This is long and I encourage you to read this installments. The better the opponent, the more detail I'm going to provide. I'm also making a conscious effort to keep it as understandable as possible for the casual fan. However, if you want to learn, you still have to try even if it's only a play or two a week that you fully digest. I'll use pictures for the pivotal plays if you want to skip to just those. If you rewatch the game, or even parts of it, this can be used as a companion piece. And yes, I know this is the defensive review but I like to lead off here by discussing the offense.
I apologize to Metal Tiger if I'm stealing his thunder in any way here but, I felt offensive philosophy would be a good issue to discuss today since we will have Stoudt starting for a few more games and we're likely to run into the same issues.
A good offense can challenge all areas of the field. When Cole Stoudt replaced DeShaun Watson Saturday, we immediately dropped in our ability to challenge the deep part of the field. Throw in the fact that we have a struggling OL and that we were probably facing the best defense we will face all year, the challenge of this game suddenly became Chad Morris' biggest since FSU last year. Therefore, even though this was not exactly the greatest offensive display I've ever seen, I thought this was a well called game by Morris.
There are, of course, multiple ways to attack an area of a defense. However, especially against a great defense, play calls are usually going to be more successful when they are set up by previous play calls. For example, it's easier for us to run the ball after DeShaun hits one of his deep balls. Deep passing helps you run the ball.
It's also true that running successfully helps you pass the ball deep. This is why Georgia Tech has led the ACC in "yards per pass attempt" 3 out of the past 5 years. When a defense sees dive, dive, pitch, dive, keeper, sweep, dive, pitch, QB counter, dive, keeper, dive, dive, and then bomb, GT is a lot more likely to catch the defense abandoning their pass responsibilities to stop the run. However, it is what happens after they hit the bomb that is the real story.
It's a lot easier to run the ball (what they really want to do) when the defense is worried that you might hit another big pass play. Then, when the defense is being hurt in the run game, it's a lot easier to throw the ball... and synergy between running and passing is created. It means that when set up correctly by previous play calls, even a bad throwing team like GT can execute and get points out of their passing game. So, the OC shouldn't just call a play just because that's the play that worked before. Like a chess match, he has to be two moves ahead and like a poker game, he has to guess how his opponent will react.
We just dealt with this dilema when Watson went out of the game. Except that we struggle both running the ball and throwing deep. So, I'd like to take a few minutes to go through what Louisville was doing and what Morris decided to do to counter that. Sometimes the chess match is easier to digest on paper than it is during the game.
With Watson in, they were dropping their MLB to the deep middle in a "Tampa 2" look. So, on Stoudt's first play, a 2nd and 15, Morris called an "all curl" and overloaded the underneath middle. Good call except that the MLB wasn't dropping anymore. Stoudt politely hit the MLB right in the hands with the ball. It could've been a pick 6. The next play was going to counter that and be a deep post/seam route, but the play could not develop and Stoudt was sandwiched by the DE and DT for the sack. We don't have time to throw deep.
It was more of the same in the next series. Stoudt missed a short arrow route due to pressure in his face and almost had it picked for a TD. We ran a ZR to Gallman next that he had to bounce outside and then Stoudt got smacked again on a DB blitz from his throwing side. We were struggling running the ball, the DBs were rolling up and blitzing, and Morris tried to throw quick hitters where the DBs had vacated their zone, but we couldn't execute. Stoudt was a sitting duck in the pocket for the blitz, and when he did throw, he was making risky, potentially game-changing, decisions. We're struggling to execute and, in a close game, the margin for error was extremely thin.
Morris then started over, broke down the offense to its core, and went with basic play calls that would set up other options within the same look (ie. Malzahn/Kelly 101). For example, in Stoudt's 3rd series, we saw ZR with jet sweep action, then the jet sweep, and then a post to Williams off of jet sweep (this was a set up to influence the LBs to honor the RB and Jet in our ZR package). Didn't work but we did get the pass off this time, 3 and out. In the next series, Morris went with a tunnel screen right at the area where the DB (#27) kept blitzing (blown up by #27 who wasn't blitzing this time), then power O inside at the DTs coming hard upfield (hole was there but Davidson missed it), and another drop back on 3rd and long where Stoudt was crushed on yet another DB blitz from the right. 3 and out.
