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Wake Forest 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. 

ESPN Play-by-Play

WF from 2, after we couldnt tackle to get a safety - IZ for 2...Iso for 5 right up the A-gap. I do like how Stephone took on the FB, but there should be a DT here quicker....Quick slant for 9. Umpire got in Brewers way in coverage....PA ball thrown deep incomplete, he had a step on Breeland...Stretch play for no gain...Price scrambles out after Branch loses his outside gap, steps up and throws complete for 13...Blitz, thrown incomplete to the back...Botched snap, RB picked it out of the air and Stephone is not in his gap, goes 19. Umpire was again in the way of a tackler...IZ for 3...End around, the DE pushes it back as he should but cant make the tackle, then Brewer plays pattycake on the tackle and pushes him out of bound...Delay IZ, gain of 1. Punt.

We played at least 3-4 different fronts there, and it was Williams/Shatley in at DT a lot, with Anthony at MLB.

CU from 20 - IZ for no gain thanks to McClain/Walker not hitting a soul....Zone for short gain. Never sealed the edge...Blitz, Tajh hit Sammy on the In route where they came from...IZ for 4...Bootleg, Tajh throws to double-covered Sammy on a Go route incomplete. He had a man open on a crosser at 15, but would've been difficult to hit with pursuit coming...Jaron on a slant for the 1st...IZ for 4...Bellamy on a counter H for 8...End around  reverse to Watkins, gains 23...AE on the Power play for score.  7-0 Clemson  10 plays 80 yards, 03:35

Notice Sammy and Tajh executing what we said in the preseason about wheel motion. Whenever the ball doesnt come to you, you fake option pitch. The play is a handoff all the way, but Boyd and Sammy continue back outside as if there was a speed option.

WF from 27 - IZ for 2..Quick slant, Brewer missed tackle and gets him 17...Blitz, Stephone runs down the back on a dumpoff...Sweep for 5, outnumbered on the boundary...Quick hitch for 3...Branch held to the ground, Price steps out and hits a quick hitch for 1st down...Blitz, pass batted down...Speed option keep for 9, Jenkins comes up on the pitch but theres no LB there to hit Price and force it. Willard's responsibility....QB Sneak for 1st down...Stretch, Branch not in his gap, gets them 6...Quick slant, we're playing soft, gets 12...TE gets completely free release to the back for the TD, Hawkins responsibility. 7-7. 12 plays 73 yards, 04:40

I love how we play Cover 1, and yet don't know how to properly jam a receiver and funnel him inside to the Robber/FS. That is fundamental coverage and our guys aren't even touching the WR on release sometimes. Thats why they hit these timing slants and hitches all damn day on us.

CU from 40 - QB Counter for 5...Tajh keeps and loses one on a ZR, should've taken the bubble pass or thrown this away...End 1st QTR...Jaron Brown catches a bullet for 18, really nice throw...Boyd forces a throw  without looking at the coverage  at all. Hopkins cut inside and Sammy was outside wide open, Boyd was throwing to Nuk, but the safety cut right under him and hit his chest. Forced it. The ball should've been thrown deeper so he could go get it as well...called QB Draw for 2...Boyd slow on the trigger over the middle to Brown, pass was tipped....4th & 8, Sammy Watkins gets 13 on a comeback...Boyd forces a pass on a bubble, DE came free and didnt challenge Cooper's release and was right in the throwing lane. Tajh Boyd never saw him. Sam Cooper was running free wide open, as was the flat receiver on the other side. 8 plays 38 yards, 02:20



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WF from 36 -  OT Power for 7,  Willard got nailed...Iso for 2...3rd & inches, Corico Hawkins reads the Iso and dives at his legs instead of putting his head into the chest. Punt.

