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 simple as possible for the casual fan. However, if you want to learn, you are going to 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.
Ok, pour me a glass of the DeShaun Watson Kool Aid. Watson was fantastic for the third straight game in which he has received the majority of the playing time. The offense is adding wrinkles and the defenses are starting to get a book on him, and yet, he still looks amazing.
Watson is not perfect by any means and defenses are going to begin to scheme against any weakness they can find on him. However, so far this year, he has outperformed Kenny Football, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, and Jamey Crab Legs. You are watching greatness. So, as much as you want to temper your future expectations right now, it is ok to evaluate his body of work to date as being nothing short of spectacular.
Just 8 months ago we were having the debate of whether or not Tajh Boyd was the greatest QB in Clemson history. So, it's certainly a surprise to most of us that we have upgraded at the QB position.
Probably the best metric for evaluating QBs is Total Quarterback Rating (or TQBR) designed by the folks at ESPN. Unlike "Passer Rating," TQBR measures QB rushing ability and strength of schedule, as well as passing effectiveness, and it is so detailed that it even measures whether or not the QB can consistently draw the defense offsides. Right now, according to TQBR, DeShaun Watson is the highest rated QB in the Nation.
Another positive for us is that Watson has found a favorite receiver and it is the most talented one on the roster. Cole Stoudt either did not seem to buy in to Mike Williams being at the top of the WR pecking order this year or was unable to get the ball deep to Williams. Watson came in against FSU and gave Williams a chance to perform and perform he has. In the FSU game, Watson threw one up to Williams and he made a ridiculous catch at the 2 yard line. Since then, he has given Williams multiple opportunities to showcase his ability and Williams has responded with more ridiculous catches. We said it last year but, it's worth saying again, Williams is good now but, he's going to be great.
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 Run, Jailbreak - 7 or more blitz. LOS = Line of Scrimmage. man = man to man. OZ = outside zone run. 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. 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. TT stunt = one DT crashes on a slant and the other DT loops around and fills the hole he just left.
Coach/Player shorthand: BV = Brent Venables, Mac = MacKenzie Alexander, Tank = Cordrea Tankersley, The Gambler = Garry Peters, The Fire Ant = Martin Jenkins, SA = Stephone Anthony, Ebo = Ebenezer Ogundeko
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.
Drives will be in paragraph form.
Thoughts within a play will be separated by a comma (,)
Each plays will be separated by an ellipsis (...)
A summary of each drive will be done underneath the play by play
1st Drive, 12:38, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 7-0 Clem
4 WRs vs. Nickel, play action off ZR, pass over the middle knocked down by SA incomplete...
Nickel, IZ, tackled for no gain by Jarrett...Nickel double bullets on 3rd and 10, edge pressure applied, pass knocked down by The Gambler, two bad throws by the QB prevented the first down, that's what good pressure does for you...PUNT
Yes, the tribe has spoken and it is clear that we all felt that Garry Peters knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em as "The Gambler." Thanks for your help and after much thought, I think it was the right move.
2nd Drive, 9:42, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 14-0 Clem
122 vs. 4-3 Under, N.C. St. would like to line up and pound us with power plays so welcome back Mr. Goodson to SAM, motion to jet sweep, tackle by Robert Smith for no gain...4-3 Under, edge pressure, QB decides to run, tripped up by TS, gain of 1...Dime FS smoke on 3rd and 8, tons of pressure, Brissett wheels in the grasp and tries to throw a pass in the grasp only Uncle Rico would be comfortable with, incomplete...PUNT
3rd Drive, 4:32, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 21-0 Clem
4-3 base C1, #2 DL in there now, great coverage on the outside, QB forced out of the pocket, Barnes loses contain but SA cleans it up for no gain...4-3 Under, handoff on jet sweep, turned inside by Goodson, WR falls down for no gain...Dime on 3rd an 10, max protect and we rush 3, nobody open again and the QB is forced out of the pocket, Brissett is run down from behind by Grady Jarrett for a gain of 1, you have got to be kidding me...PUNT
We saw Brissett wreak havoc on FSU's defense last week but, thanks to effort and athleticism like this by NG Grady Jarrett, he just couldn't get loose against us.