Next series, B gap dive to the right off slip screen motion left (trying to slow down that DE and get him to squeeze and also run under any DB blitz from the outside), B gap dive again at the DE (but the S was there and stopped it with the DE still coming upfield and creating a big hole) and then the all curl pass again on 3rd and 3 where Stoudt scrambled and dove early for the chains. 3 and out but 3 positive plays this time. Morris is trying to get traction but he is also giving UL something to think about at every level of defense in the process.
When we got the ball back on the last drive of the half, Morris ran RB screen to the right (where that DE and DB were coming upfield) off of both ZR and jet sweep action that got 8. Then he rolled Stoudt out to the left so that he wouldn't just be target practice back there. This avoided the same DB blitz call from the right and Stoudt hit Scott for a gain of 11. Next he split out the TE and hit a quick out to him. After Morris hit them on the edges in 3 different ways for 3 straight gains, he put Stoudt back in the pocket and went back to the same post over the middle to Mike Williams. Stoudt made his best throw of the day to get us down to the 2.
Of course, we squandered the opportunity at the goalline. An uncatchable throw on first down had the penalty flag picked up on an obvious pass interference call. Stoudt had to throw the fade with a man in his face after another unblocked DB blitz. With the CB 6 yards off the ball on Williams to stop the fade, Morris rolled Stoudt out again and flooded the zone. The CB chose to cover Hump over Williams so the decision is to throw to Williams. No defender is within 5 yards of either Stoudt or Williams. Notice how all 11 Louisville players are in the shot below. With each step Stoudt takes, Williams gets more and more open. It just does not get any easier than that on a goalline pass play. Stoudt then inexplicably decided to run for the TD when we had no timeouts. Halftime.
The drive did not score points but it did give us life on offense for the first time all game. With better execution in the 2nd half, we went from having 8 drives of 9 yards or less in the 1st half to 3 time-consuming scoring drives in the 2nd half. Instead of having the repeat of the UGA game that we were heading for, this time, Morris got Stoudt enough time in the pocket to attempt some deep balls and keep us in the game. The first one was in the 3rd play of the 2nd half. It was iffy whether or not there was PI so it was a legitimate attempt.
Remember that a legitimate attempt deep is almost as valuable as a completion. By legitimate, I mean "has a chance to be caught by the receiver."
The football term for this you have probably heard: "Taking the top off the defense." Once we finally showed we could challenge the deep area of the field, we were more effective at sustaining drives (in fact, we scored on the very next drive). This was the first nail in the coffin for UL. Morris had Stoudt throw downfield on all three possessions to start the 2nd half. We got traction and then late in the game they wore down before we did. We were not great on offense by any means but, the difference between winning and getting mudstomped in the 4th quarter is often bigger on the scoreboard than it is on the field.
Using basic run plays and WR screens, we moved the ball with ease on the last drive and took 5+ minutes off the clock in a textbook drive to force them into a "TD or bust" situation. It's not the kind of game you prefer to be in but, you'd always rather be the Clemson team up 3 running the clock down than the Clemson team down 2 having to convert a 4th and 16.
Ok, on to the defense.
Here is a key for my shorthand in alphabetical order in case you need to refer back to it as you read this: Blast = FB lead play in the C gap with a kick out on the DE or seal on the LB. Bullet -ILB A or B gap blitz. Crack- WR blocks down on S or LB. C0, C1, C2, C3, C4 = we are playing Cover "x." Diet 4-3 - 4-3 alignment with Nickel personnel. Dog (overload)- LB and S/NB blitz on the same side. EM = end man on the line of scrimmage. ET stunt - Tackle shoots outside gap and end loops around on the inside. Iso = FB lead play in the A or B gap. IV= Inverted Veer. IZ = Inside Zone or Zone blocked play inside the tackles. Jailbreak - 7 or more blitz. LOS = Line of Scrimmage. man = man to man. OZ = outside zone run or zone blocked play just outside the tackle. PBU- Pass broken up. Power = FB/RB/H-B kicks out EM, backside OG leads into B gap hole. Power Sweep = FB lead to the D gap with OG pulling around. Sky - FS moves up two yards, takes flat, CB and FS take deep third. Slant Right/Left - DL slants in one direction in unison Smoke- S or NB blitz from the outside D gap. Soft Coverage - CBs/NB playing well of the WR until he gets to the 1st down line. Stretch = zone blocked run just inside the last offensive player on that side. Student Body Left/Right = FB lead play to the D gap with all uncovered linemen pulling. Sweep = FB/ HB lead play to the D gap. Stack - the 3 LBs are stacked behind D linemen. Stalk - WR blocks CB in front of him. TFL = tackle for loss. Trap - playside DT is left unblocked, backside OG pulls and takes him out, RB runs underneath. TT stunt = one DT crashes on a slant and the other DT loops around and fills the hole he just left.
