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Clemson Beats Florida State: Key Play Analysis

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Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson vs FSU was a close, extremely well played game from both sides. A talented FSU team played to its potential and nearly spoiled Clemson's shot at an undefeated season as well as the ACC title, but Clemson finally managed to beat the Seminoles. The game was in the air, and I was fully expecting to lose, until well into the fourth quarter. We're going to look at a few crucial or interesting plays from the drive that gave Clemson the lead for the final time. Few things decide games as well as 11 play, 75 yard drives, even those that end in field goals. (All images, unless otherwise noted, are from ESPN/Tigerray, any editing was done using

Clemson begins the drive running inside zone, with the tight end sealing the backside end. An unblocked linebacker actually hits Gallman two yards past the line of scrimmage, but Gallman carries him about four yards forward. Clemson follows this up by lining up in empty and running stick to the trips side. The camera frame precludes us from seeing what the other two receivers run, but it doesn't matter as Watson's first read (Hopper) is open on the stick route.

You can see pretty quickly how Hopper got open, the out route drew the nickel out, the fade took the corner out and Hopper vs an inside linebacker is very quickly a mismatch. Chances like this happen in the hurry up no huddle, a few seconds ago Gallman was in the backfield, Leggett was next to the tackle and FSU needed those linebackers on the field to combat the threat of the run. Having players versatile enough to split out wide or play close to the ball puts unique stress on defense.

Clemson hurries back to the line of scrimmage, lining up with 33 seconds left on the clock, in yet another formation. This time Clemson aligns in 2 x 2 spread, with Leggett split out wide. Over the course of three plays Clemson has shown an 11, 00, and 10 personnel formation without substitution. Gallman is able to pick up four yards on a true zone read, with Watson making the correct read of a frozen backside end. Watson follows this up on second down by scrambling for a first down when no one is able to get open.

The first substitution of the drive comes here, five plays and thirty one yards in, with Brooks replacing Gallman at the running back spot.

To the right of Brooks, slightly in front of Watson, is Scott. Scott's running ability and toughness make him a threat to carry the ball or catch a quick pass out of the backfield. Leggett is in the slot. Clemson did not have to substitute to get into this formation, but likely brought Brooks on because Gallman was justifiably a bit tired. What this means is that with a running back, a tight end, and three receivers on the field Clemson has shown looks that could be classified as 10, 11, 00 and 20. If Leggett motions in here Clemson could line up in 21 as well. That sort of versatility without substitution is unfair when the offense gets rolling. FSU is extremely limited in how it can adjust to a battery of looks.

Clemson rolls out Watson to the two receiver side, with the offensive line faking inside zone and Brooks looking to get tackled. Artavis slips out of the backfield to serve as the player near the line of scrimmage on a flood concept.

With Leggett and Peake stretching the defense horizontally, as well as Watson running to the right there just aren't enough defenders to tackle everyone. #44 and #5 for FSU both attempt to tackle Watson, and Scott is lost in the fray. Good things happen when Scott is lost in the fray.

Clemson lines up with Brooks and Scott in the backfield again, motioning Scott to the right to in essence run a bubble screen from the backfield. Clemson is actually running the same concept, but to the single receiver side. 

Leggett, Scott and Peake will all be in the exact same place when Watson is making his reads, but now Clemson is attacking the single receiver side with play action instead of the two receiver side. This time the corner comes on a blitz, a linebacker aggressively covers Scott... and no one is left with leverage on Leggett, who is able to pick up an easy first down.

Clemson has picked up two first downs in a row running the same concept slightly different ways out of the same formation. We are up to three plays, maybe four (inside zone, stick, and flood, I'm not sure if Clemson ran different routes when Watson scrambled) for the entire drive. ScElliot have done a great job getting the ball into our most dangerous players (Gallman, Watson, Leggett, Scott) hands and letting them make plays. Old school, power or option coaches often speak about how they want to be able to run their base plays when everyone in the stands know what is coming. Run the base plays until they stop it. Underneath the motion and the formations and the fact that they are in the spread what Clemson is doing is exactly in line with the ethos of any old grizzled four yards and a cloud of dust coach. These are our base plays, this is what we do. Where Clemson and the old school differ is Clemson does not allow defenses to adjust when the offense is on a roll. This is what tempo at its best does. Tempo is not some magic solution to offensive failure, instead it allows teams to break the defenses spirit when on a roll. Many teams have one word calls, like, say "attack" that quite simply mean hurry to the line and run the same play. Once in high school I heard a coach yell "just run it again, they haven't adjusted yet." When it is working the no huddle is absolutely devastating, there are no breaks, there is no time to adjust, and the offense will run the defense off the field. This is what we do, screw you, stop us.

Clemson lines up next in trips, with Scott again running the flat route as Peake and Leggett attack deep. This time with Peake and Leggett running the switch concept that Leggett has scored off of before. Watson is able to buy time and find Leggett with inside leverage again for a first down.

The drive begins to fall apart on the next play, with Clemson motioning Scott into the backfield to run the inverted veer.

(image via

(image via

Inverted veer works by having the back run a sweep and the QB running power. If the defensive end plays the sweep he will have ran out of the hole and the offensive line has blocked beautifully for the QB to carry up the middle. If the defensive end plays the power then the offensive line has blocked the defenders in the box and it's up to receivers blocking and the ball carrier making a play.

Watson makes the correct read, but because #14 on FSU is not blocked and comes crashing down towards the line of scrimmage like a bat out of hell there's nowhere for Scott to go. A QB draw the next play goes nowhere, with Watson tripped up in the backfield. Gallman can't pick up the first down on a check release, and Huegel hits the field goal on fourth down. Even with it ending in a field goal I consider this drive a rousing success. Clemson was able to drive three quarters of the way down the field and put the fear of god into FSU. A defense that had played brilliantly all night was put on its' heels, and from here on out the floodgates began to burst. The fact that the next drive ended in a touchdown seems almost inevitable given how FSU was struggling with Clemson's depth, versatility and pace on this drive. It may have taken a while to get there, but this drive shows our offenses potential when operating at full speed.