Great desire and hustle from Jarrett to get there.
4th Drive, 12:39, NCS 31, 1st and 10, 21-0 Clem
4-3 base, IZ, backside fill by Steward puts him down for a gain of 3, not perfect but much better job than Steward was doing in the beginning of the year...4-3 base C4, throw to the sideline on the deep out is out of bounds, incomplete...Dime MLB/NB Dog on 3rd and 7, it's a defensive meeting at the QB and he tries to go Uncle Rico again and be the hero (dumb), fumble, Crawford falls on it at the NCS 14
The turnover leads to a Watson TD run and this is getting ugly early. Through 4 drives, we have scored 28 points and allowed -13 yards. Will we step on the throat or let the opposition stay in it as we did against UNC and FSU?
5th Drive, 10:56, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 28-0 Clem
4-3 Under vs. 113, they fake the same jet sweep and run an OZ that fools nobody, tackle by Kearse and Jarrett for a gain of 1, -12 rushing yards on the day for NCSt so far...Nickel TT stunt, we have some trouble getting lined up up front, IZ and then QB carries out a bubble screen fake, the quick tackle Watson comes free on the TT stunt and wraps up the RBs ankles for no gain, well done Jarrett and Watson...Dime on 3rd and 9, we fake double bullets and instead drop into a spy look and rush 3, Beasley beats a double team with the SPIN MOVE OF DOOM and Crawford pushes his man into the QB, Brissett tries to step up and escape pressure but The Gambler is right there to tackle him for a 1 yard gain...PUNT
Ok, that spin move was nasty. I haven't seen a guy get open that fast with a spin move since Hakeem Olajuwon retired. Well timed and used in an obvious passing situation as a changeup. Great execution. N.C. St's "yards per play" is at -0.5 right now. We get the ball back and drive down for a FG make by Lakip.
6th Drive, 5:32, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 31-0 Clem
Nickel WLB smoke vs. 014 on 1st down, trying to confuse us with no RB, we walk Steward and SA out to just outside the box daring them to run QB power, blitz gets picked up and it's a tunnel screen, we're all over it, QB can only throw it away, incomplete...Nickel, Crawford, Watson, Watkins, and Lawson at DL, play action rollout off jet sweep,
trying to move the pocket on us to get the RB open on a middle screen, Watson hits Brissett as he throws but he sidearms it to the RB,
Steward slips and gives the outside to the RB,
Steward recovers and catches up to him to run him out of bounds with Smith at the 43, gain of 17, N.C.St. gets their 1st First Down of the Game at 5:19 of the 2Q! So they were bound and determined to test us on a screen in the middle and they hit it on us. We were very close to stopping it the 2nd time. We're going to keep seeing this throughout the year.
1st and 10, NCS 43, Nickel, jet sweep motion again, IZ, good push by the NCS OL, gain of 6...4-3 Over w/ Goodson walked out to the slot, C2 robber on the short side and man on the wide side, QB flushed out of the pocket wide side, Lawson sets the edge and turns him back inside, Steward ankle dives and misses a tackle, Brissett gets free, Goodson misses the tackle and then hit from behind by Crawford, gain of 10...This looked more like the Brissett we saw vs. FSU but Steward should've made that play.
1st and 10, CU 41, 1st time in Clemson territory today, 4-3 Over, 9 in the box showing blitz, Goodson and Jadar come on a dog wide, QB rolls away from the blitz, coverage is fantastic on the short side, QB throws it away, incomplete...Nickel C4, empty backfield, illegal formation on NCS...2nd and 15, Nickel, QB pumps right and then rolls out left, QB throws with Beasley in his face, Jadar gets a hand on it but can't tip it to himself, if Beasley doesn't force a bad throw Jadar probably gets a pick 6, incomplete...Dime C2 5 Under on 3rd and 15, we rush 3, they anticipate blitz and set up a RB screen to the short side, batted down by Crawford, The Gambler would've tackled that for a loss if it was completed anyway...PUNT
7th Drive, 1:26, CU 39, 1st and 10, 31-0 Clem
Nickel #1 DL back in, play action off IZ, Jarrett gets to the QB immediately and can't bring him down, Williams cleans it up, no gain. PERSONAL FOUL on Crawford for hands to the face, they let it go once last series but he gets caught this time...
