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Exit Sandman: Virginia Tech Game Film Review

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 1: Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson University Tigers scrambles with the ball against the Virginia Tech University Hokies on October 1, 2011 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 1: Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson University Tigers scrambles with the ball against the Virginia Tech University Hokies on October 1, 2011 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
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I'm going to go pretty much drive by drive here until the 4th, offense and defense, not every play but most of them. 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. 

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 20 - Bubble to Watkins for 3, good block effort outside but they jumped it immediately...Speed Wheel option, cut down in the backfield for a loss....Screen to AE, dropped. Punt. Roughing called....Bucksweep for 3...Boyd pressured after McClain whiffs totally on a block, throws high uncatchable pass to Bryant...Allen in the corner, another thrown a bit too wide for him. Punt.

Tech is in zone, playing an adjusted G front, all zone.

VT from 33 - Wilson carries BT for 6 on IZ...ZR, Branch misses a tackle, Wilson goes 14...Bucksweep for 5.. Illegal formation called...Sensabaugh makes a pretty good tackle in space on 6 yd swing route. Clemson sent a nickel blitz backside...Clemson blitzes the LBs and forces early throw, Boykin juggled it into Brewer's hands.

Clemson isn't playing Under exactly, more of a stacked front with 8 in the box. When they go shotgun we're in the stack and nickel sets.

CU from 31 - Counter pass to Allen in the flat for 11...AE tackled as soon as he gets the ball on a IV. Boyd should've kept it...Boyd scrambles for 6...McClain whiffs on a block and Boyd sacked. Punt.

They sent guys right up the A and B gaps and we didn't block either of them.

Tech is flooding the underneath zones with defenders. They match up immediately.

VT from 20 - Sensabaugh swats away a late throw by Thomas to boundary...Bucksweep for 9, weak tackles...QB sneak for 3...IZ for 7, Hall misses a tackle. Hawkins blocked out...Wilson up the gut on a IZ, ball knocked loose by Carlton Lewis. They call holding on Branch on the return, which is BS.

This should be Clemson ball inside the 5.

CU from our 41 - IZ for 3..Andre releases and cuts on an Out, drops the easy throw. Holding called on Price anyway...Called QB Draw for 14...PA pass to Jaron for 16, excellent catch in double coverage. Clemson was running a fake bubble screen and Jaron was the blocker, fakes his block and runs a slant....PA rollout to hit Watkins for 12 at the sideline. Impossible to defend...Bucksweep for 7...Counter H for 2...IZ for the 1st. They stacked the box with 8...Blitz forces quicker screen pass to AE, cant bring it in...Hosley tangles up his feet with DA on a Corner route, incidental contact...Price beaten to the inside, forces Boyd to scramble and throw it away. Hosley was on Nuk like glue. FG, 3-0 Clemson.

Every one of these throws to AE in the flat was catchable.

VT from 30 - Brewer reads a bubble immediately and tackles Boykin for short gain...Delay handoff sweep, Moore penetrates and makes the play...Meeks makes a nice tackle in space on Coale. Punt.

Nice job by the defense. Good penetration.

CU from our 36 - PA waggle pass to Allen for 12. End 1st QTR. Zone for 3....Boyd pressured  on a bootleg and throws behind Watkins incomplete. Nearly INT. Not enough of a block by Allen for the timing of this play...Boyd throws one too high to Bryant, deflected and almost intercepted by Hosley. Punt.

Bryant's ball was catchable, you have to pull that one down.

VT from 20 - Oglesby wide open in the flat for the 1st. Looks like Robinson dropped too far, C3 it seems...IZ, Hall misses a tackle, Oglesby goes 11. LB got blocked out by the OT (Anthony)...Goodman forces quick throw in the dirt. Tight coverage...Thomas scrambles, Branch called for late hit. BS call, barely tapped him...Moore blows past his guard to let Christian make a stop in the backfield....Thompson destroys the Center so Anthony makes TFL...Thomas scrambles for 15...Meeks and Anthony string out a zone...Thrown into double coverage incomplete in end zone...Smoke blitz forces early throw, Meeks almost picks it. VT was in max protect. Punt.

Why didn't they send Wilson out there to run it at all on this drive? He was out for the first play and then sat the bench.