Coach/Player shorthand: BB = Ben Boulware, BV = Brent Venables, Mac = MacKenzie Alexander, Tank = Cordrea Tankersley, The Gambler = Garry Peters, The Fire Ant = Martin Jenkins, SA = Stephone Anthony
Here is a guide to Personnel groupings. I will include WRs as well to make it easier. Ex. "123 personnel" would be 1 RB, 2 TEs, and 3 WRs.
Thoughts within a play will be separated by a comma (,)
Each plays will be separated by an ellipsis (...)
First downs separated by a paragraph
Comments of a drive will be done in italics
1st Drive, 15:00, LOU 25, 1st and 10, 0-0
We start off in Nickel C1 MLB smoke, play action off IZ, QB goes for the inside slot WR on a slant, Boulware recovers nicely and I can't tell it he tipped the ball but it falls down at the WRs feet, incomplete...Nickel WLB smoke, Trap play weakside, Jarrett beats the OG to the RB and just misses a TFL (wow), RB has to cut to the other side to avoid Jarrett, BB is wide on the smoke and leaves a hole that the RB cuts through, BB gets an ankle and gets him down, gain of 2...Nickel C2 5 Under, good pass pro by them, QB looks for the TE on BB, BB slips but the QB makes a bad throw...PUNT
Adam Humphries gets jiggy on the punt return. One sick move at the beginning loses two guys, gets a "no call" on a clip, and a lot of great blocking on what looked like a middle return.TD Tigers.
2nd Drive, 13:58, Lou 25, 1st and 10, 7-0 Clem
4-3 Under, 3 step drop and throw, if it's on target it is a pick 6 for SA, incomplete...Nickel, IZ, caught us in a slant and washed the whole DL down, 1 on 1 for BB in a huge hole, and BB stuffs him for a 1 yard loss, excellent job by BB... Dime, we show blitz from the right and come from the left with MLB and NB, 7 step drop, Beasley gets doubled and then hilariously held by his ankle, QB goes deep to Quick who had Mac beat but couldn't come down with it, they dropped a gamechanger there...PUNT
3rd drive, 11:52, Lou 16, 1st and 10, 7-0
4-3 Under? (bad camera angle), OZ, Barnes gets hooked, they get OL to the 2nd level, BB and SA both get blocked, uh oh, Kearse and Smith have to clean it up for a gain of 11...
1st and 10, LOU 27, Nickel w/ SA walked out to the slot, draw play, well blocked, BB doesn't have a chance, and yet, BB still gets him for a 3 yard gain, their RB runs to contact and not to daylight...Nickel, they run our awesome counter play we used to run in 2011 (and don't anymore) right at BB, Jarrett, and Lawson, Jarrett gets the dbl, Lawson gets the kick out, and BB gets the pulling TE, good call by Petrino, but BB crunches the TE back into the RB for a gain of 1, just an awesome play by Boulware (and also Jarrett who held strong on the dbl team...Nickel WLB bullet and MLB spy, 5 step drop, good coverage, QB starts to roll right and it's like SA knows he going to do this and wow does he close, Bonnafon throws it away...PUNT
They are definitely testing Boulware and he is definitely up to the challenge. 10 plays and 3 BB blitzes so far. BV clearly anticipated having to hide him some but he's playing well when he's not blitzing too. Louisville is showing a pattern of testing BB early on and after last game, why wouldn't they?
4th drive, 8:51, LOU 35, 1st and 10, 7-0
Nickel NB smoke, boot off play action, Beasley doubled, pass to the flat is complete to the TE on an out, SA just lost him on the play action and the CB from that area had blitzed, gain of 17...