1st and 10, CU 25, Nickel zone blitz C4, SA and TS come and the DTs drop back into zone, Steward is unblocked and hits the QB as he throws, it's a deep flag to the outside on Wiggins, well overthrown, incomplete, obvious DEFENSIVE HOLDING penalty called on Wiggins who grabbed the shirt on a double move...
1st and 10, CU 15, Nickel, IV, Beasley takes the RB and QB keeps it, gets sandwiched by Williams and SA, no gain, timeout NCS :59...Nickel C2 man under, Beasley gets a hand on the QB and flushes him outside, footrace between him and Steward to the corner, Steward wins and Brissett stops to throw but is tackled by Williams on the hustle for a loss of 3, NCS HOLDING PENALTY (RT on Crawford) accepted, 2nd and 10, CU 25, Nickel, QB roll right, flood pattern right, QB jukes Crawford and Williams and then is hit from behind by SA for a gain of 4, timeout NCS :43...Dime slant left CB smoke WLB spy (Goodson) on 3rd and 16, Kearse lines up at CB and comes on a blitz, play action IZ, Beasley slants into the A gap and is unblocked, He gets the sack but he grabs the helmet of Brissett, PERSONAL FOUL Facemask, 15 yards...
1st and 10, CU 11, :39, Nickel, empty backfield, 4 receivers to the wide side, designed roll left to the 4 receivers but Beasley obliterates the LT and is in his face after two steps, somehow Brissett escapes and runs back to the wide side, checks it down on a curl for 9...HUNH, Nickel, Brissett clocks it at :08...delay of game on NCS backs it up 5 to the 7...Nickel NB smoke, Kearse again on a blitz, Brissett rolls right into it and runs backwards and throw it away, there still should be a second on the clock but there wasn't...HALFTIME
Two penalties moved the ball into the redzone for NC St and a 3rd gave them a first down at the 11 after a would-be sack by Beasley. I would not have accepted that holding penalty on NCS because they weren't going to kick a FG and even if they did, that would be almost admitting defeat and a move in our favor. However, we have been so dominant on defense that I understand it. We're starting to have some wrinkles out of the dime package now and they have been successful in confusing Brissett as well as the NCS coaching staff.
Much like with FSU's rushing yards against us at halftime, NC St. has their lowest output in total yards for a first half in ten years.
Speaking of FSU, I think the color man, Kelly Stouffer, summed it up best, "There's a big difference between the Front 7 Brissett is facing today and the one he faced against Florida State a week ago. You don't run away from the defensive front 7 at Clemson. We saw last week, Brissett making a LOT of plays. He's not running away from this Front 7 here today."
That's basically what happened out there in the first half. FSU has a very good defense that can cause offensive breakdowns. When the play breaks down, Brissett would like to do damage with his speed and quickness. He likes to get out of the pocket a little quicker than he should if he thinks he can get the corner or scramble for a good size gain. Today, the holes are closing up quickly when he decides to run and we are flying to the ball. I think the great coverage has a lot to do with him deciding to run as well. He's not getting loose and when he tries to make a man miss, he is getting run down from behind.
So far, I've seen 2 missed assignments by Steward (and a half-miss on a backside fill) and 1 missed assignment by SA. We're pretty dialed in. We are still prone to letdowns and lapses in technique when we have a comfortable lead. We have seen players abandon their job and freelance a bit too much in those situations. Let's see if we stop that in the 2nd half.
8th Drive, 15:00, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 31-0 Clem
Nickel, IZ, Beasley can't get a squeeze and the RB jukes Kearse in the hole to get 18...
1st and 10, NCS 43, HUNH, Nickel, IZ, RB gets hit by Wiggins at the line and drags him for 5...HUNH, Nickel, IZ again, SA gets him for a gain of 1...3rd and 4, 005 for NCS vs. Dime, Wiggins plays a little too far off the TE who gets to the sticks and turns around, bad throw in the dirt, incomplete...PUNT
Kellen Jones was in for Steward that drive.
