“Completely different ballgame;” OU talks Clemson loss, chance at redemption

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MIAMI, Fla. - Some people may think of it as revenge, while others believe it is a form of redemption.

The Sooners are preparing to take on the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl almost exactly one year after suffering one of its worst losses in history to the team.

OU was humiliated in the Russell Athletic Bowl, losing 40-6.

The game will go down as one of the worst bowl losses in OU history.

"No one wants to finish like this.  Not at all.  I'm a team guy, you know what I mean.  That's the way home shaped me  and that's the way I'm gonna be.  I've got another year to make it better...and that's what I'm going to do.  Everything I can to make it better.  We shouldn't finish like this.  No one should want to go out like this," said Eric Striker, OU linebacker, immediately after the loss.

"That left kind of a bitter taste in our mouth. It embarrassed us, there's no doubt about it. Can't sugar coat that. It was very disappointing to be on the sidelines for a game like that, knowing you can't help," said OU quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Now, the team has a chance to face Clemson on an even bigger stage with higher stakes on the line.

The winner of this matchup will be playing for a national championship.

The Sooners say they have grown since the last meeting of the teams, and hope the outcome is different this time.

"We're a completely different team. Obviously, they are, too. They have a different quarterback and they kind of reloaded their defensive line, so I mean, it is  a completely different ballgame, but we're different in the sense that we still lost that day. That's motivation for us," Mayfield said. "I'm in a spot where now I can actually help my team out on the field and not just from the sideline. It's huge for me knowing that I'll be able to put us in urn a different spot, and hopefully it'll turn out a little bit better."

"We're just better. Up and down, we're just better. Chemistry is better as a team. Guys are more mature. Guys are focused, dialed in, so I think it's something we lacked throughout the season last year. We're just a better team than we were a year ago," said Zach Sanchez,

Sanchez told reporters in Miami that the team had a meeting the first day back in Norman after the loss to Clemson.  He says veterans on the team came up with rules and disciplinary consequences to keep everyone on track.

"It was a little selfish a year ago, and it came from the older guys, and that's not something that the younger guys need to be seeing," he said. " We made that a big part for us, that that wasn't going to be a thing. Everybody was going to be all in. It was going to be about the team and not about one person."

It seems OU isn't the only team taking notice of the change.

"Last year, we took care of the ball and I don't think they did. I can't really remember. But that was probably the biggest difference in the game," said Deshaun Watson, Clemson's quarterback.

"It's pretty much the same defense, same guys last year we went up against, but they've gotten a lot better, and you can see they're more confident, too. They do a good job when the ball is in the air, going and attacking just like the receivers, and I think for us as a team, we're going to have to be disciplined in protecting Deshaun," said Charone Peake.