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Maryland Game Film Review


See the end for the summarizing thoughts. Please comment and ask questions on what you dont understand, these take a long time to do well. Our goal here is to look for good plays and bad technique. I may pull a few plays out to discuss the Clemson offense/defense, and if theres anything that you would like to see or have explained, just ask. 

Maryland tried two versions of the zone read (ZR), one is the normal one with the OT going inside to hit the LB and leaving the DE unblocked. The second is a Midline read, where you block the DE and read the DT. I refer to the 2nd as Midline.

Note on my shorthand: IZ/OZ= Inside/Outside Zone; IV=Inverted Veer; Power= Power O; Counters we run are mostly Counter-H's. ZR=Zone read, though a ZR handoff is nothing but IZ.

ESPN Play-by-Play

CU from the 4 - IZ for 7...IZ for 9...False start Bryant...Boyd scrambles due to pressure for 13. DTs were not in their lanes for MD...Allen in the flat for 5...IZ for 7...Howard, Counter H for 4...Bucksweep to Watkins for 34....IZ Bellamy for 5...Counter AE for 4. Price went down and I don't see why, looked like he just keeled over. He barely touched a red jersey...Zone to AE, bounced outside for the 1st down...IZ for 4...IZ bounced out for 3, DE got penetration for once...Boyd keeper on 3rd down zone read, looks like a busted read. AE didnt try to take it and looks like Tajh was confused on who to read on the option. 19 yd FG good, 3-0 Clemson.14 plays 95 yards, 06:35

Maryland's DLmen run themselves right out of their gaps. The bubbles in the front are huge and their LBs aren't covering them. They open up these run lanes themselves. Our OL just lets them go where they want to go and AE sees a monster hole.\

MD from 26 - IZ for 1...TE comes back on a short hitch for 5. LB was there...Quick slant for the 1st, very quick...Drag route, Brewer way too far off his man, Hawkins misses 1 tackle, he gets 9...Blitz, pass is tipped by Willard and nearly picked, but WR kept his eyes on it and caught it...ZR, we string it out and the QB pitches it, gets 5. CB looked like he was held a little...IZ for 2...Bootleg, Rennie Moore forces him out of bounds for a sack. Punt.

Sammy muffs the punt at our 9. Tried to catch it over his shoulder.

Naked bootleg incomplete, thrown in dirt. The man in the back of the endzone was WIDE OPEN and Brown did not see. No safety there on the TE...ZR handoff to Meggett, Goodman decides to stand still, and nobody is there inside to make a play. Hawkins got hit by the veering OT. 7-3 Maryland.

Skeptical of the defensive alignment on the TD play. Hawkins had no other LB to his right. Tig is way to the left in the figure. No one is covering the bubbles on that side. Looks like a 6-H3-2i-6 "G" front.


BT came hard into the A-gap and got penetration, but that RT rammed right into Hawkins. After that, you can see there is no one to defend inside.


So I'd say this is either a bad call by the DC or someone wasn't where they needed to be, plus Hawkins got himself blocked out.

CU from 20 - PA bootleg pass thrown off the back foot, nearly picked. Wasnt enough on the throw, and thrown into coverage...ZR handoff for 22. OLB crashed hard at Boyd, out of position...PA pass thrown too high to Brown, 3 feet over his head, right into the safety's chest. Tajh didnt follow through his delivery...TO Clemson, good timeout call...Quick slant to Brown thrown 6 feet behind him...Empty, avoids one sack and scrambles for 4. McClain held, got declined. Punt.

Mechanical problems for Tajh, which are likely due to whats in his head. I would've run it again after the high pass to Brown. Mightve gone back to the pass too quickly.

MD from 24 - Pass to flat incomplete thanks to pressure...IZ for 2...Brown makes throw outside incomplete, WR could not get separation from Willard. Punt.

CU from 39 - IZ for 4...Boyd looks to the right, throws it right to the waiting CB in the flat. Looked like Watkins was behind him at the sideline and the LB stepped right in front of the pass. Tajh didn't see him.

Returned 46 yds for TD. 14-3 MD.

Maryland was in hard Cover 2 zone, CB stepped inside and the WR was open behind him if Tajh could've hit him. Safety was coming down hard but couldn't have stopped it.



