Clemson's defense came ready to play today. Everyone needs to give credit to Steele for having them prepared and executing their assignments about as well as you can against the triple option.
The scheme we executed today was essentially a blend of two schemes we used last season. Ends were in 2-point stance and were on Dive to QB all day that I saw, and there did not seem to be any change in assignment there. OLB on the pitch back with secondary support, frequently with DeAndre coming down in the alley to present an 8 man front. Corico Hawkins had Dive to QB duties though the End play was so good that he rarely had to be there to stop the play. We aligned the linebackers in the same staggered alignment we used in the ACCCG, but brought them a little closer to the line of scrimmage. Corico wasn't standing as far away as Maye was in the same MLB spot last year. On the front we used the same 1 and 3 technique alignment that we normally run, though I did not quite see how we determined the strength (I believe Field/Boundary). In addition, we played many EVEN fronts with 2i-2i alignments that prevented the midline from working (though they did not appear to call it much at all).
Clemson also played DTs at the End positions several times, and moved Branch to linebacker to make things difficult for Tech's blockers to his side. In the secondary we played 4-across and there was a little Cover 2 thrown in for good measure, which was no different than the ACCCG. This was what we predicted beforehand.
In our articles earlier this week I gave two primary objectives to execute to stop triple option teams, stop the FB Dive and Hammer the QB. Clemson did both today. The only times Tech got significant yards on the Dive were when we were in EVEN fronts and the Center had a clear path to Hawkins and either blocked him or forced Hawkins to go the wrong way and take himself out of the play. When the Dive went to the B-gap, the End was always there waiting for him, and many times the End would wrap the FB up and then break free to also tackle Nesbitt, who was hit all afternoon. In the 2nd half they began to have success by cut-blocking the Ends.
We were also helped by a series of questionable pass calls early on from Johnson. I was scratching my head in the 1st and 2nd quarters when Tech tried to throw the ball. They didn't need to. Nesbitt is an awful thrower and we should've picked off 4 passes today. Once they figured out to go underneath against our weak LB coverage they had success however, and this won't go unnoticed by our future opponents.
While no one really stood out up front by having their name called on every play (and I'm certain Tech intentionally ran away from Bowers), the DL should get a majority of the credit. The DEs always executed their block-down step down and were always standing in the B-gap waiting for the play. The Tackles did an outstanding job clogging up holes to stop the Dive and spill it to the DE. The DE used their eyes and watched Nesbitt keep it or pitch it. We weren't awesome (4.9 ypc allowed), but good enough to prevent scores and we stifled Nesbitt (15 car, 2 yds).
Unfortunately I can't say the same thing for the playcalling.
Clemson had immediate success against a terrible defensive front, and did not take advantage of it with the calls. On the very first drive we came out passing from the shotgun. The first 3 plays were all throws. That tells me that our offensive staff barely watched the film of GT thus far. In the first half we threw 19 times and rushed 16, averaging 10 yards a clip. When you can get 4-5 yards per touch, you don't need to throw the ball more than run it, that doesnt make any sense. Why would you only give Andre Ellington 8 carries in the 1st half when he is gutting the defense on every other play? (124 yds in 1st half alone) Hell even The Skirt gained yards, so you know Tech sucks up front. Parker was 11 of 19 for about 100 yards in the 1st half, which itself is not bad, but he did not need to throw the ball that often.
To compound it, even with a lead in the 3rd quarter we kept throwing the football. On the first drive what happened? We came out passing. We got 4 yards on the first touch by AE, then threw 5 straight passes. Why? We were lucky they were caught this week, but I don't see the logic in putting the ball in the air when you are killing them on the ground, not when you've had serious issues with drops in every game thus far.
Kyle had 27 attempts for the day, which wasn't necessary. If he worked on hitting guys in stride we'd have at least 1 more TD for the day. Instead he still throws behind receivers and does not appear to be looking at Allen, who was wide open multiple times today.
I'm thankful that Nuke Hopkins puts forth the correct amount of effort that we don't get from WRs who started the season with more PT. He is aggressive when it comes to getting the football. Every week he impresses me with his ball skills and tenacity in blocks.
Andre Ellington had only 20 carries for the entire day, with just 2 in the 3rd quarter. Everything else came on the last drive. They tell us he's going to get the ball more, and he did get it more than Harper (11c 56 yds), but when your RB gets over 10 a clip in the 1st half why don't you run the hell out of it in the 3rd quarter and put the game away? There is no excuse for Andre having less than 25 carries in any game.
Sometimes I swear they throw it simply because they want to be a passing team, and don't recognize their strengths.
But the last drive was a thing of beauty. When they decided to run the clock off, they bled it dry. 15 plays, 14 rushes, 64 yards, and 7:36 off the clock = instant erection.