CU from 20 - Wildcat with Sammy, Power play for 9...IZ for no gain...IZ for 10, nice block by Dwayne Allen...TO CU, looked like we werent set properly....Andre Ellington on a wheel route, LB cant keep up, 19 yd gain...False start Price...Boyd and Watkins miscommunicated on a route, almost picked off. Watkins cut on a Dig but Boyd threw a Hitch. LB would've stopped it either way. There was no one open here....Blitz, bullet to Sammy on a Dig...ZR keep, looked like a called keep on 3rd & 1, but should've been a read handoff....4th & 1, Power play for 3. Same play as the TD earlier...ZR keep for 1, this one was a read and done correctly...Brandon Ford makes a great catch on the sideline for 24 on a wheel route over Wilbur...IZ for 1...Boyd keeps and gets 3 off tackle. Ford could've blocked better outside to spring that for 6...I-formation Power play for TD. 14-7 Clemson  13 plays 80 yards, 05:39

A lot of our routes are cutting right into the teeth of this zone coverage.

WF from 26 - Hawkins is on the TE, gain of 3...Hawkins hits RB for gain of 2 on a zone...Blitz, Davis cuts on a slant and Breeland gave up too much separation. Gain of 10...Stretch sweep, Willard got blocked and Goodman went inside n...Sneak for 1st down...RB makes nice catch for 6 vs blitz...Screen, BOTH LBs read the play and are in position, neither Willard nor Hawk can make the tackle and he gets 6 more before Hall does, should've been a TFL...Sneak for the 1st down...Moore loses position in his lane as Price scrambles for 5...Blitz, Shuey and Andrews read screen properly and the ball is lateralled out of bounds...A T-E stunt gets pressure and Price throws it away. 47yd FG MISSED.


CU from 30 - Boyd scrambles instead of taking the quick dump to Allen, gain of 2...Allen's slant cut right into a LB, Tajh threw it to him anyway, nearly picked. There were 3 white jerseys there. The pass in the flat was wide open to hit. All the slants on this play cut right into the zone's strength....TO CU...Sammy dropped the pass on a slant, again into tight coverage. Possibly could've hit AE in the flat if he'd thrown a bullet. Punt.

WF kneels on the ball to end the half, which surprised me.


Boyd is forcing balls into coverage based on the pre-snap read he makes, or so it appears. On quick pass plays like double slants and double hitches, etc., recall we discussed this offseason that the QB reads the defender on the slot WR, and picks his side he wants to throw to. He picks the one with the poorest defender or defender leverage. Boyd seems to be doing that and not reading what the coverage does. Also, he's locking on the primary on downfield routes. He is seeing the checkdown, but for whatever reason he's not taking the free yards. He has to learn to take that.

Basically his decision making is mystifying me.

Wake is playing pretty good zone and theyre dropping to a depth so that all our routes cut right into the strength of the zone, which makes you force the ball into tight windows. If you can stretch it deep, you can defeat it, but we could be taking the checkdown and getting the ball moving and Tajh in a rhythm. We arent playing bad offensively but we can take those checks.

Our defensive front is atrocious. Nearly everyone was seen to be out of his gap at least once, aside from BT. Even Branch isn't keeping the edge containment. When the LBs read the play right, they still don't make the tackle.

Clemson's defense is showing a front and adjusting quite a bit very late into various fronts, but we got almost no pressure for all that attempt at confusing their OL.

If our receivers were trying to JAM the WR, some of these slants would be incomplete.

Start 3rd QTR

CU from 20 - Counter for 8...Boyd finds Brown in the flats open for 9...Bubble to Sammy, no block from Nuk...Boyd throws one behind Allen in the dirt with a OLB in his face...Nuk slips and Boyd has a man in his face, threw it away. Punt.  5 plays 15 yards

WF from 37 - Iso for 7...Blitz forces bad throw...Meeks picks off a tipped pass, but holding was called on Sensabaugh. It was legit....WR screen, Xavier Brewer missed the first tackle, he goes 17 after that and Rashard Hall gets a facemask called...Blitz, Christian blatantly held, Price throws it away...Pressure, Price throws one in dirt...Quick slant, no jam from Brewer and hes whipped inside, gets em 9...4th & 1, defense stops them on QB sneak. Turnover on downs at CU 5. 7 plays 58 yards

Think we got a bit of a beneficial spot on the 4th down.