Sammy Watkins returns the next kickoff for 70 yards to the MD 30 - IZ for 3...Bootleg thrown to Peake, makes sliding catch...Counter Trap for 10...Counter for TD. 14-10 Maryland. 4 plays 30 yards, 01:23

MD from 30 - Furstenburg right up the seam on a skinny post or seam route for 40. Cover 1, Hawkins made the collision but got beat. Opened his hips and Furstenburg ran right behind him, and Meeks was so far back that he couldnt help...Slant tipped in the air by the receiver, incomplete. Anthony was in at MLB on this play...IZ for 2....TO MD...ZR and we can't tackle Brown, he goes 23. Brewer had him on a blitz, Branch missed him too...End 1st QTR....ZR handoff for 2...IZ, Meggett fell down in backfield making a cut outside...Both LBs blitz, man to man coverage, and Malliciah Goodman does not peel off on the back as is his responsibility. RB wide open for a TD. 21-10 Maryland.7 plays 70 yards

That was not a key blitz by the LBs and Meeks, they were coming all the way. Goodman has the edge there and if he sees the RB come out, he has to come off the blitz and pick his man up. He didnt.

CU from 34 - Bubble to sammy for 9. Good block...Repeat the same play on other side to Humphries, thrown too high incomplete...IZ for the 1st down, barely...Watkins on a drag route, hit as soon as he catches it. Really good play by the MLB....Thrown to Allen down the sideline on a wheel, too high and too far ahead...Another drag route to Nuke, he is hit immediately and then as he scrambles, loses 4 yards. Punt 6 plays 7 yards

Maryland is playing mostly Cover 1. They made two good plays there, gotta give credit.

MD from 40 - Brown scrambles, Kourtnei Brown misses a tackle, goes for 9...BT blows up a play, misses a tackle, Brown gets back up but still loses 1...Bootleg, Christian forces him out of bounds when he tucks it. Still gets 1st down...Brown throws one up down the sideline, Sensabaugh drops an easy INT. Hit him right in the hands, aimed right at his face...Midline, BT goes way outside around the Guard and Brown follows his man, goes for 15....Thrown high down sideline on Go route, Robinson called for PI. I don't agree with it, but there was contact with the ball in the air...21yd QB Draw for the TD, no linebacker anywhere to make a play. He just runs right past Hawkins, who has no chance. 28-10 Maryland.7 plays 60 yards

Bad. Hawkins was playing Robber, and he picks up the RB coming out as you can see below. Once the RB breaks outside, which Hawkins must respect, Brown steps up and runs to the other side and you can see theres just green grass out there.


Missed tackles, PI call, and guys not where they should be.

CU from 27 - ZR keep for 1...Quick slant to Watkins 7...ZR keep, Boyd breaks one tackle and gets 12. Good read, DE crashed all the way...Screen, no good block on the outside for Hopkins to do anything with. Brandon Thomas was going out and couldnt touch his man. Loses a yard. Really just a badly executed play all around...Boyd finds Bryant sitting open in zone coverage on a hitch for 12...IV to Bellamy for 8...Rollout, hits Brown and he can't pull it in. Definitely catchable...QB keep on a IV for the 1st....PA pass right up the seam to Sam Cooper, just snuck behind the LB and a perfect throw....Boyd throws a beautiful fade to Nuk Hopkins right on the pylon for 6. 28-17 Maryland. 10 plays 73 yards, 03:10

We have installed new things into the offense over the last week. We don't run a real inverted veer option play, we usually run a Power and a play that looks like IV without actually optioning off the DE (TE or FB blocks him), but we are starting to show a real option IV. This and a bucksweep Jet are two things I see run that we havent run yet.

MD from 17 - Brown scrambles for 15. No one behind the DL to help....Brown sees Tyler open on a Go route past Sensabaugh and Meeks isn't there either, but he drops what could've been a long gain or TD. Just dropped it....IZ, huge bubble for him to go through for 6. We were in a 3-3 front and blitzed Branch outside. Willard was over that bubble, but read pass from the WR he was assigned to pick up....Quick slant for just a bit less than the 1st down, against Jenkins...TO MD to challenge spot...Punt.

I see a lot of folks being moved out on the edges to cover WRs and no one left inside to cover bubbles in the fronts we play. Not a lot you can do about that because of their formations and your numbers, but I think there are better calls from the DC to be made.