1st and 10, CU 48, Nickel WLB smoke, triple option out of the pistol, QB keeps it, BB gets his ankles for a 5 yard gain...Nickel vs. 203 personnel, triple option again, their line gets push on ours, FB gets it just underneath Crawford who has QB, SA with a great backside fill to get him for a gain of 2...6-2-3 goalline vs. 230 jumbo personnel on 3rd and 2, we have 10 in the box, great play fake off iso by Bonnafon, great coverage by us, throws it away...they're going for it on 4th and we only have 10 out there so Kearse alertly calls a TO....they change their mind and PUNT instead.
Good job by the defense to bail out on the 3rd down play fake and not give up a cheap TD. These personnel problems need to get taken care of though. We're making some kind of mistake in defensive personnel every week. We could've used that timeout on offense at the end of the half. More accountability needs to be paid to personnel. The players and coaches need to be echoing personnel calls or they need to change how they get everybody together on the sideline.
5th drive, 6:06, CU 25, 1st and 10, 7-0
Sudden change situation as Watson throws an INT deep in our territory
4-3 Under, Blast, Beasley does an awesome job of taking on the kick out and stuffing him back into the running lane, RB cuts it back to the middle, Jarrett swallows him up for no gain...Nickel, slant left CB blitz right, perfect call as they had a rollout right called and the OL stepped right into the slant, Beasley beat the OT and hits the QB just as he throw it away, incomplete...Nickel, they don't like the look we give them and call TO...Nickel C2 5 Under, QB draw, designed to run under Beasley, The Gambler comes up and sets the edge and then form tackles the QB for a 1 yard gain, another awesome job in space for Peters...FG is good
1 yard allowed. Good response to a sudden change situation. We're going to need another response because Watson just got hurt and we just went 3 and out and shanked the punt.
6th drive, 2:20, 50, 1st and 10, 7-3
Nickel C2, Lawson is in and BV is still signaling in the play as it is snapped, awful, play action and Smith bites and leaves the hash, 7 step drop, uh oh, deep wheel route is caught by the RB at the 12, terrible job of getting the call in and of Smith biting, great call by Petrino, gain of 38...
1st and 10, CU 12, Nickel NB and CB smoke, play action rollout right, looking for a WR wheel this time, NB blitz gets to him before it can get set up, Wiggins sets the edge and then The Gambler makes the tackle for a 2 yard loss... Nickel NB and CB smoke, we bring the same blitz as last play, wow ballsy, this time they give it to the RB on IZ, Williams does a ‘Fridge impression and plows over the C like a Mack truck, Williams and Wiggins sandwich him in the backfield for a 3 yard loss...Dime C4 on 3rd and 14, we rush 3 with a spy, Wiggins gets a vicious jam on the slot WR to the wideside, every DL is double teamed, all day to throw, tries to check down to the RB but overthrows him, incomplete, late flag on Clemson for DEFENSIVE HOLDING...
Automatic first down even though it's only a 5 yard penalty, 1st and 10, 5-3-4 vs. 130 personnel, TO Louisville...Nickel vs. 4 wide, (our old friend) power sweep, Crawford can't set the edge, Smith eats a crack, uh oh, Crawford recovers and barely gets there to knock him out at the 3...END 1st QUARTER
We don't get too many penalties (3.8 per game, 7th nationally) but when we do, we have paid for them this year. Also, the defense is being asked to carry this game on their shoulders. I don't see how we can hold up if we take too much more of this. This is setting up just like
the Georgia game "every loss since Morris got here" where the offensive futility keeps the defense on the field until they fold and we get badly blown out.
2nd and G, CU 3, 6-2-3 vs. 311, blast, OG reaches Crawford, OT seals BB, TE kicks out Beasley wide, FB kicks out Kearse, RB dives under SA for the TD...10-7 LOU
Well executed play and great call by Petrino but, you have to wonder why Beasley was in there on the goalline and not Lawson.
7th drive, 13:29, 50, 1st and 10, 10-7 LOU
Another 3 and out and we now have 2 yards of total offense and are averaging 0.1 yards per play. We are losing the field position battle as well which is also reminiscent of the UGA game. A defensive bust seems imminent right now.