9th Drive, 9:31, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 34-0 Clem
Nickel, play action off IZ, 7 step drop (not with Beasley in the game and matched up with a TE), Beasley with the sack, fumble caused, fumble recovery, and TD. 41-0 Clem.
Let's take a look at the defensive play of the year so far.
Beasley give the TE a "dip and rip."
The TE tries the old "slip and clip."
Beasley leaves his feet and swats the ball out of the QB hands.
The ball falls right into his hands and he takes it in for 6.
Then, he spreads the love with the fans (a la Gary Cooper back in the day #didnotknowyoucouldstilldothis)
In grandiose fashion, Beasley ties the school record for sacks with Michael Dean Perry and Gaines Adams. As a special STS congratulations, I'd like to say, "Awesome job! Now get back to work. We've got unfinished business."
10th Drive, 9:23, NCS 25, 1st and 10, 41-0 Clem
Nickel, IZ, HUGE hole, Peters comes across the field and tackles him for a 12 yard gain...
1st and 10, NCS 37, HUNH, nickel, IZ, Smith comes up and smacks the RB for a 1 yard gain, good pop there by Smith and better gap control by the DL...Nickel, jet sweep play action, Brissett has time but the coverage is great and he runs out of there, Jarrett sheds and goes to the ground, pops back up and takes the QB down for no gain with help from SA...Dime on 3rd and 8, we rush 3, they max protect, Lawson in his face as he throws, hits SA in the hands but he drops it...PUNT
11th Drive, 1:31, NCS 9, 1st and 10, 41-0 Clem
Nickel, IZ, the DL remains stout, Watson stands him up for a gain of 1...4-3 over SAM smoke, Brissett rolls right and finds his WR Underwood in front of Kearse for a gain of 8... 4-3 Over, Misdirection IZ to the B gap, Lawson squeezes, Kellen Jones fills the hole and gets run over by Thornton for the first down, you'd like to see Jones deliver the shot instead of catching it there...END 3rd Quarter
They have 79 total yards at the end of the 3rd quarter.
1st and 10, NCS 21, 4-3 Under (O'Daniel in at SAM, Goodson at MLB), IZ, Jones hits Thornton and causes a fumble, Goodson picks it up and turns into a young Walter Payton, that spin move was especially sweet, he takes it down to the NCS 10...FUMBLE
12th drive, 12:41, NCS 3, 1st and 10, 41-0
2s and 3s are in, 4-3 Under, play action IZ, throws out of his own endzone and just gets rid of it, incomplete...4-3 Over, IZ, Goodson fills the playside gap when he's on the backside, wrong, RB cuts back through the backside hole and gets tackled by O'Daniel for a gain of 11, that was on Goodson although Pagano and Watkins are giving ground as well...
1st and 10, NCS 14, Nickel, IZ, better job up front, ILBs fill correctly, Watkins gets him for a gain of 1, nice, I'll take that all day next year...Nickel vs. Wildcat, Jones gets caught in the wash on his scrape, let's Creecy get the corner, tattooed by T.J. Green on the sideline for a gain of 5...Nickel boundary CB Smoke, Brissett is fixed on the wide side and doesn't see the blitz coming, pressure up the middle by Watkins, Brissett rolls right into Tank on the blitz, Tanks hits him square but misses the tackle, Brisset spins out of there and Lawson cleans it up, gain of 1...PUNT
The 2s and 3s get a stop on their 1s.
13th Drive, 5:31, NCS 11, 1st and 10, 41-0
Rod Byers in for Watkins, 4-3 Under, IZ play action, and a quick slant thrown but Tank cuts in front and knocks it down, excellent job, that was the play we ran that Sammy had the "truck and go" for a TD against UGA...4-3 Over, IZ, Jones gets caught drifting inside instead of keeping his run fit, RB cuts it back to where Jones should be, Jones pulls him down for a gain of 4...Dime ILB Spy on 3rd and 6, Brissett has nothing open so he outruns Jones to the sticks for a first down...