Once you move those guys out, you have no one able to help against C.J. Brown.

CU from 14 - IZ for 14. Huge holes, OL running right to the 2nd level...IZ for long 4...Hopkins on a Dig/Slant, thrown behind him but he adjusted to catch. Gains 19...ZR keep for 3. Bellamy not good effort on a block...Stop route to Allen at the sticks...Draw, LB made a good play to catch Bellamy in open space...MD sends OLB blitz, Boyd does not see it and Watkins does not read the blitz to adjust to hot route. Fault lies with both of them...TO CU...IW, PA thrown to double covered Nuk, too high. Did not need to throw this ball. Punt.

Watkins was running a vertical route up the seam here, and instead of recognizing blitz from the man with inside leverage on him, the OLB, he continues vertically. Boyd has to see this blitz coming for one, and Watkins has to change his route once he reads blitz.


MD from 20 - IZ for 4...then Maryland takes a knee.


Maryland's defense has had some success by playing Zone coverage and bringing a 5 or 6 man pressure from one side. When they decided to go back to Man coverage, we killed them.

Offensively, yeah Tajh had a horrid start, but we are installing new stuff that are tweaks of plays we already run and havent shown yet.

On defense, we have guys not lined up right, not doing their jobs, making weak tackles, and not standing where they are supposed to be. MD did not run an inverted veer thus far that I have seen, they are running mostly the regular zone read option of the DE. I noticed only one Midline read.

Brown has 70 yds passing and 155 total on himself.

Start 3rd QTR

MD from 22 - Midline for 11...BT gets pressure and forces a throw away. Good coverage too...ZR for 7...Short dump for the 1st down, nice in & out route against Jenkins...Branch runs himself out of his lane, Brown steps up and scrambles all the way to the next 1st down, no underneath coverage. All M2M...Branch comes through basically free, and Brown made him miss totally, then so does Moore. Brown scrambles for 13 more. Coty Sensabaugh took a bad angle to do anything, fastest man on the team and Brown outruns him to the sticks...Kourtnei Brown horse collars the jersey, gets flagged on the sack....We blitz, they called a slipscreen and the WR drops it. Would've killed us. Perfect playcall...TE screen, we had the right playcall on, and dropped a lineman, who got cut blocked anyway. Furstenburg then swats Rashard Hall away and dodges Meeks on his shitty tackle attempt for the TD. 35-17 Maryland. 8 plays 78 yards, 01:54

Damn that was an awful effort by Hall. HIT THE GUY or flatten yourself trying.

Our DL just arent staying in their rush lanes at all.

CU from 23 - Quick swing route to AE, hit as soon as he caught it...Counter H to Bellamy, they got penetration outside and hes caught for a loss...Out route to Allen, short of 1st down. Punt.

MD from 28 - Bashaud Breeland steps under a cut, and returns it to the 15.

CU from 15 - Bucksweep for 3...IZ, Ellington slipped. Gain of 1...Fade to Sammy. 35-24 Maryland.

MD from 11 - Midline for 7...ZR for 7...Midline for 9...ZR, Branch plays it right, but they have a wheel coming around behind to pitch to. Stephone Anthony has the pitch assignment and misses the tackle. Bad angle, goes read speed sweep, Brown plays the read right but the WR runs right past him on the sweep for 24....Swing route for 10, and Anthony is just not fast enough reading the pass and getting over there...speed option, DE went to the back which he aint supposed to do, no one to cover CJ Brown for 3 yd gain....Brown lobs one up to Pickett, good coverage by Hawk...Christian nice open field tackle on Brown as he scrambles against a stunt. 27 yd FG. 38-24 Maryland. 10 plays 80 yards

This drive was horrid. We have no discipline. One play we'll do the force properly, and someone is doing the pitch coverage wrong. The next time we do the pitch and not the keep.

The midline takes advantage of Thompson's aggression. He'll go to the back and the OL goes to the 2nd level, taking out the LB that has Brown. Then Brown goes 7-9 yards.