Diet 4-3 base alignment with Kearse in the box at Sam, TT stunt out of Watkins and Jarrett, straight drop back, DE drops to take the TE, Jarrett gets through and forces a checkdown to quick who is slung down by BB, no gain...HUNH, we're not set at the snap again, Diet 4-3 base, WR quick screen to the slot, SA defeats the crack block and he and Mac get him for a gain of 1, wow, I'm starting to get used to these incredible plays one after the other, so nice...3-3-6 Dime with Kearse in the box (new wrinkle to the Dime package), we show jailbreak blitz and we do in fact bring 7, Jadar Johnson gets through untouched for the sack, loss of 9...PUNT
Beautiful call by BV. We've been running that once a game since FSU. They've seen it on film they just don't know when it's coming. In the Dime we've rushed 3 to 7 guys from all over the field. We've got the excellent DBs we all wanted and BV knows how to use them. Last time we gave him that look and rushed only 3 and he couldn't find an open WR (got a defensive holding penalty though). That call set up this one and it worked like a charm when we desperately need to get off the field.
8th drive, 8:46, LOU 37, 1st and 10, 10-7 LOU
5-3-3 base with O'Daniel at Sam and Jones at WLB, blast, Jones plugs the hole, SA fills the right gap, RB tries to cutback but Williams tackles the RB and the OL at the same time, wow, no gain, then Williams gets up with the Mutumbo finger wag, lol...4-3 Under FCB smoke, with #2 DL in, OZ, Mac comes from the outside and sets the edge, Lawson pushes the OT 3 yards into the backfield, O'Daniel sheds the TE, gang tackled for a gain of 1, geez even the #2s are making awesome plays...HUNH, Dime WLB bullet BCB smoke, on 3rd and 8, Peters comes on the blitz and the QB doesn't see it, WR has Smith in man on a fly route, danger, the seam on the other side looks open too, Peters blindsides the QB, fumble, drug into the endzone by Barnes, recovered by Jarrett, DEFENSIVE TD CLEMSON.
What a huge risk BV took on that call. If Bonanfon sees the CB coming, it's probably a TD. If they have a RB checkdown instead of max protect, he gets the first down. The gamethread would have been right to explode over that call by BV. But hey, that's why he makes the big bucks. He has to stand in the press room and answer for that if it backfires. Instead, chalk up another huge play out of the 3rd down Dime package.
The only problem now is that we're right back on the field on defense. Here comes the HUNH for sure.
9th drive, 7:16, LOU 25, 1st and 10, 14-10 Clem
4-3 Under with Beasley and Goodson back in and Reader and Williams up front, A gap Iso at Kellen Jones who crunches the FB behind the line and turns it in, Williams gets doubled and creates a big cutback lane, SA changes direction and gets him down for a gain of 7...HUNH, 5-2 with Beasley at a 5, Goodson at a 9 and Crawford at a 7, whoa, A gap Iso at SA who stuffs the FB at the LOS, Reader gets pushed back 5 yards by a double team on the backside, Williams squeezes the hole and Jones baits the RB into the same cutback lane, Reader's in the way so it's still a gain of 5...
1st and 10, LOU 37, SA and Kearse are noticeably winded, HUNH, Diet 4-3 base vs. 212 pistol, I think Goodson should be in there, triple option give to the FB, Jones wasn't set at the snap, he misreads the play and goes the wrong way, uh oh, SA fills the C gap as he is supposed to but the B gap is wide open now with no backside fill, Beasley is quick enough to slow the FB down a bit but he breaks the tackle of him and Wiggins to get 9 yards...4-3 Under, same triple option but they put it on the corner this time, Vic forces the pitch but smith can't get to the RB to prevent the first down, gain of 3...
1st and 10, 50, 5-2 look again, same triple option play from the pistol, this time it's supposed to be a quick hitch to the WR, covered so Bonnafon takes the sack by Beasley, got a little cute there, loss of 4...4-3 Under, Jarrett and Watson back in, straight drop back from the pistol off-set I, Watson flushes him out of the pocket, breaks Beasley and Peters' tackle to get to the sideline for a gain of 2...Dime on 3rd and 11, FALSE START LOU, thank you crowd...Nickel on 3rd and 16, DELAY OF GAME, thanks again Death Valley...Dime on 3rd and 21, tunnel screen time?, straight drop, they max protect and we rush 3 (BV wins again), Bonnafon throws it away deep into double coverage...PUNT
They went away from the power running and got off schedule. Then the 12th man cost them another 10 yards. Whew. Field position is back in their favor again though and we go 3 and Stoudt.