Stephone Anthony was in there all of this drive as the Mac.

CU from 20 - IZ for 4...Power for 3, weak block by McClain...Power PA pass thrown into about 6 maroon jerseys to Nuk...Boyd pressured, Walker whiffed on his man, thrown deep to Bryant into double coverage. He should not have thrown this ball...Hosley jumps under the pass to intercept.

Boyd locked his eyes on Nuk. They really aren't letting us get away with anything underneath. They're mostly in 2 Robber now, but they're switching it up with more true C3 and some man/man.

VT from our 31 - Moore and Branch penetrate to tackle Wilson...Brewer tackles Coale in the flat for 11 on a stop...Stretch play for 18, Sensabaugh cant get off block, Meeks got cut, Hawkins and Hall can't get Wilson down...TO VT...We load the box and Wilson still gets 3 from the 5 yd line...Power O blown up by Moore and Christian tackles him from behind from the other side of the field...TO CU...False start VT at our 2 yd line...Thomas steps up and cant hit Boykin on a drag route. FG. 3-3. 7 plays 24 yards, 03:13

Really nice penetration by our DL on this drive. Looks to me that Clemson isn't scared of VT's receivers at all. We're loading the box up in run situations and peeling back when they show pass. Tech is keeping everyone in to block too, so we don't have to drop anyone.

CU from VT 48 - Screen to Sammy Watkins, too high and he drops it. Was catchable...Allen overthrown on Corner route...Boyd pressured and steps up to hit AE in the flat for the 1st...Watkins overthrown on a Go route. Shouldn't have thrown that ball....IW, handoff OZ to Watkins for short gain....Watkins on a Post for 23, high throw again...QB keep/pass option for 9...AE on IZ for 2, 1st & GL at the 1...Firehouse package, basically a Counter for the TD. 10-3 Clemson. 9 plays 48 yards, 02:46

They're playing really tight coverage and mixing it up well. Tajh's feet aren't getting set properly and he's sending too many high, but he's also under pressure every time.

Really good field position set this score up. We scored 7 on our shot and they only got a FG.

VT from 28 - Goodman beats his man outside and Thomas walks into it, throws it away as he's sacked...Coale in the flat for 6...Coty Sensabaugh all over Coale on a slant, bats it away. Thomas locked on him all the way. Punt.

Thomas looks like he's been coached by Mike O'Cain.

CU from 31 - Swing route for 9...Overthrows an open Nuk incomplete... QB keep for 1 for 1st down...Far overthrows Watkins on a Go route. VT right with him...QB keep, sacked by Walker's man. Don't like that call there on 2nd & 10...Boyd throws away due to pressure, Boyd looking for Nuk on an out & up and Hosley was all over it. Punt.

VT kneels on it to end half.


Defense is really playing well but Logan Thomas doesn't look equipped with the right scheme to do anything. Move him around and give him easy throws. O'Cain still cant start a rhythm on offense. They're in max protect a lot and we outnumber them in coverage pretty often. Penetration is good, tackling is so-so. Good on everyone but Wilson really.

If Tajh brought some of these throws down, we're up by at least one more score. 9/25 for 112.

AE 11 carries for 25 yds, TD. Has very few holes to run through, but he's not hitting them as crisp as he could last year. Tech is stunting a good bit and he's in there for pass protection pretty often.

Tech is taking away anything over the middle. No slants or inside breaking patterns are working. They're reading the screens well enough to take those away too. Hosley is basically shutting off one side of the field no matter what coverage they play.

I would've liked to see 4 verticals to attack this coverage but doubt our OL could give enough protection to hit them.

Tech is 3/8 on 3rd down, 38 yds passing, 100 rushing

Clemson is 6/12 on 3rd down, which is fantastic against this defense, with 48 rushing and 112 passing.

Start 3rd QTR.

VT from 22 - Wilson takes IZ for 9. Hawkins just walks right into a block, not his gap...Sneak for 1st down...Wilson in the flats on a swing route, a missed tackle by Hawkins gets him 15...Stretch play and Willard charges his gap and makes the play for short gain...IZ, Branch gets Wilson's jersey by a finger and slows him just enough for 2 yd gain...Thomas scrambles, Willard charges and makes the nice tackle in space. Punt, shanked for 11 yds.

