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ACC Championship film review

Please comment and ask questions on what you dont understand, these take a long time to do well. The goal here is to look for both good plays and bad technique. If theres anything that you would like to see or have explained, just ask.
Without knowing the exact assignment of each defender on every scheme called, I'm going to start from the assumption that the assignments on each play are the same. For most of the game that was the case: all the down linemen crash on the dive with the LB as force players (i.e., the QB) and the secondary with pitch responsibility. If its obvious on a play that this is not the case, I'll make note of it.

I am only going to cover Clemson's offensive highlights and lowlights on each drive, not the play by play review. I think most of us would agree that CJ was the offense and only the highlight clips need be seen.

ESPN Play-by-Play

1st CU Drive starts at the CU 29. 1st down catch by Palmer, but Walker was badly whipped on an inside move and Parker was nearly sacked. On 1st and 10 from the CU 41, CJ Spiller, 40 yards on an outside HB Power play

Parker to Ford, on what looks like a stop/quick-out, down to the 3. CJ cuts it in for the TD on another Power play. 7-0 CU, 7 plays 71 yards.

Good opening drive, Clemson using a little more motion than they have been during the winning streak.

Defensive drive starts from the GT 15. Conner has correct position on the QB after Bowers is cut blocked. He doesnt PRESS the pitch, but has position. Pitch goes to Roddy Jones for 22, because of Gilchrist being cut blocked and Thomas' block on Butler.... Next play is the same but Butler goes to the QB instead of the pitch man, WRONG ASSIGNMENT, Conner's man, and Roddy Jones for 21 more....

....Dive handled for 3.... Marcus Wright on a orbit-reverse pitch for 4, just well blocked.... Nesbitt gets a 1st down because Brandon Thompson fails to make the tackle, but excellent penetration, linebackers blown off the ball.... Anthony Allen stopped on a counter by Bowers, good job to stay home..... Dwyer on a pitch for 2, well-stopped by Sapp.... Roddy Jones was wide open with Maye in coverage, who stumbled, and dropped the ball inside the 5. 47 yd FG, 7-3, 9 plays 54 yards

GT does an outstanding job of WR blocking downfield, good at cracks and stalk blocks. I hope Clemson's WRs are paying attention to this in any film review they look at. Other than the two long pitch plays the defense was adequate. Its clear from the start that Paul Johnson wishes to attack Clemson on the perimeter.

2nd CU drive starts from our 26. Morgan moved to other side and whips both Austin and Hairston on the first pass to Harper, ran right through the B-gap. Spiller again limping a little after a tough 4 yard carry inside. Ellington for 18 right up the middle on a zone play. Damn he hits a hole fast. 2nd & 7 pass, thrown early, on what looked like a screen goes for nothing; Morgan was right in Parker's face. 3rd down throw to Allen was just off, but excellent coverage by GT. Jackson misses 52 yd FG, slipped on the bad footing.

The footing was very bad for this game, plays right into GT's hands really. I'm surprised the field condition would be that bad at an NFL stadium. Another good drive by CU but just couldnt get the 3rd down completion.

Defensive drive starts at the GT 35. Butler good job to stop Thomas one-on-one.... Nesbitt for 6, Sapp and Maye standing there. SAPP SHOULD HAMMER HIS ASS with Maye as backup on the pitch.... 3rd & 1, inside veer play, Bowers hammers Dwyer, but #15 has a hand on Maye's shoulder pads and he cant get free while Conner is woefully weak on the tackle-6 yard gain..... Pass to Peebles is too far in front of him, Safety late getting to him or it would've been a 20-30 yard gain, looks like CU is playing some Cover 4.... Goodman runs down Nesbitt for a short gain..... 3rd & 8 play, Maye blocked out by a Guard, and Dwyer goes for 20. GT had one WB set out wide on this play, forcing Clemson to shift the LBs over to cover him, Brandon Maye quickly ran over a little to where he'd have been standing normally and once he was blocked by the Guard head-on it was through.....