Clemson did adjust by jamming more at the line, but whomever is on the slot still gets his ass beat inside. Either we don't have the right leverage or they're still hitting like little girls on the jam.

CU from 5 - Counter H for 3...Counter H for 9...Boyd has all day, overthrows Watkins by a mile on a Go route. Holding called on Price...Counter H for 3...Boyd throws to Allen on sideline with 2 white jerseys there. WR route came down over Allen's. Price was injured on this play. DE/DT rolled into his leg from the side while he was engaged with another...Allen on a Post/Dig, thrown too high ahead of him. Punt. 5 plays 8 yards, 01:50

Offense looks uninterested and lethargic.

Punt returned 50yds for TD. 14-14. Horrible angles and loss of containment outside by Justin Parker. You do not let the man get outside your lane.

CU from 22 - Zone for 2...Counter H, AE fumbled it.

WF from Clemson 25 - Coty playing off, quick slant complete for 6...Pendergrass gets right through the B-gap where Stephone Anthony should be standing for 19 yd score. 21-14 Wake Forest

I dont know why Anthony is over on the side where we have Brewer standing in front of an OT and another player up outside. There was no one left to cover the B-gap opposite.

Stephone was not where he was supposed to be.

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Why Rashard's first step was backwards, I cannot figure.

CU from 27 - Sammy looked to have fallen hard on the shoulder on this kick return, and they got a bit of a late chip shot as he was down. Bucksweep for 6...Boyd throws one about 6 yards too short to Allen, should've been picked. Safety came underneath the Post cut and it bounced off his hands. Tajh never looked off the safety. He probably couldve hit Brown open up the seam opposite. Tajh just locked on Dwayne....Swing pass to AE for 14...Boyd throws one right at the FS who didnt have to move. Returned 29 yds.

This is where I'd have benched Tajh for a series. His head was not right. He forced the ball to Allen and the 2nd was to Nuk but again 10 yards short.

WF from CU 44 - We swamp a zone...Playing off, Jenkins forces out a quick dumpoff for 8...Anthony just a bit late picking up Pendergrass in flat coverage. Gets 1st down...Pendergrass breaks through B-gap for 33 yd TD. 28-14 Wake Forest 4 plays 44 yards, 01:25

Steele said in the postgame that he had a bad call on for this play.

Again, no one was there to cover the gap even when we started in an alignment that should've stopped it. Again, it is supposed to be Anthony's gap, unless there was some kind of blitz called.


Notice above we're aligned shaded to the Field, and the S is coming down opposite.


Safety came down, but why did the LBs both scrape inside? Even if theres a stunt, that outside B-gap should be covered by somebody.


By the time Anthony gets off the block, its too late. No one is left.

CU from 32 - Bubble to Humphries for 8...Zone for 1..QB Power for the 1st down...Empty, Bubble to Sammy for 17, he falls down hard on the same shoulder and goes out...Power sweep for 3...Brown catches a deep crosser for 18. Was wide open...IZ for 4...ZR bubble to Humphries for 8...Power sweep and WF makes a good tackle on Andre. Wish our guys hit like that...Boyd takes it in for TD, called back for penalty. Werent lined up right...Boyd scrambles and hits Ford on his tiptoes for TD. 28-21 10 plays 68 yards, 04:09

Looks like Chad decided to just hit the easy bubble screens to get Tajh going.

WF from 32 - Quick dump to flats for 3...Zone right up the B-gap, where Willard should be, for 6...Dump to Campanaro and Jenkins was on it, but he got enough for the 1st...Start 4th QTR...Bubble, we read it perfectly and got  BT through (was held), but Price scrambles and hit Givens on a comeback for 9...Fumbled QB snap...ZR keep for 2 and a 1st down...Bubble, nice open field tackle by Breeland for loss...Quick slant for 5, receiver fell down. Breeland 10 miles away...Blitz, Jenkins jams and is all over the crossing route, incomplete. Punt.

Much tighter coverage all around on this drive, except when we went zone and backed Breeland way off the slot.