10th drive, 1:51, LOU 14, 1st and 10, 14-10
Nickel, T.J. Green is in, IZ, we're playing soft and they get OL to the 2nd level, tackle by Green for a gain of 7...HUNH, (tick tick), Nickel, IZ again, tackle by Jarrett and Watson for no gain...Timeout Clemson...Nickel WLB bullet on 3rd and 3, IZ right into the blitz (BV wins again), Jarrett and BB get him for a loss of 4...PUNT
They tried to run out the clock but we wouldn't let them.
For the 5th straight game, we are completely dominating the opposing offense. This is probably the best defensive performance I have seen at Clemson in many years. However, my first thought is, "how are we ahead in this game?" The answer is...awesome defense, a fortunate punt return, and a few mistakes by Louisville. My next thought is, "how long we can keep this up on defense before we fold?" 10 drives crammed into the first half? That's a whole game for Alabama. We are going to need some sustained drives by the offense or this game could flip in a hurry.
Louisville is 0 for 9 on third down in the first half. This is one of the reasons the 10 drives have not taken their toll yet. What happens when we get kept on the field for a couple series?
In case you are wondering, Bobby Petrino is still a great play caller. He did not forgot how to coach like some Louisville fans would have you believe.
Their WR, James Quick is a player. He would start for us. He's basically what we hoped Germone Hopper would be right now and what Ray Ray will probably be in the very near future. I know Quick made a huge mistake in the first half muffing the punt, but it's clear why they would like to get him the ball a lot.
We'll probably see some more of the triple option out of the pistol in the 2nd half.
11th drive, 13:53, LOU 33, 1st and 10, 14-10 Clem
Nickel NB smoke, OZ, swallowed up by Jarrett and Wiggins, gain of 1...Nickel vs. trips to the boundary, power o, smashed by Tank and Smith for a gain of 1...Dime on 3rd and 7, Jailbreak blitz, our 7 vs. their 6, BB gets him for a loss of 8...PUNT
Venables' Dime package does it again. We get a FG on the next drive.
12th drive, 9:43, LOU 25, 1st and 10, 17-10 Clem
4-3 Under, play action off ZR, Crawford chases the QB backwards and he throws to the TE on the sideline for 4...HUNH, Nickel vs. 131 power personnel, OZ, they had us out-manned, tackle by Kearse for 4...4-3 Under, HB counter dive, tackled by Goodson for a gain of a half yard...Delay of Game UL getting their punt team out there...PUNT
We can't convert the 4th and 1 and give them the ball in our territory. #77 with an atrocious attempt of a block on the play. Crowder please.
13th drive, 6:35, CU 40, 1st and 10, 17-10
4-3 Under, Timeout Louisville...4-3 Under BCB blitz, Gardner in at QB, blitz is picked up , we gotta cover now, low throw over the middle, incomplete...Nickel C3, Gardner had a man in the flat for 9 but went for the home run in double coverage, incomplete...Gardner gets his first taste of DAT DIME!, motion the RB out wide, FALSE START UL, thank you Tiger Fans...Dime C4 NB smoke MLB spy, motion the RB out wide, Boulware goes out with the RB, it's Kearse coming on the blitz, Beasley beats the LT, Gardner throws a dart over the middle and wha wha what?, Complete to Quick (how do you lose him?), easy throw with no BB to have to throw over, nice call Petrino, your move BV, gain of 22, UL's first 3rd down conversion of the game comes midway through the 3rd quarter.
1st and 10, CU 23, Nickel slant left NB smoke BCB smoke, ZR give to the RB, Peters gets him for a gain of 1...Nickel C4?, great protection by them, we're a little tired now clearly, skinny post over the middle by the slot is wide open for a TD ...TD Louisville.
We should've gotten off the field on 3rd and 15 but, you can't help but think about that decision to go for it on 4th down by the offense. However, with the severity of our coverage breakdowns over the middle, maybe they score anyway. In the picture below, Kearse is the only deep safety and Wiggins lets him go. Blown coverage by one of them.
