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Clemson 13 – Oklahoma 6
January 2, 1989 ▪ at Orlando ▪ Attendance 53,571
In a match up where both team had a 9-2 record, tenth-ranked Oklahoma, playing their final bowl game and last television appearance for two years due to pending probation, squared off against #13 Clemson, Atlantic Coast Conference champions for the third straight year, in the Florida Citrus Bowl, the third meeting between the two schools. But in 15 previous games against the ACC, a Sooners team had never lost.
For the Tigers, tenth-year coach Danny Ford had returned 17 starters plus the punter for '88, and their only setbacks were a 24-21 loss to Florida State and a 10-3 loss at North Carolina State. They came in averaging 30 points per game, and it was under the direction of senior quarterback Rodney Williams, who had a talented tandem in the backfield, Terry Allen and Wesley McFadden. Their defense again was one of the best in the nation. It had surrendered only 13.7 points per game, and was led by a pair of seniors, end Richard McCullough and cornerback Donnell Woolford, a consensus All-American and Thorpe Award finalist.
For Oklahoma, senior Jamelle Holieway got the start at quarterback and would play in his final collegiate game. Never able to fully return to form from his knee injury in '87, he again went down in the fifth game of the year, and his regular season statistics were a shadow of past performances, having rushed for only 167 yards, a pitiful 2.7 yard per carry average, and four touchdowns. In his place it was sophomore Charles Thompson who picked up the slack, rushing for 829 yards and nine touchdowns, and collected All-Big Eight honors. Either way, the two were in charge of a Sooner offense that had rushed for an average of 333 yards per game and had scored 29.6 points per game.
Meanwhile, the Sooners' defense had surrendered 13.3 points per game. It was led by four all-Big Eight performers, nose guard Curtice Williams, tackles Tony Woods and Scott Evans, and cornerback Scott Garl, none of whom had been a starter except Williams prior to this past season. With both teams having amazingly similar averages on both sides of the ball, it appeared to be an evenly matched game.
Oklahoma got on the board first when Tim Lashar kicked a 35-yard field goal in the opening period. However, Clemson's Chris Gardocki upped the ante in the second period, kicking a pair from 20 and 46 yards to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead into the locker room. Then in the third period, it was Lashar's 30-yard field goal that again tied the game at 6-6, and the defensive struggle headed into the final 15 minutes.
For Clemson, Williams struggled, completing only five of 11 passes, until he directed a fourth quarter drive. He completed all three passes, and ran for two first downs, during a 15-play, 80-yard march that put the Tigers ahead, 13-6.
Oklahoma took over on its own 20 with 2:59 left on the game clock. Faced with a fourth down to keep the drive alive, Holieway scampered for an 11-yard game, and there still was hope. He then completed passes of five, seven, 12, seven, 12 and 13 yards to get the Sooners inside the Clemson 14 with just 12 seconds remaining. However, it was not to be, as three desperate heaves by Holieway went incomplete as time ran out. In a dry and somewhat boring game, interestingly, Oklahoma had passed for more yards than they had rushed for, 138-116.
Holieway completed his playing career as one of the more distinguished quarterbacks in Sooners history. He had a 30-3 record as a starter, second in school history behind Steve Davis' 32 wins, and one of only four quarterbacks in NCAA history to win 30 games and post a .900 winning percentage. As the school's all-time leader in total offense with 5,143 yards, he rushed for 2,713 yards, a Sooners' quarterback record that ranked seventh overall on the charts in Norman, and scored 32 touchdowns, and he had also passed for 2,430 yards, third on the charts, and 22 touchdowns.
Oklahoma (9-3) finished the season ranked 14th in both wire polls.
Source: Jeff Linkowski