CU from 3 - AE on IZ for 23 yds. Nice throwdown block by Brandon Ford....Boyd to Nuk, who dropped it. Ball was low and he was slipping, but catchable...Nuk on a hitch at the sticks...3rd & 1, IZ took too long to develop and Wilber comes off the opposite corner to tackle AE for no gain...4th & 1, QB Sneak and our OL can't move a defense they outweigh by 40lbs a man.

NFW should we go for it at our 33 down 7 with 10min left, when our defense just gave up 2 easy TDs, especially not with an OL with poor functional strength coached by Batson.

Dabo gonna dab.

WF from CU 33 - Stretch, Willard late outside and gets 7-8...IZ, cut right up the A-gap. Brandon let himself get moved out of his position and Willard wasnt blocked out by the free lineman...IZ for 2. Brandon didnt get moved that time...Blitz, Hawkins of course cannot make a sack with a free shot. Thrown away...Back shoulder throw to Campanaro thrown a bit too far, tight coverage by Breeland though. 32 yd FG MISSED.

CU from 20 - Boyd rolls out, Nuk slipped and the ball was nearly picked again. Thats on Nuk...Bucksweep for 7, McClain refused to block a soul....Quick slant to Nuk for 11...RB screen for 9. McClain didnt block anybody at all...Howard on a zone for 7...Boyd steps out due to pressure, DJ has to do better at blocking. HIts Allen for quick dump...Looks like WF jumped offsides, OL freezes, and Boyd scrambles out to hit Brown....Ford gets behind the OLB on a wheel route for 20, very nice route and throw...Toss pitch for 2...PA pass to Brown sneaking behind the coverage for TD. 28-28 10 plays 80 yards, 03:18

All the screens shook the cobwebs out of Tajh's brain apparently. The play where the OL froze wasn't a trick or late release, it looked like WF jumped and they froze instantly. If the TE was supposed to release late, he didnt.

Antoine McClain is fucking worthless. Fat, and lazy as hell.

WF from 15 - IZ, Rennie Moore makes a good play to stuff it...Tig jumps a swing route, TFL...Pressure collapses the pocket, Price chunks it downfield. Punt.

That drive was stuffed due to better DL play.

CU from 48 - Bucksweep for 3, guess who didnt block anyone?...Boyd takes forever to get rid of one and finally throws it away...Allen in the flats for 9...Nuk makes a leaping catch in coverage on a Post for 18...Bucksweep for short gain, guess who didnt touch anybody?...IV for 5, DE-LB twist and OLB too late...QB Iso for 4. 30 yd FG MISSED.

Agree with the call to kick it. Don't know how Cat can hit from 40+ better than <30.

WF from 20 - Price hits the TE over the coverage for 18. I love how Tig just tapped him on release instead of JAMMING HIM LIKE HES SUPPOSED TO. Hall comes up, Hawkins key blitzed, nobody pays attention to the TE...Pass batted and Hawkins nearly picked it...Jenkins/Moore bats a pass down on a Drag...Blitz, Moore gets him...TO CU at :52. Punt.

CU from 33 - Boyd hits Allen on a wheel for 18...Again on a wheel route for 15...Spike it at 0:15...Humphries on a screen for about 8-9. 42yd FG GOOD 31-28



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Summarizing Thoughts

Overall, there is no excuse whatsoever for the lack of focus and intensity this team displayed throughout the game on both sides of the ball. You just had 2 weeks off and didn't want to play a game to decide the Division? If its the whole team, it goes on the HC. Dabo did not have them motivated for this contest. We also see another game management decision that is a real puzzler.


I think the explanation from Morris that Tajh is overconfident in his arm is legit. He thinks he can thread needles but nobody can throw through the opposite color jersey. He wasn't reading the coverage WF showed us at all, nothing more than his pre-snap read. I thought WF played decent zone, and they backed it up to a perfect depth, but his problems are more in his head during this game. He locked on his pre-snap read and forced balls into coverage when the man was covered. Some of it could be due to his footwork (sailing balls, underthrown), but many times WF was giving us open guys in the flats or under the coverage. To keep drives going, you have to take those 5 yard passes.