C'mon Corico.

CU from 34 - PA rollout pass to Jaron Brown on a deep crosser for 27....IZ for 7...Blitzer comes free on backside, Allen adjusts his wheel route to the inside and Boyd makes a backfoot throw for the 32 yd TD. 17-3 Clemson. 3 plays 66 yards, 00:55

VT from 9 - Thomas makes a good sideline throw to Coles for 12...Clemson sends a nickel blitz right into a ZR, Thomas keeps it for a few...LB blitz, Thomas makes another nice throw to Boykin and Sensabaugh flagged for PI. I don't think its a good call. He did not impede...IZ, holding called....WR screen, Rennie Moore misses a tackle near LOS, he goes 16...Penetration from Goodman defeats an IZ, forced him outside and BT ran him down for 3...Stretch play, Christian forces Oglesby to bounce out and Hall TFL. Punt.

Our DL beat their asses on this drive, but Thomas shows flashes of what he can do under pressure.

CU from 29 - Bellamy on a Counter H/Power for 7...IZ for 1, no hole...IV Jet, VT strings it out and makes the tackle for short gain. DE got into backfield and forced Watkins to bounce. Punt.

They just beat us there. I might've passed on 2nd down and 3, but no problem with running it either.

VT from 18 - Wilson on IZ, Hawkins (?) missed a tackle and he goes 13...IZ and theres no hole, no gain. Shuey made the tackle...Thomas scrambles for 9. Drags Moore a couple...QB Sneak for 1st down...Nickel blitz pressure forces backfoot weak throw, Meeks knocks away pass in flat...Thompson forces early throw, batted down by Moore....Branch beats his man off the corner for a sack.

DL continuing to kick their ass up front.

CU from 37 - Boyd slips on a PA or ZR, loss of 5...PA pass to DA, thrown high over his head, uncatchable...Chris Hill breaks up a pass to Watkins, just tight coverage and excellent play. Punt.

VT from 45 - ZR, nobody makes a tackle. Brown lets him loose, Wilson goes from losing 10 to gaining 19. This is a pitiful play. Horrid angles..They sub Oglesby and Hawkins gets him in backfield...Branch tackles the back for a short gain. Good gap control. START 4th QTR. Zone blitz, Thomas walks into Branch. Nice inside jab move, but slapped the LT in the face too. Punt.

CU from 13 - IZ for short gain...Boyd throws one away...Boyd keeps for gain of 2, avoiding sack. Punt.

VT at CU 47 - Coale on a Corner for 12. Jenkins too loose...Quick slant for 15, a missed tackle by Martin Jenkins...Bucksweep, great penetration from DL, Anthony makes tackle on Wilson in space...nickel blitz, Coale on a stop route, tackle by Robinson immediately. TE was open in the Corner for a TD if he saw it...Lewis makes nice tackle on Boykin in space on a screen...4th & 4, LB blitz forces early throw incomplete.

CU from 12 - Bellamy on zone sweep for 5...PA roll pass to Allen for 20, hurdles his first tackler...IZ for 3, too much penetration from DE and DT on right side...Called Keeper, Boyd slips...Roll pass to Brown for 13 on an Out, excellent throw on the run...ZR keep for 8...Power O, AE bounces it out for 6...Bellamy on a Zone for the TD. MISSED XP. 23-3 Clemson. 8 plays 88 yards, 03:36

Knife to the heart. Exactly what you want to see from a good team. Take the ball right back down the field when they fail to score and put 6 on the board. Bellamy juked the AA Hosley out of his shoes.

VT from 24 - Branch zips right around the LT for a sack. Just a speed rush...Screen, too much penetration, no gain...Branch speed rush again for a sack, lowers his inside shoulder and beats the guy. Punt.

This is not so much technique, as its just a speed rush. He's just faster than the LT and they only kept 5 to block. Might be picking up the snap count too.

Branch also bitchslapped the LT to the face on the 2nd play.

CU from 46 - 3:49 left. Clemson just running clock here. Bellamy takes 3 plays for 4 yds total, all zones. Punt.