CU from 38 - AE 55 yards on a basic IZ. Makes 2-3 guys miss....Power pass rollout, Hopkins couldnt pull it in. Good coverage by the CB. Tajh could've run that in perhaps. This play was a run/pass option for him...IZ for 2...Pass tipped at the LOS. Watkins was wide open at the post. FG. 38-27 Maryland. 5 plays 56 yards

MD from 38 - zone read pitch for 3, Hawkins/Crawford played it right...ZR, Kourtnei plays it well, gain of 1...Sack by BT as Brown steps up. Punt.

Best drive of the half by far.

CU from 30 - Rollout, Stop & Go route to Sammy for 51. Great catch...ZR keep for 4...Slant N Go pass to Sammy for the TD...DA catches the throw back for the 2XP. 38-35 Maryland. 3 plays 70 yards, 00:58

I dont think I've ever seen a receiver who consistently attacks the football like Sammy.

MD from 28 - Brown pass knocked away by Jenkins. Good play....IZ for 4...3rd & 4, ZR, Crawford stepped down, Brown went around and Meeks wasnt in position to do anything. Gets 19...ZR handoff, Christian stuffs it for 4...IZ stuffed by BT...3rd & 5, Hawkins blitzes, misses him, but Branch is there when he steps up. Punt.

See below, Crawford is the DE, and stands pat because we've chosen to force the QB to give the ball, but Brown doesnt give. Crawford steps a little too far inside.


Crawford is too far inside, trying to cover both options, and thats how the option beats you. Meeks should be scraping around outside Crawford, but he stepped inside too. After that, its just a race.


CU from 20 - ZR bubble, Watkins caught it above the grass and couldnt get anywhere with it. Low throw...Comeback to Brown for 4...Start 4th QTR...Boyd looks once, then scrambles for the 1st down. We got a good spot...ZR option pass to Allen sneaking out for 8....Counter for 2...Bubble to Humphries for about 9. Good blocking by Brown out there...Boyd does a half-roll due to pressure, finds Allen sitting for about 12....Draw, Howard makes the first 2 guys miss and gets 8...Bootleg, Boyd throws back across field to Sammy at the opposite boundary, do NOT like that throw. You dont throw back across....ZR option pass to Brown for 8...PA sweep to Humphries, rollout and hits Humphries right at the sideline, who makes 2 guys miss for 11...PA, Bootleg and threads a needle to Brown for the TD. Excellent throw and catch. 42-38 Clemson.12 plays 80 yards, 04:36

Maryland looks tired to me. I'm surprised we didnt run the ball more this drive.

MD from 34 - Hall makes a nice tackle on an zone that bounced outside...PA, thrown way too far from the WR....Quick out to Boykins, they got a pick set up on us...Midline, Brown goes 10....Jet sweep, Breeland makes good open field tackle, never lost leverage, nice play...3rd & 1, QB Sneak...4th & 1, IZ and Meggett gets the yard...ZR, pitchout and Jenkins is on it. Nice tackle...quick slant, gains 7...ZR handoff gets the 1st down...Quick out, Jenkins bats it away....Thrown incomplete, great throw but WR cant get it. Drop....TO CU...Another slow TE screen for 32 yd TD. 45-42 Maryland.

So glad we called a TO so they could run that screen.  They just outblocked us there. LB got double-teamed.

We had some good plays on this drive, but whenever they needed a 1st down, they managed to get it.

Notice also that they arent running the midline every time, but when they do it kills us.

Sammy Watkins

MD from 35 - Midline handoff, Meggett goes 23. 1st time they've handed the ball off when optioning Midline....Midline option with a backside pass for 5...Skinny post to Furstenburg, Christian is right with him....Midline handoff, we finally stop it. They also get holding called...Quick slant complete for 6...TO MD. They should've had the decision to go for it made on 4th and 9 at our 41. Bad clock management....Sure 1st down catch batted away by Sensabaugh. Turnover on downs.

CU from 41 - Fumbled handoff, thats on Tajh, snap bounced off his facemask...Tunnel screen to Sammy for 10...Boyd throws strike to Brown for 10, double slant backside...Andre Ellington ices it. 44 yards. 56-45 Clemson. 4 plays 59 yards

MD from 32 - Brown scrambles, Hawkins has the assignment and cant catch up with him. Gains 18...Quick hitch for 4...Quick slant dropped...Andre Branch pulls him down by the jersey, loss of 20 on the sack...Brown scrambles and Tyler makes the catch at the 10. Called back on holding...last ball thrown incomplete. Turnover on downs.

