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Anatomy of a surprise: How a 315-pound DT made the catch of the night

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Andy Teasdall's fake punt sparks Clemson (0:27)

Andy Teasdall fakes the punt and finds Christian Wilkins for a 31-yard catch, which would lead to a touchdown, is the Mazda Top Play. (0:27)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Christian Wilkins is a 6-foot-4, 315-pound freshman from Connecticut who grew up wanting to be a defensive back. Andy Teasdall is a 5-11, 190-pound fourth-year player who was a receiver and safety in high school.

They could not be more different, nor could the roles they found themselves in Thursday at Sun Life Stadium: Teasdall, the punter, morphing into a quarterback on a gutsy fake punt play in the second quarter and throwing it to a suddenly svelte-looking Wilkins, who made a brilliant catch for a 31-yard gain.

Perfect, right?

"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."

Such is life at Clemson now, as the top-ranked, 14-0 team dominated No. 4 Oklahoma in the second half to win the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl 37-17.

The play that shifted the momentum came on fourth-and-4 on the Tigers' third drive of the game. They were trailing 7-3. They had lost their best defensive player, Shaq Lawson, to a knee injury. Halted at the Oklahoma 44-yard line, Clemson had failed to generate much of an offensive rhythm.

"I felt like we were a little stagnant right there, a little tight," coach Dabo Swinney said. "I wanted to send a message to the guys: 'Listen, we're here to play, and let's cut it loose.' "

So Swinney called "UConn" -- named for Wilkins' home state -- to try to ignite his team. Clemson practices the gadget play every Wednesday against air, with Wilkins saying that he always comes down with the ball.

This might be surprising given that Wilkins is a defensive tackle, but his friends and family who tracked his every play always took note of his presence on the punt team, and they could not help but wonder when Clemson's staff would utilize a guy who spent time at tight end during his sophomore year of high school.

"They're always like, 'C'mon, Christian. When are you gonna get the ball? When are you gonna get the ball?' " Wilkins said. "And I'm always just like, 'We got nothing drawn up.' "

Added Teasdall: "He's an athlete. You should see him play basketball."

Two plays later, Clemson took its first lead of the game, scoring the first of its four touchdowns. By putting Teasdall on center stage after a chewing-out that would have wrecked weaker men in the ACC title game -- Teasdall had said he was "hoping to avoid" the spotlight after going rogue -- Swinney sent a powerful message to his team.

The back-shoulder throw was textbook, as was Wilkins' body control in hauling it in. It was a highlight that will be replayed for years to come, and a moment the 20-year-old will never forget. But Wilkins, who made three tackles Thursday, was more satisfied with the efforts of the defensive line in playing defense. Even without Lawson, Clemson pitched a second-half shutout, stopping Oklahoma behind the line of scrimmage nine times on the night and sacking Baker Mayfield five times.

"Catches are fun, but that's all they are," Wilkins said. "It's just real fun, but it's nothing like the emotion of just dominating the guys in front of you and getting so excited with your brothers after they make a big play. You get a sack, it's just the best."

Wilkins has a touchdown dance ready for whenever his time in the end zone arrives. Based on his movement against the Sooners, the possibility of that potential score are now doubled.

If that happens, he's definitely keeping the football as a souvenir.

"If I scored, I probably would've saved it," Wilkins said.