The OL still sucks at run blocking, which is nothing new. I do love how McClain can manage to basically not block anyone in an entire drive, yet remains starter. He sucks almost as much as Corey Lambert. I will be so happy when his lazy ass graduates. Neither Smith, Thomas, nor Freeman were altogether impressive against a front we outweigh by a huge amount. Also, for whatever reason, we again show a weakness versus 30 fronts. We see ODD fronts all the time, but when both guards are completely uncovered its like we don't know who to block. That is pathetic. Troy did it, Wofford did it, GT and WF have done 30 fronts, and we're 30-40+ lbs bigger per man. Part coaching, part soft players, part Batson.

I'm curious why the IV-fake jet sweep we were running predominantly is now unused. I imagine it is to break a tendency that the staff has seen, and they know Sammy is banged up, but we need a few more solid perimeter runs aside from the bucksweep if the OL doesnt know how to move people on the IZ.

Thomas did well enough at LT in Price's stead. I do not know if he's capable of handling Clowney but the experience for him at LT is needed for next season. He's more athletic and quicker than Price, but Price puts forward effort unmatched on this line. Overall the line was much better at pass pro.

Where was Dwayne Allen in the 1st half? Well WF was trying to take him away but theres a combination of him not getting himself open and Tajh not looking at the easy completions.

Some folks question whether this offense has been figured out. This offense is exceedingly simple and not hard to figure. Its the misdirection and fakes that keep LBs off-balance. Its the ability of the WR/RB/QB that dictate how it goes. By this time of year you must play good football; everyone has film on your tendencies. What WF as doing was just dropping 8 guys into zone and making Tajh read. He didnt read. If he does, the game is over by halftime.

NC State plays a 4-2-5 zone defense, quite similar to what VK ran, so we'll see if Boyd paid attention to Morris' reprimand about taking the checkdowns. I think he'll be fine.


Clemson did hold WF to a good yards-per-play. I'll stop praising there.

Our gap control up front is bad. That is the cause of us giving up another 100+ yd game to another 2nd/3rd string RB. Pendergrass wasn't even the starter remember. The truth is that our defense is not going to get much better this season. It'll likely get worse. WF ran zones that looked to have aim points at the OT's feet, which basically says that they ran right at the DEs up the B-C gaps. C gap is the DE's job, B-gap is usually LB, and anything further out, one of the two LBs (MLB/OLB) is supposed to scrape and help or a DB has run support.

I saw us run a lot of fronts in this game early, and I don't think we can handle it. We don't even play our base fronts correctly, and we're showing 3 or 4 more fronts? You can't cut the whole playbook out, but the LBs don't attack, they play slow and reactive like they don't know what to do. These guys don't know how to control a gap, and that goes for all 4 starters on the DL + all 3 LBs. Brandon runs himself right out of his assignment, as does Branch, but at least they do it at full speed.

Goodman looks so slow that he's nearly useless. He's so big now that he looks like a better 3-technique than End. The speed rush he once had is gone. Steele says he's doing his job, and the film shows it, but he's not ever making a play. I think he needs to work on technique and lose 15lbs.

We need speed at DE badly. We need a pass rush. If you play Man coverage with no pass rush, youre asking for it. One feeds on the other's success. Pressure coverage requires you to get pressure on a QB, and we got none until the end of the game. This is why the young corners are having a rougher time. It would help them if they knew how to jam someone out of their cleats, but they dont collectively.

Meeks wasnt making plays in the passing game before, and his replacement can't tackle at all. Our DBs don't get up in the alley to fill outside. Brewer took awful angles, which is pandemic in this defense. Between horrid angles, poor use of leverage, and an inability to wrap up, its no surprise that this is one of the worst Clemson defenses I can remember.

Martin Jenkins should play more. He might not have great talent but at least he knows he has to work hard and jam somebody. He did it against MD and again in this game. Sensabaugh often got matched on Givens, who we think will play in the NFL, and did an outstanding job.

But our D will probably make the next two opponents look like the NE Patriots. We're going to have to score big points.