The offense comes back and it's the series where we get robbed by the replay booth on the Hopper catch.
14th drive, 4:23, LOU 17, 1st and 10, 17-17
4-3 Under, Gardner stays in for a 2nd series, play action off IZ, deep post to Quick is thrown high and he had a half step on Mac this time, incomplete...4-3 Under MLB bullet, A gap iso, BB stuffs the FB correctly with his inside shoulder but since SA is on a blitz, there's nobody home, Kearse gets him for a gain of 9...4-3 Under, A gap iso to the other side, stuffed by Watkins, Goodson, and Crawford...PUNT
Still only one 3rd down conversion for UL. On the next series, the UL defense starts to show signs of fatigue. We take the lead on a 40 yard FG.
15th drive, 14:56, LOU 23, 1st and 10, 20-17 Clem
4-3 Under, play action off sweep, Gardner rolls left, sets, it's going to be a throwback wheel route, but Beasley gets up and rejects the ball, now there's a play that deserves the Mutumbo Finger Wag ("Not in the House of Mutumbo!!"), instead Beasley goes with the "you can't see me" from John Cena which is also pretty appropriate...Nickel WLB bullet MLB smoke, Gardner quickly dumps it off to the slot on a slip screen, Kearse comes downhill from deep safety and makes an awesome open field tackle for a loss of 1 (and he jumps on rhythm to House of Pain for his celebration if you were wondering)...3rd and 12 and time for the Dime Package of Doom, let's see if Gardner can beat it again, NB smoke and WLB bullet, it's a screen, Beasley gets up and alters the throw for the 3rd play in a row, Kearse gets two hands on it but can't bring it in for the easy pick 6...PUNT #11 for UL
Stoudt throws a pick on 2nd down. Sudden change for the defense. Uh oh.
16th drive, 13:22, LOU 48, 1st and 10, 20-17 Clem
4-3 Under, B gap iso, SA goes the wrong way, BB catches the FB, Smith gets him for a gain of 7...HUNH, 4-3 Under FS Smoke, FALSE START UL, back 5 and thank you Death Valley again...4-3 Under BCB smoke, The Gambler is coming, Gardner finds Peters man and hits him on a hot route quick slant for 6...HUNH, Nickel with Lawson in for Beasley, FALSE START UL, back 5 and thank you Death Valley...3rd and 8 means it is time for the Dime of Doom, we rush 3 vs. 6, pass complete over the middle for 5, BB gets him down...they're going for it on 4th down, 4-3 Under, they have unbalanced line left and motion 3 TEs to the left and run OZ, Kearse sets the edge, Jarrett gets penetration, BB with a perfect backside fill to get the RB for a gain of 2, that's what I'm talking about BB!...TURNOVER ON DOWNS
Excellent stop on sudden change!
17th drive, 9:16, LOU 17, 1st and 10, 20-17
Offense goes 3 and out and we do not make them pay for their 4th down decision. Stoudt almost threw another INT there and gets a very concerned Morris to greet him on the sideline.
4-3 Under, play action off of iso fools Goodson who runs by the QB, pass in the flat to the RB for 12...
1st and 10 at the LOU 29, 4-3 Under slant right WLB smoke, B gap iso but the exchange is fumbled and recovered by LOU, gain of 2...Nickel, straight drop back, BB is lined up in the hook/curl zone and runs to the flat at the snap, Gardner checks down to the RB and BB gets him for a 1 yard loss... Dime of Doom, jailbreak, quick curl to boundary, tackled by The Gambler for a gain of 5...PUNT
The offense has the 5+ minute drive but, we can't get in the endzone with a 2nd and goal on the 1 foot line and settle for a FG.
18th drive, 1:20, LOU 19, 1st and 10, 23-17
UL is out of timeouts
Nickel, straight drop, and "you got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em, know when to run with your man up the sideline, know when to run."
See, this is the problem with any sort of prevent-style defense.
Smith shows that he knows his #1 priority (we're up 6 with 1:20 left. At no point can a WR get behind you). So, his drop is 20 yards right off the bat. He's also on the same side as The Gambler. Sometimes The Gambler will want to stop running with his man, the best player on the team, to jump the TE out route even though that's BB's man and he's clearly covering him. This was one of those times. Smith is the slowest DB we have and now he has to make up all that ground because The Gambler can't get there.