Midline keeper for 3.... Orbit pitch again for 7, well-blocked by GT, but Bowers nearly had him the backfield. END of 1st QTR.  Tig Willard has bad position on Dwyer run for 10 outside.... Jenkins beats his blocker and tackles Dwyer for 2.... Pitch out strung out well, and well played by Willard outside.... Dwyer runs right behind his LT, Willard can't get a hand on him, nor can McDaniel (?) or Maye as he goes into the endzone. 10-7 GT, 12 plays 65 yards, 05:18

See the young guys make a good play, then follow it up with a bad one. Wingbacks for GT are doing TOO well against our LBs and Safeties in one-on-one blocks. Bowers played really well on this drive, getting off his blocks every time. The inside plays to Dwyer worked because they were double-teaming the NG (chavis or thompson) and then the extra blocker comes off and nails the LB (usually Maye). Guys are not ATTACKING the QB on the pitch.

CU starts at the 43, Parker pressured and throws it a little hard to Ellington, it bounces off his hands and right into the defender's hands at the GT 45. 9 times out of 10 that is not caught by the DB.

Defensive drive from their 45. Nesbitt for 2, well played by Maye (he got off his blocker and attacked). Maye overruns the next Dive play and doesnt attack the B-gap, and Lyons gets 6..... Same play again gets the 1st down, but Maye doesnt overrun it..... Maye carried for 2 yards as Anthony Allen goes for 8 on an orbit-pitch....Willard shoots his gap and manages to slow Dwyer down for a short gain.... 2 Missed tackles and CB to one side is cut-blocked on a 7 yd gain, but Thompson smacked Nesbitt right in the face, tremendous first step.... Jenkins offsides for 5.... Thompson beats his man again and blows up the Dive on a short gain.... KA is cut-blocked, and the safety reacts to the pitch as Peebles gets for 13 yard gain on a pass, same play as before that was incomplete down the seam.... Dive stopped for 1.... 3 penatlies push them back to the 17. Rennie Moore had a good sack negated on the holding call, and he was the one that got held.... Conner makes a great play on a dive and flattens Dwyer.... Jarvis Jenkins makes a great play to tackle Dwyer on a screen pass for a loss of 7. 49 yd FG, 13-7, 12 plays 23 yards, 07:40

A win for the defense on this drive. Thompson was unstoppable and in the backfield on every play. Maye being his usual self.

CU starts at the 35. 5 straight hard runs by Spiller, zone's and Iso plays. Spiller for 41 on the TD on a pitch, good perimeter blocking. Terrible snap on the XP attempt, absolutely terrible. 13-13, 5 plays 65 yards

There is no excuse for a snap thats THAT bad. It was behind Wade's head, be thankful he can handle the ball well.

Defensive drive starts from the GT 36 with 2:55 on the clock. Nesbitt overthrows wide open WR....Late pitch to Jones for 8 is fumbled when KA hits him, but Nesbitt recovers it. Whomever was playing the Nose on this play ate up Lyons again....Dwyer short dive for 1st down....Conner shoots the gap for a loss, GT calls TO....Comeback pass completed for 9, but good coverage by Butler....Dwyer dive for a couple...Thomas drops a 9 yard pass that was low....Throwback screen to Hill for 8, poor coverage by whomever was the CB on playside.....3rd &2 keeper gets the 1st down...Dwyer for a couple....3rd & 8 pass was underthrown to Hill and Butler was on his back, PI called. He didn't have to touch him. I think the pass was uncatchable....Pressure forces a throwaway....Pass into the flats for 8 to Melton, then GT kicks. 28 yd FG, 16-13 GT, 15 plays 53 yards, 02:49

PI call was an uncatchable pass. Again, the guys playing the Nose are eating up GT inside, but GT is combo blocking for one second and then the lineman goes up and pushes Maye 15 yards down the field. Kevin Alexander is essentially a non-factor, being cut blocked by the Wing or the OT is coming off and taking him on veers.

Clemson kneels to out the half.


Defense: Clemson is doing OK with the dive. Thompson and Jenkins are unstoppable up front. LBs are being blocked by Guards 5-10 yards down the field at times. Perimeter play though, is just bad. The corners and safeties are being cut blocked by the Wings and WRs. They get chunks on 1st and 2nd down and set up 3rd & short yardage and we arent so good against the Dive that we can limit it to less than 2 yards.

