Aside from being the most entertaining play of the Orange Bowl, Christian Wilkins' 31-yard reception was perhaps the most important play of the College Football Playoff semifinal matchup between No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma.
Down 7-3 early in the second quarter, Clemson needed a pick-me-up and head coach Dabo Swinney new exactly where to go to get it: UConn.
That's the name of the fake punt play that resulted in a 31-yard pass to Wilkins, a 6-4, 315-pound freshman defensive tackle. The play not only resurrected the Tigers' third drive of the game, but proved to be the momentum-changer that sparked their 37-17 victory over the Sooners and punched their ticket to the national title game where No. 1 Clemson (14-0) will face No. 2 Alabama (13-1) on Jan. 11.
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"I felt like we were a little stagnant right there, a little tight," Swinney said. "I wanted to send a message to the guys: 'Listen, we're here to play, and let's cut it loose.' "
The play unfolded as Clemson faced fourth down with four yards to go at Oklahoma's 44-yard line with a little under 14 minutes left in the first half.
After working on the play every Wednesday during the season, Swinney decided it was finally team to unveil "UConn," which earned its name because Wilkins played high school football at Suffield Academy in Connecticut.
At the start of the play, Wilkins lines up in his blocking back position, then rolls to his left down the sideline. Punter Andy Teasdall, who got ripped by Dabo Swinney for attempting a fake punt in the ACC Championship Game against North Carolina, did not disappoint. The redshirt junior dropped a near perfect pass to Wilkins, who made it all the way to the Oklahoma 13-yard line. It was the first time in school history a defensive tackle caught a pass.
"I wish he would've led me a little more -- I would've took it to the house," Wilkins quipped. "I was upset a little bit. Looking back now I definitely think I could've scored or got a few more yards out of it for sure."
Two plays later, quarterback Deshaun Watson raced into the end zone from five yards out to take a 10-7 lead en route to capturing a 37-17 victory and the Tigers' first appearance in a national title game since 1981.