1st and 10, NCS 21, 4-3 Over, IZ, Kellen Jones just dives into the wash and gets run out of the play, Goodson doesn't read the play and the RB runs right through the gap he was supposed to fill for a gain of 5...Nickel, pressure from Dodd, Brissett escapes and then jukes Jones out of his shoes, then he breaks the tackle of Pagano and Ebo, O'Daniel finally gets him down after a gain of 11...
1st and 10, NCS 37, 4-3 base, jet sweep motion, jet sweep, Jones makes a bad read and gets hooked by the TE, Green fills the alley but gets shaken off and the WR gets 6, Kellen Jones looks lost right now...Timeout Clemson, Jones is not sure if he's supposed to be out there...Jones is pulled for Chad Richardson, Nickel, IZ, whoa, Richardson makes the read, fills the hole, and makes contact in the backfield on the RB, that's what I'm talking about, RB spun out of the tackle and got a gain of 3, but everything else was great ...4-3 base, Wildcat, QB IZ, Pagano pushes the OG back 3 yards, Richardson flies in there and takes on the OG and turns it in but, somehow the OG gets to the 2nd level to get Goodson (too slow on the read), gain of 3, first down...
1st and 10, NCS 48, Nickel zone blitz w/ double bullet crossers, pressure forces Brissett out of the pocket, Brissett jukes Ebo and then Pagano runs him down, gain of 5...4-3 base, Brissett flees the pocket again and O'Daniel beats him to the corner for a gain of 1...Dime on 3rd and 4, jailbreak blitz from us, Goodson gets through and chases Brissett out of the pocket and backwards, Brissett throws it away, incomplete...PUNT
1st shutout against an ACC team since 1998.
We are 11th in the country in yards per play right now. We are ranked 7th in tackles for loss per game. We are ranked 16th in allowing 10 yard plays.
The F/+ ratings come out next week but right now we are ranked as the #4 defense in S&P and #35 in FEI. On offense we are ranked 42nd in S&P and 35th in FEI.
The eye test says...
We all thought that if we had good DBs that we would have a chance at having a great defense. I think that's what we are seeing right now. We have a lot of athleticism and we have playmakers at every level. We are winning "mano y mano" matchups all over the field. We display good technique and have continued to see players fixing their weaknesses from week to week. These are the characteristics of a great defense.
Confidence and swagger should only go up from here (barring a major injury or two). I'm not ready to call this "the best defense in the country" like the announcer did. The jury is still out on that because we have 7 more games to play and complacency has been an issue.
However, as far as this game goes, we did not see the complacency that we have seen in other games. This was just prolonged domination of, heading into the game, the ACC's best statistical offense. It's always good to get a shutout, especially of a team that hung 41 on FSU the week before.
Tony Steward blew a couple assignments in the first half and Kellen Jones played the majority of the 2nd half. I don't know if Steward was benched because of performance or because he was hurt again.
I can honestly say that I didn't know who Chad Richardson was and I had to look him up. Rivals.com lists him as a 0 star recruit. However, I like the kid. He ain't scared, he plays fast, and he's a competitor. In his bio, it says that he is on the All ACC Academic Honor Roll, so he's got some aptitude upstairs as well. I think he's earned some extra reps in practice and if he's on scout team, I would get him off there and see what you have when you actually start teaching him.
Saturday, Bobby Petrino's offense gets a shot at the Tiger D. Can't wait.
Game Ball: Vic Beasley (I would've given this to Grady Jarrett, but not in a game where Beasley is also dominant, ties the Clemson sack record, and scores more points than the opposing offense.)
All American Level Performance: Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley
All ACC Level Performance: Stephone Anthony, Corey Crawford, Garry Peters, MacKenzie Alexander, Robert Smith, DeShawn Williams
Solid: Everybody else; including Scott Pagano and Chad Richardson.
Less than solid: Rod Byers (got pushed around a bit). B.J. Goodson at MLB (he is tough, but unable to read and recognize plays well enough to be solid). Kellen Jones (unsound LB play from him a good bit. He got worse as the game went on. This is not the same guy we saw vs. UGA).
Past Game Balls: Robert Smith (Georgia), Stephone Anthony (SC St., FSU), Garry Peters (UNC)