170 yards rushing, 30 yards passing, 9/12 on 3rd down. 9 of those attempts were 4 yds or less.

But the GT blocking is exceptional. GT has the ball 19:41 to 10:19 in the half.

Offense: All CJ.  146 yards rushing, 27 yards passing, 2/3 on 3rd down


Defensive drive starts from the GT 29. Pitch to Jones for 13, same play as to start the game. Sapp was there to force, but no secondary there to handle the pitch man....Bowers and Thompson eat up Dwyer....Nesbitt eaten up by Bowers, good tackle....3rd &10, same little wing pass to Peebles as before, for 8. I dont know why McDaniel was playing that far off....4th&2 at midfield, defense was expecting Dive and Bowers hits Dwyer in the mouth, Conner correctly forces the pitch, but Gilchrist was cut blocked by the Wingback, 7 yard gain....Maye takes Nesbitt for no gain on a busted play...15 yd gain by Nesbitt, Conner caught by a pitch fake and ends up hitting nobody, then Maye misses a tackle along with Gilchrist and Chancellor attempts a weak one (vid below of the loop scheme of blocking it, compare to the veer explained below, watch the RT)

...Dive for 2...Goodman misses Nesbitt, who gets free for 7. Gilchrist missed tackle. Branch finally hits him and both Maye and Alexander are 10 yards downfield.....3rd & 1,Nesbitt keeper off tackle for a 1st, NOBODY ATTACKS....Midline keeper by Nesbitt for the TD. 2 missed tackles, one weak one by McDaniel. KA blocked by the lead WB. As in game 1, Cumbie takes the Dive instead of controlling his blocker and waiting as he should. GT has more blockers than we do defenders here. 23-13 GT, 11 plays 71 yards

I've never seen RBs, and thats what these Wingbacks are, who block this well since Nebraska of the mid-90s. Its difficult for a LB to get off somebody who dives at his knees. Their linemen stick with the DEs just long enough for them to not eat up Nesbitt in the backfield, then veer to hit the LBs and drive them 10 yards.

CU starts from our 40. Spiller stopped for no gain because we have Jacoby trying to cut block Derrick Morgan, WTF? Palmer and Walker pancaked his ass on the next play though.... Palmer for 20 on a wide open out route, LB never picked him up....CJ for 36 on an outside Iso with orbit motion, excellent seal block by Palmer and Hairston to spring it, 23-20, 5 plays 60 yards

GT starts at their 30. Dive for 2...Ricky Sapp burst through backfield to stop Nesbitt for loss....D. Thomas for 70 yd TD on a hitch-n-go. 30-20.

Most disappointing play of the game, no way should he have been that open. He puts a double move on Butler, who is worried about a pitchout, on 3rd & 10. Gilchrist had his eyes on the WB, who was matched up man/man on a LB and didn't get his eyes over to Thomas. If he'd been there, no TD. I can't tell for sure whether we're playing Cover 4 or Cover 2, because of the alignment, but he should be there helping Butler. Defense finally gets them stopped on 1st and 2nd down, and we choke. I really believe the game was lost here.

CU starts at our 26. Harper gets good blocking on a couple plays, CJ didnt get too much of it on a Power O play, because of no push by Cloy/Smith on the right side.... Jacoby makes a great catch off the turf, but a badly low throw.....Parker intercepted by Terrant. He had time to get rid of the ball, and held onto it for too long, then Morgan comes free when Parker sees Spiller down the sideline. Parker never set his feet with Morgan coming and it sailed right into Terrant's arms. Whats bad is that we were trying to finally stretch the defense vertically there, which Billy hadn't called until now.

GT return puts them at the CU 28....Dive gets a couple...Botched play is thrown away by Nesbitt...late pitch to Allen gets 4 on the boundary, Conner forced him out. 40yd FG, 33-20. 

Good job by the defense there to hold them, but the INT was killer.