I cannot believe Breeland and Meeks let him catch that ball at our 10. Meeks should be 5 yards deeper.

Clemson runs it 3 times to run off the last 1:54.


Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.

Summarizing Thoughts.

Here is the midline that Georgia Tech runs, and how you defend it. The version of the midline that comes from the spread set works on the same principle. You let the 3-technique DT go unblocked, and option off him. Against the Flexbone, he takes the FB dive almost every time, and Nesbitt goes untouched against us for chunks. Against the spread, he'll go for the inside zone, as Brandon Thompson did. More can be found here.

MD results on Midline: 15 in 1st half, 11, 7, 9, 10, 23 handoff, then a backside pass off it for 5, and we finally stop it once. Everything else was ZR and scrambling.

In the video below, I've combined one QB keep off midline with the handoff later in the game. The 2nd shows GT running it against us two years ago.

The ZR's defense is described here, at least my preferred ways of handling it. Steele has shown that he cross-reads and reads it straight up. Steele depends on his LB scraping around to make a play, but unfortunately they always get taken out by the LB. First it was Maye, now Hawkins. Neither is good enough to get free apparently. We eventually did begin to play it right, and have the DE sit on the QB, but you saw above when Crawford got beat that the DE has to be disciplined. If he aint right on the spot, he'll get beat outside.

Nothing else I can say besides we suck at it from the LB spot. We also suck against running QBs because we play too much Man/Robber against it, and the MLB aint good enough to make the play. One of the TDs above is noted as having a RB come out on a pattern and doing an out cut, that one is forgiven. The rest of the time we need to learn how to be discplined in our rush lanes.

We were in mostly Man coverage early, but we did sprinkle in our pattern match zone. It can be difficult to tell what the coverage really is just from the limited TV angles, but there was some zone mixed. In the 2nd half, towards the end of the 3rd, I did notice more zone. Is it all because we were in more M2M? I dont think so. I think Steele knows our DBs can handle their WRs, and he wanted to challenge. I just think we don't have disciplined defenders up front in this game, and the LB play (and tackling overall) was bad.

Thoughts on what happened against Maryland?

Steele: What happened in a nutshell – it’s very easy to explain. You had the two Y screens that were big plays, and what happened was the backside guy away from it – not the guy who had the tight end; there was supposed to be a zone guy in the middle of the field 10 yards deep, so when he catches it, the guy’s 8 yards from him. For whatever reason – we’ve done it for I can’t tell you how many times – the guy carried No. 3 and ran with it, and we had a safety on him. And it happened three times in the game, two times when they ran that.

What do you say? You ask them why. What did you have? I have post 3 and sit zone. Why’d you carry? (Shrugs shoulders).

Those two plays, the seven scrambles – which were simple stuff, really, in regards to rush lanes. And it was taking turns being out of rush lanes. Then the discipline of knowing you have a scrambling quarterback. You can be a little loose and take some chances when you don’t have a scrambling quarterback in your rush lanes. You can get a little wide and not fight back into your rush lane, no problem. But you have to be disciplined enough when you know you have a scrambler.

The rush lanes got imbalanced five times in seven scrambles. Actually, three of the four sacks came on scrambles, too. But it was just rush lanes. Of the seven times, I don’t think but one guy was a repeat offender. It wasn’t any innovative concept.

Now, the zone-read if you will, it wasn’t the traditional zone-read (that got us). We played that. They ran the zone read and gave it numerous times, no problem. They ran the zone read and kept it, and we missed a tackle with (Xavier) Brewer 6 yards deep in the backfield and he came out of there. And we had another player miss a tackle and we had another player make the tackle.

In the second half, they got into the midline zone read where they fanned out, blocked down and left the 3-technique – a defensive lineman – and read him. It was a freakish deal where those six plays came on five different guys. It’s not something we hadn’t worked on. We worked on it last week a couple of times.

He was very athletic. But conceptually, there wasn’t anything like, "Oh, what are we going to do here?"

I hate to even say this, but the truth of the matter is, there were 81 plays, and 14 of them are sickening to watch. The rest of them, average football game.

Is much of that irrelevant because you don’t face a true scrambling quarterback the rest of the regular season?