VT from 20 - I dont know how we missed a sack on the first play. He scrambled and Anthony is called for a hold...Draw for 3...Thrown over the middle incomplete, coverage was tight. Almost a coverage sack...Boykin for 8 in the flat, knocks over Robinson. Clock runs out.

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Summarizing Thoughts


Complete domination in the 2nd half by our DL. They had no chance. Even when they went max protect, we blitzed on the key (back stays in, you blitz) and nickel blitzed and Thomas could not get it out in time.

Thats not to say there werent open routes, he just didnt see them. Overall, the coverage was much tighter than last week, which shows both improvement from us and lack of ability of their WRs. Boykin is probably the best one, and we shut him down.

I would give Anthony (29 snaps) no less than half the snaps in the next two games. Let Tig set the front if Anthony can't do it. Willard got ACC LB of the Week because he made 3 nice plays in space. Hawkins (33 snaps) doesnt seem to make many, and still gets himself out of position to make a play.

I'm still puzzled as to why we couldnt RS Tony Steward. He's still not getting in there. If he's as far along as Steele says, he'll get 15-20 snaps each in the next two games too.

Gap control and 3rd down defense was excellent, and as usual Steele makes a little tweak and their offense can't do shit in the 2nd half. No big plays (for TD) at all this week. Their longest run was the pitiful tackle-angle play by Wilson for 19. The longest pass was 16.

I have to ask though, what was Mike O'Cain's gameplan? I don't see one. Why did Wilson only end up with 20 carries? You run him 10 more times, in our opinion. It wasn't too hot out there for sure.

What helped eliminate the chunk plays against Virginia Tech?

KS: The biggest thing we’re starting to mature more and realize one play doesn’t make the game. We’re getting better at playing the next play. It’s really the first time we’ve had an 18-yard gain or more or penalties of 15 yards and kept them out of the end zone. That’s moving on to the next play.

The first reaction – in the past – to that run we missed him about 19 times and he nearly ran the clock out, that kind of play, the next three plays were lost yardage, off the field and punt. As opposed to letting that become something more.

We still haven’t even reached the number of big plays we gave up last year (at this point). We’re 14 behind. People don’t realize that. The difference is, this year, there’s a touchdown on the end of it, and that’s magnified. Nothing burns like a 48-yard play that’s a touchdown. When a 48-yard play happened last year, it was a field goal.

I can only remember three games in which a defensive unit reached every goal: They won the game, won third down, won rushing (3.3 yards/carry), passing efficiency, turnovers (3, including fourth-down stops) and they didn’t score by our stats because they got the ball at the 24.

It’s stretching, but it’s probably been 15 years I’ve seen that other than one other time.

This the best effort out of the secondary?

KS: Not the best effort. The most efficient play.

They’ve got more confidence in being able to adapt the system, which means we can give them more. Which means we don’t have to line up like toy soldiers because that’s the two concepts they’ve got. We mixed and matched several concepts last week because of their ability to do that.


OL did a great job in pass pro. Still needs to work on inside blocking, but we didn't expect holes to be there this week. Still standing up too much to move anyone off the LOS. One has to think that Brandon Thomas has taken the job from David Smith at LG, but we still see Thomas as a future LT, so we'll break in a new LG again next year.

After McClain's two big screwups earlier, he did fine.

Clemson only had one long drive, the 88 yarder, but it came at the perfect time to step on Tech's throat. We now have 15 drives of 70+ over 5 games, 13 all of last year. 20 of 23 TDs on drives of 58+ according to LW. I think only UNC and SC have enough talent on defense to slow this offense, unless they slow themselves. UNC hasn't played all that great on D either.

There were more drops this week, some of it because of wet footballs I think, but they were catchable passes. Boyd wasn't helping with the high throws, which was mostly due to his footwork and follow-through in particular, but his decision making was good. I think the INT was mostly due to him staring Nuk down and Hosley broke on it.

Tech was really all over the underneath throws, their coverage was good. They did what we thought they'd do (C4, 2 Robber), but I did expect a few more blitzes. Foster didn't zone blitz like I thought. He was probably afraid of taking a man off bracket coverage of Watkins and Hopkins.

Allen was really the weapon in the flat areas. C4 leaves the flats open, and 2 Robber drops the CBs deep, so the flat is largely uncovered.

67 snaps total, goal of 80.