphy led the American team in rushing with 47 yards, and West Texas A&M wide receiver Anthony Johnson led the team with 40 receiving yards.

Bob Stoops, welcome to the longest offseason of your career

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We’re nearing the 14-year anniversary of Bob Stoops’ only national championship at Oklahoma, and his Sooners have never been farther away – both in the literal passage of time and in the actual product on the field. A season that started with aspirations of reaching Oklahoma’s first title game since 2008 ended in humiliation, a 40-6 blowout to No. 17 Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Monday night.

The loss dropped the Sooners to an ugly 8-5 on the year – not Stoops’ first eight-or-fewer win campaign, but the only one without an excuse. He went 7-5 in 1999, but that was his first year. He went 8-4 in 2005, but that team lost Adrian Peterson for much of the year and replaced a number of players that contributed to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. He went 8-5 in 2009, but that team lost Sam Bradford for almost all the season. All of those teams got better as the season progressed. This one regressed – sharply.

The 2014 Sooners – ranked third in preseason by the coaches’ poll and fourth by the AP – went 0-4 against ranked teams. Their best win? It was probably back on Aug. 30, a 48-16 romp over a Louisiana Tech team that later played for the Conference USA title. Outside of that, there’s not much to be proud of in this wasted season.

The mystique is gone. A program that once blew its opponents off the field simply by showing up no longer intimidates anyone. The home-field advantage, once the biggest in college football, has completely evaporated. OU lost three home games for the first time since 1996, and each came wrapped in its own special box. There was the 31-30 loss to Kansas State handed away on a silver platter, the 48-14 blowout at the hands of Baylor, and the 38-35 overtime collapse to a 6-6 Oklahoma State team to close the year. Oklahoma won one home game after September, and it came against Kansas.

As for the actual proceedings on the field Monday night, Oklahoma failed to execute in every facet of the game. Trevor Knight threw two interceptions and failed to muster even three yards an attempt. Oklahoma out-rushed Clemson significantly, but lost any meaningful progress after Samaje Perine and Keith Ford both lost fumbles. Charles Tapper had a nice tipped pass-turned-pick six called back due to an offside call. Even the special teams joined in on the fun, letting Michael Hunnicutt‘s extra point get blocked. The Sooners committed eight penalties, while Clemson was flagged only twice. They lost the turnover battle, 5-0. They converted 2-of-12 first downs. They let Cole Stoudt look like Deshaun Watson, hitting 26-of-36 passes for 319 yards and four total touchdowns, including a 65-yarder to Artavis Scott on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage. Clemson scored the game’s first 40 points, meaning Oklahoma sat on the business end of a 57-0 run (dating back to the Oklahoma State collapse) until Alex Ross carried in an 11-yard touchdown run with 6:57 to play, saving Stoops the indignity of his first shutout in Norman.

And, worst of all, their longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables stood on the opposite sideline, picking up his former colleague Josh Heupel‘s offense and slamming it on its head.

There is reason for optimism next season. Baker MayfieldDorial Green-Beckham and possibly Joe Mixon figure to be quality reinforcements for an offense that sorely needs them. But for a program without an outright conference title since 2010 and that has lost at least two regular season games for six years running, for the first time it’s fair to wonder if the coaching in Norman is good enough to harness the talent in front of it.

The good – and bad – news for Stoops? He’s got nine long months to stew on it.

Brent Venables having his way with his former team

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Clemson’s defense is so thoroughly dominating Oklahoma’s offense, its almost as if its defensive coordinator spent the past 13 years practicing against the Sooners’ attack on a daily basis.

The 17th-ranked Tigers have had every answer for Oklahoma, leading the Russell Athletic Bowl 27-0 at the half.

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt hit his first pass for a 65-yard touchdown pass to Artavis Scott and didn’t let up from there, hitting 16-of-20 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Even when things are apparently going well for the Sooners, they’re going bad. Sooners defensive lineman Charles Tapper tipped and caught a Stoudt pass, returning it for an apparent 64-yard touchdown and pulling OU to within 20-7, but linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was called offsides. Making matters worse, the penalty turned a 4th-and-4 into a first down for Clemson; the Tigers would later score on the drive on a 26-yard pass from Stoudt to Mike Williams.

But the real story has been Clemson’s defense. Trevor Knight has completed 5-of-14 passes for 27 yards with two interceptions. Samaje Perine has rushed 14 times for 62 yards, but ended Oklahoma’s one promising drive with a fumble.