That’s not true in football. There’s so much copycat, you’ll never know when it will pop up again. You don’t have to put a quarterback back there and run it. You can go wildcat and run the same play.

It’s on the script today. But it was on the script last week, too, now. The guy did a great job of running it. But again, we have to be disciplined, accountable and play with our eyes.

You can see it on the tape, what happened, we got down 14-0 real quick and had played six plays. Guys started trying to press a little bit, and then a couple of things didn’t go well, and we got a bit undisciplined in what we were doing.

We got calmed back down and there were some good plays on the tape. But there were 14 plays that were ugly.

One of our writers noted my postgame complaint about our Safety play, the non-existent safety play that is...

How do you feel about your play at safety right now? Appears as if some of the big plays you’ve surrendered lately have been exacerbated by them taking bad angles.

We’ve gotten good snaps out of it. We have a few issues. We still have an issue in tackling, and I say that as a blanket statement. We have some good tacklers, but we have some who just have to get better at tackling.

Angles, it’s a golf swing. You have to have the right speed, you have to have the right approach, and you have to have the right follow-through. If you get a little bit off, then it starts getting in your head and you don’t know what you’re doing and it can be a problem.

Angles are created by approach, but sometimes misjudgment. You can misjudge speed.

Got to give credit to Martin Jenkins and Bashaud Breeland for playing good games at the Nickel and CB spots. Both came ready to play today. Besides them, and a decent day from Branch, I don't have many good things to say about this defense. If we dont tackle better for Georgia Tech, we'll be in another shootout like this.




Tajh started out with some mechanical problems, but its in his head. He just started out badly. He wasnt leaning into his throws on the follow through, so it was all arm, and that either ends up sailing high, or its underthrown in the dirt. After Chad set him straight, he fixed it.

Q: What’s your sense for why Tajh Boyd has seemed to struggle early in road games?

Chad: I don’t know. I think we’ve all gotten pretty accustomed to what Tajh looked like versus Auburn and Florida State. We’re expecting that every week. He wasn’t on his game early on, and maybe I didn’t throw the ball enough in that opening drive, give him something simple to hit. It took him a little bit to get settled in. He had two other passes that probably should have been picked, and eventually it bit us. He and I would talk on the sidelines and he was frustrated a bit. Probably the first time this year I’ve seen him frustrated and kind of out of his element. He knew that with us being behind, some of that was on him, and he wasn’t playing well. The injury had nothing to do with it. It was just the fact that sometimes you have those games and you have to try to find a way to bring him through it. Everybody was wanting to talk to him and say settle down, but at some point as a quarterback you don’t want to hear anybody. You just want to sit down, get away from me, give me a moment to figure things out. Early in the first half, I told him … look, if I need to get Cole Stoudt ready, I will. You know I will. But I said you need to let me know something here. At that point, he said no, coach, I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute. At no point in that game did Tajh Boyd think we were going to lose that game. You just deal with it. You learn how to play, and you have to keep reminding yourself this is a young man who’s only played seven games. He’s had an unbelievable start and we wouldn’t be in this situation if Tajh hadn’t played well for us. So you just find ways to make it happen. That’s the growing process.

Our offensive line had the best day as a group in run blocking by far, but something must be said about the suckage of the Maryland front. We forced them into 4-2-5 sets and the LB was 5 yards off the heels of the linemen. They never got into their bubbles, and the DT that ate Georgia Tech up was kept quiet because we just let him rush wherever and the play went right past him.

When they went EVEN front, Dalton went to the LB immediately. I wasn't happy with McClain, but thats nothing new. Pass protection was excellent overall, and run blocking too for once.

Can you speak to the dimension Price has added to this line?

Chad: No. 1, he’s mean. He’s tough and rugged. People have told him you can’t, you can’t, you won’t, you won’t. But he keeps proving people wrong. He’s playing as well as anybody. He gets his ankle rolled up, his shoulder hurt, and he comes off for a play and gets back in there. He’s a gritty performer.

I was surprised Howard didn't get more carries, as well as Bellamy, considering our success up front. Had the defense shown up to play, I imagine we would've run more than we did, but when youre getting 7-10 yard chunks running a basic IZ, I dont see why you'd do any different.

UNC's defensive front will be a true test of our OL mettle however.