CU starts on our 28. Ellington for 11 on a Power play, MCCLAIN MADE A BLOCK HOLY SHIT....Ellington for 30, good effort by Jacoby to block downfield, Palmer, and Walker....Start of 4th Qtr....Ford runs by Reed and had to wait on the ball just a little, and it bounced off his chest pads after Reed gave him a little bump to the facemask. Thats a bad no-call, would've been a TD. On 4th & 3 we call TO, then come out and go for it, which was the correct call to make with 14min left in the 4th down by 13. A quick out to Ford was thrown behind him, great catch for the first down....Parker sacked by Burnett on a busted play, CJ stumbled on an Isolation handoff, but WHY didnt Parker throw it away?...3rd & 15 and Parker scrambles for 12, good decision....4th & 3, flag thrown on Burnett for interfering with Palmer...CJ carried it in from 9 yards out on a HB Power. 33-27 GT, 10 plays 72 yards

Very clutch drive by the offense, two big 4th down conversions. Most of it was pass calls, not CJ, but again he kept us in it. Now we needed the defense to get a stop.

GT starts from their 25. Nesbitt gets 15 on the first play, because Conner and Maye can't get through their gaps. Bowers jumped off the line to take the PITCH, with the LB supposed to take the QB but nobody got through. An adjustment made by Steele there.

....Nesbitt eaten up for no gain....Dwyer runs right by the front line, and Maye just stands there and takes the blocker instead of playing with his eyes and seeing Dwyer. Chavis misses a tackle before McDaniel and Cumbie run him down for 12....

Sapp and Cumbie stop Dive for 3....McDaniel comes up on a pitch for a 3 yard gain, good hit and well played by the defense...3rd & 4, Dwyer gets 3 up the left side....4th down QB Sneak is stopped for no gain because Bowers blew right past his man inside, and Maye/Jenkins wrap him up. Turnover on downs.

Bowers jumped the count there. They double team Thompson on every play and they cant move him. If our LBs were any good then this drive wouldve gotten nowhere.

Clemson takes over on our 37. Spiller Iso for 54 yards. Excellent block by Allen and Dye to spring it....Makes a 4 yd gain out of a 4 yd loss on the next Power play....Ellington carries it in up the gut on 3rd & 1 on an Iso right behind Cloy, a GT lineman dove behind him and hit his right leg with his shoulder and you could see it break. 34-33 CU, 4 plays 63 yards

The drive was clutch again, but only took about a minute and a half. If we had taken another 2 minutes off, we win the game. I guess the defense was just too tired now because we didnt stop them again. Did I mention I love the isolation? CJ isnt taking it up the designed hole most of the time, so its mostly him.

GT gets the ball on their 14 with 6:11. Dabo told them to get a stop or they dont deserve a title, and we had them in their worst field position, and they just beat us. Crossed up play on incomplete pass, wrong route....Bowers doesnt take Nesbitt as he should, and he gets 8. 3rd down pitch to Allen, Gilchrist and Maye string it out excellently, but Thompson really ate his man up and had Nesbitt by the foot....4th and inches, of course they get it, but Jenkins was playing too high....Conner late in coverage on Dwyer, 21 yds....Dive for 3, Thompson and Bowers again....Quick throw to Thomas, Maxwell playing too far off him and he gets 7, thats scheme to play off his block on a pitch....Nesbitt right up the middle, MLB not charging his GAP....Again off tackle for 10, Maye is cut by the WB, Bowers correctly takes his pitch man, no OLB to see, I believe he was blocked by the LT who was lined up on Bowers...What they are doing is the Veer, where the LT doesnt really touch Bowers at all but lets him go free, as he cuts inside. With Bowers' assignment being the Pitch and not the QB, he just runs into him without looking at Nesbitt. The LT who is on Bowers veer blocks, meaning he goes inside of Bowers and hits the LB to the playside, or the one from the backside scraping. The MLB has the QB in this situation, and he's cut blocked so he cant make the tackle. Thats just perfect execution....Dive stopped by Cumbie for 2....Dive for 8, right by Bowers, Chavis was double teamed into the turf. Well blocked....Dive for 5....Maxwell misses the tackle on the 15 yd TD on what appears to be a counter. 39-34 GT,  13 plays 86 yards

Never forced another 3rd down after that 4th & 1 play.

This is the Veer, watch the Left side of the OL. An alternate scheme they threw at us is called the Loop, when the Tackle goes outside his DE.