The Sooners’ offense has actually been out-scored through one half, trailing the Tigers’ defense 7-0 thanks to Ben Boulware‘s 47-yard pick six to push the lead to 17-0 with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter.

Overall, Clemson is out-gaining Oklahoma 206-90.

Clemson will receive the ball to open the second half.

CFT Previews: The Russell Athletic Bowl

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WHO: No. 17 Clemson (9-3) vs. Oklahoma (8-4)
WHAT: The 25th Russell Athletic Bowl
WHERE: Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET Dec. 29 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The story lines here are obvious – the quarterbacks and the defensive coordinators. Let’s start with the quarterbacks. Clemson is without Deshaun Watson after the freshman underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL. He played in the Tigers’ 35-17 win over South Carolina, and the program’s original plan was to play him in the bowl game and schedule surgery for January, but head coach Dabo Swinney decided the Russell Athletic Bowl wasn’t worth risking a potential All-American’s career over, so the surgery date was moved up. This leaves Clemson with senior Cole Stoudt, an on-again/off-again signal caller who actually finished the regular season as the club’s leading passer. Stoudt began the season as the starter but somehow got worse as the season progressed, and by November he could barely complete a pass against ACC defenses. That’s not an exaggeration. Stoudt went a combined 4-of-13 for 16 yards with four interceptions against Georgia Tech and South Carolina.

On the other sideline, Oklahoma is going through the opposite situation. Trevor Knight is set to return after leaving the Sooners’ 48-14 loss to Baylor with transient quadriplegia. Freshman Cody Thomas replaced Knight and completed 23-of-50 passes for 292 yards with two touchdowns and three picks in two games and change running the Sooners’ offense. And, really, Thomas’ running of the Sooners offense was simply throwing the ball to give Samaje Perine a rest from running over defenders who happened to be in front of him. The FBS single-game rushing record holder carried 85 times for 791 yards and 10 touchdowns since that Baylor loss, but left the Oklahoma State game early with a sprained ankle. In a related story, Oklahoma’s offense sputtered toward the end what turned out to be a horrific loss to Oklahoma State in the regular season finale.

Finally, the defensive coordinators. Brent Venables was an original member of Bob Stoops’ staff at Oklahoma, coming aboard as co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach working with co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Mike Stoops. When Mike Stoops landed the Arizona job in 2004, Venables took sole control of the Sooners’ defense and ran it aplomb. But when Stoops was canned at Arizona, he returned to Oklahoma and all of a sudden Venables was off to Clemson. In the three seasons since, Clemson has fielded a better defense than Oklahoma. Oklahoma has ranked 78th, 52nd and 33rd in yards per play allowed under Stoops, while Clemson has placed 69th, 23rd and first under Venables.

All in all, the Russell Athletic Bowl sets up to be an evenly matched game. Do you like Oklahoma with a healthy Perine and a returned Knight against one of the nation’s best defenses, or a shaky Stoudt playing without Chad Morris against a mediocre Oklahoma defense?

THE PREDICTION: Oklahoma 24, Clemson 21

Ex-Clemson QB Chad Kelly tweets he’s landed at Ole Miss

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Eight months after his unceremonious departure from Clemson, it appears as if Chad Kelly has landed on his quarterbacking feet.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account Wednesday, Kelly, the nephew of Miami great and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, indicated that he would be transferring to Ole Miss after spending the 2014 season at the JUCO level in Mississippi.  Kelly ultimately opted for the SEC school over Indiana and Virginia Tech.

Alabama was also visited on at least a couple of occasions prior to Kelly’s decision, which was made after spending the past two days in Oxford.  Additionally, he had held offers from Florida State, Michigan State and Purdue.

Kelly is expected to participate in spring practice with the Rebels next year.  With Bo Wallace out of eligibility, Kelly will compete with Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade for the starting job. Both players shared backup quarterback duties this season as freshmen, with Buchanan attempting 22 passes and Kincade 17.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney announced April 14 that Kelly had been dismissed from the team for “conduct detrimental to our program.” Kelly, benched following a couple of interceptions, verbally sparred with assistant coaches during the spring game, which triggered the dismissal.

Kelly, along with Cole Stoudt and DeShaun Watson, had been part of a three-headed competition to replace long-time starter Tajh Boyd prior to getting the wrong end of Dabo’s boot.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2012 recruiting class, Kelly was rated as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of New York.  Kelly will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.