Smith gets close enough to do a diving arm swipe at Quick's legs but it doesn't get him down. Quick takes off and, luckily for us, BV put Usain Bolt in for a play. Bolt runs down Quick (the dude's name is "quick"). We get to play 4 more downs of defense to try and hold on and win this game. Awesome hustle and speed from our free safety.
1st and 10, CU 8, Timeout Clemson...Nickel, slant to the slot WR and Wiggins doesn't get a hand on him and gets beat to the inside on a slant, poor technique by Wiggins, gain of 7...2nd and G from the 1, HUNH and we can't change personnel so we are in Nickel on the 1 yard line, IZ, Beasley gets penetration and tackles the RB for a loss, huge play by Beasley...CLOCKED BY UL...4th and G from the 2, Nickel, roll right, Kearse closes in, Gardner throws back across his body to a WR that had taken a dive to try to get a PI call and then gotten back up, "DeShawn Island" was in full effect as he hustled out there and got the PBU. You've got to love the effort week in and week out of DeShawn Williams.
UL averaged 1.4 "yards per rush." On defense, Clemson is allowing 2.99 "yards per rush" on the season (14th in the nation).
UL averaged 7.1 "yards per pass" (for reference, 7.1 "yards per pass" on the season would have you ranked 63rd in the nation). As a defense, Clemson is allowing 5.9 "yards per pass attempt" (17th in the nation).
Clemson averaged 2.2 "yards per rush." We completed 22 of 39 attempts as a team but only at a terrible 4.0 yards per attempt. Cole Stoudt's QBR was 11.5 (50 is average).
Defensively, we are ranked 7th in the nation in "yards per play" at 4.40.
We are ranked 35th in Scoring Defense and 6th in Total Defense. We allow 286 yards per game.
We are ranked 4th in opponent first downs per game. Louisville is #1. Boston College is #11.
We are ranked 15th in sacks per game. Louisville is #14. BC is #28.
We are ranked 2nd in Tackles for Loss per game.
And with our Punt Return TD, we are all the way up to 78th in the nation in Punt Returns. Suck it, Beamer.
The eye test says...
Ok, so we might actually be the best defense in the country. At least, it's possible we have a chance at being considered that by year's end. That's become apparent right now. This defense is really good and we witnessed another incredible display Saturday. We put together our 2nd full game in a row and held Louisville to 17 points in 18 drives.
Louisville is still ranked #1 in Total Defense but I thought our defense was the better defense on Saturday. We too deep. I mean, Louisville's defense broke down first, so maybe "we too deep." Somebody should make a slogan out of that.
Speaking of not breaking down, I don't think I saw SA come out of the game. He wasn't his usual all-over-the-field-national-defensive-player-of-the-week self on Saturday but, we did not attempt to function as a defense with him on the bench.
Louisville never went back to the Triple Option out of the pistol that gave us trouble. They decided to go with the passing QB instead. They ran that right at Beasley so, I hope they didn't expose a weakness there.
Let's do this all again next week. This Saturday should be another defensive battle as Boston College is ranked 8th in Total Defense, 22nd in Scoring Defense, and plays in an anti-tailgate environment. If you're going to the game, make sure your liquid refreshment is fully digested before you park. This could be another close one.
Game Ball: Jayron Kearse, Kearse was excellent in coverage, set the edge on some key plays, finished 2nd on the team with 8 tackles, saved the game by running down Quick, and pressured the throw on 4th and Goal. I know there are probably a lot of people that would give it to Boulware and I understand that choice as well.
All American Level Performance: Grady Jarrett (I should just go ahead and make a template with his name permanently etched here). If he doesn't make it as a finalist for some of the end of the year awards, it's a travesty.
All ACC Level Performance: Jayron Kearse, Vic Beasley, Ben Boulware, Stephone Anthony, Corey Crawford, DeShawn Williams. Our front 4, Anthony, and Kearse have an argument for All ACC first team. It's not going to happen but they've got an argument.
Solid: Everybody else
Less than solid: None
Past Game Balls: Robert Smith (Georgia), Stephone Anthony (SC St., FSU), Garry Peters (UNC), Vic Beasley (N.C. St.)