CU ball at our 35 with 1:20. Holding pushes us back 10....Throw sails over Dye incomplete...Overthrows CJ on a Fly route, poor decision by Parker....Hits Dye stopped a yard short, low throw and he had to sit to catch it....Morgan stops Parker from scrambling for the 1st down. Game over.

Summarizing thoughts

My original post-championship thoughts

After watching this film, you spend much more time seeing just how good our defensive line really is. Da'Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins, and Brandon Thompson are extremely good. We did get penetration all day with the first team DL, but Ricky Sapp was not really a factor. The backups, however, need some work. Jamie Cumbie does his job but doesnt get the same penetration from the 3-tech, and Miguel Chavis is nowhere near Thompson's ability level on the Nose. Nowhere near him.

Clemson did in fact control the Dive, which I didnt think we did when I watched it live. Look at all those carries for 2-3 yards. The inside guys did their job on the line. No way in hell would I want to play Georgia Tech without Brandon Thompson. I'll go ahead and tell you all now, they will run the Veer to Andre Branch/Malliciah Goodman's side of the field next year; Bowers gave them hell up front. You dont notice it as much because there were not as many TFL or sacks, but they had serious trouble with him.

Where this game was lost on defense is the perimeter. GT pounded away inside against us in Game 1, giving up on the veer, but in this game they kept going back outside, and thats how they killed us. In the first part of the game, the DEs were told to help stop the dive, and that opens up the perimeter for Nesbitt and a pitch man. Johnson took it. In the 2nd half, we started sending the DEs on the pitch man, with the LB assigned to the QB (force), but the LBs cant get off these cut blocks and the veering Olinemen. An OL on a LB is a win for the offense. Kevin Alexander can hold his position most of the time but doesnt get off the block. Maye is hopeless at dodging any blocker, doesnt jump into his gap and NO ONE ALL DAY attacked the QB. Even when the LBs were in the right gaps, they didnt run full force into anyone. They were tentative and appeared confused.

I dont agree with the scheme to send the DE on the Pitch, I'd have him on the QB and tell him to knock his ass flat every play. We did that in game 1, and didnt today, not at all that i noticed. 22 carries for 103 yards for Nesbitt, thats 22 times when he shouldve been flattened. The QB made this offense work, and we only took away the Dive.

Secondary play on the pitch, which was the scheme in the first half, was bad. However, Thomas is big for a WR, and its going to be hard to get anybody off him, thats why they run to his side. The safeties were late, and sometimes cut/arc-blocked by the WB to that side of the field.

Game was lost by being unable to stop them on 1st and 2nd down, not 3rd down. All 3rd downs were short. The 3rd & 10 TD is the only long 3rd down that comes to mind.

GT is the best cut-blocking team I've ever seen, and their OTs run the veer exceptionally well. We did not deserve to win this game, but C.J. Spiller did.

Offense: Good game plan by Napier, in contrast to his bed-wetting in Columbia. He knew to establish the run and did. CJ ate them alive: 20 carries for 233 and 4 TDs. 414 yards of total offense, 323 rushing, only 10 less than GT.

And it was mostly with the simplest play in football: the isolation

Clemson has started running the Power play behind the left side here as the season has tailed off, whereas for most of the year it was Austin as the pulling Guard. This is what I screamed for after the Maryland game.

Parker 10/17 for 91 yds and 2 INTs. GT played substantially more zone than in game 1 but played it well. Most play calls were rushes but still Parker is plagued by inaccuracy. His bullet was a factor in the first INT to Ellington, but Ellington shouldve caught the ball. The 2nd one is entirely on Parker. We were never able to stretch the field vertically but with 323 rushing it doesnt matter really. The offense did what it could do to seal this one.

The OL handled Morgan well enough, and we ran right at him several times. That much was improved over Game 1. Downfield and perimeter blocking was very good by our WRs and TEs, to spring loose nearly every one of CJ's big runs. It would've been nice to hold Morgan for one more second on the last play of the game, but you can't hold it against the line when they did as well as they did against a future 1st Rd pick. However, most of Spiller's Isolation runs did not go up the designated hole, so don't get too excited about the run blocking. Our OL did not fire off the ball the way GT did, which comes as no surprise considering their coach hasnt changed. The left side played well enough but the right side needs to work on their push..