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The Big Play is Back: Clemson vs BC Film Review 1st Quarter

NCAA Football: Clemson at Boston College Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson played its best game of the year on Friday night in Chestnut Hill, finally featuring the big play ability that takes the offense from unstoppable in theory to obliterating in effect. Clemson ran the ball well against a formerly immovable defensive front, its defensive line ate through Boston College, and ACC officials actually overturned an abhorrent targeting call. Last but not least, Deshaun Watson had the game he needed (no interceptions, nearly flawless throwing downfield) to keep himself near the top of the Heisman race — perhaps at the top if this article circulates as it rightfully should. Yeah, things are going pretty well right now.


Alley = area between the OT and WR. BCB = Boundary Cornerback, Bullet = ILB A or B gap blitz. C0, C1, C2, C3, C4 (quarters) or C6 = coverage scheme by the secondary. DIME OF DOOM = 3rd down 3-2-6 havoc formation. FCB = Wide side or field cornerback. Fire = S, NB, LB blitz from the outside. Green Dog = man blitz when your man stays in to block or is not in the formation. 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 coverage. OZ = outside zone run or zone blocked play off-tackle. PA = Play Action. PBU = Pass broken up. Red Dog (overload) = LB and S/NB blitz on the same side. Robber = S or LB moves to take away crossing routes. C3 Sky = SS moves up two yards, takes flat, CBs and FS take deep thirds. Soft= CBs/NB playing well off the WR until he gets to the 1st down line. Stretch= zone blocked run just inside the last offensive player on that side. Stack = the 3 LBs are stacked directly behind DL. Stalk = WR blocks DB in front of him. Sweep = RB/QB run, often FB/ H-B lead play to the D gap. TO = Triple Option. ZR = Zone read option play.


  • Thoughts within a play are separated by a comma. (,)
  • Each play is separated by an ellipsis. (...)
  • First downs are separated by a paragraph.
  • Comments on a drive are in italics.
  • Offensive personnel listed as a 2 digit number: # of RBs, # of TEs, # of WRs; 11 = 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 receivers; 22 = 2 RB, 2 TE, 1 receiver, etc.

Play by Play

For now, it appears the only game film available on YouTube is the 30 minute edition. Not ideal (next to none of the crucial endzone-angle replays), but we have to make do for these “smaller” games and hope someone posts a full-length broadcast for the big showdowns, like GT Bob did last week for Louisville.

Clemson ball, 14:55, Clemson 12 yard line

20 shotgun (Ray-Ray splits out of the backfield before the snap to make it 11) vs 4-3 cover 4, checkdown in the flat to Gallman incomplete, Will linebacker separated Gallman from the ball with a good hit...11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, jet sweep pass to McCloud gains 3 yards, decently blocked on the perimeter but the play-side DE pursued well...11 shotgun nickel (showing man cover 1 behind a double LB bullet blitz) BC backs off into man under at the snap, Watson checks off the slant since the would-be blitzers dropped into that zone, fires to Williams on the deep cross/skinny post, thrown slightly behind Williams and dropped, had both hands on it so it’s on Mike, PUNT.

It’s seemed all year Clemson’s offense is feast or famine; either a 3 & out or a long scoring drive. We’ve yet to see more than a handful of explosive plays or long touchdowns, but finally this is about to change.

BC ball, 14:07, BC 47

21 I-form vs 4-3 over cover 3 (Jadar in box) stretch PA fake, Towles looks deep but checks down to the flat, Boulware is there immediately for a big thud, gain of 2...11 shotgun vs nickel (Wiggins NB) NB fire, IZ gains 4...3rd & 4, 11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 Will bullet, Ferrell flushes Towles left, thrown away, PUNT.

McCloud muffs, recovered by BC, SUDDEN CHANGE.

BC ball, 12:41, Clemson 9

11 shotgun vs 4-3, IZ gains 3 yards...13 pistol vs 4-3, IZ again gains 3, good fill by Joseph...12 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 3, rollout pass thrown away, FIELD GOAL GOOD.

Clemson ball, 11:03, Clemson 25, 3-0 BC lead

12 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 2, PA IZ quick screen to Scott, gain of 5...11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, quick out route to Scott complete for 5...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 2, rollout RPO, Watson tucks and gains 6...11 shotgun vs 4-3, fake jet sweep ZR handoff, Gallman starts inside but quickly bounces out to the left, breaks a tackle, Watson frees him with the key block, outruns everyone, TOUCHDOWN.

Someone ask Card Chronicle if Lamar Jackson can block.

Clemson went away from so many tendencies in this game, namely choosing not to run inside zone on first down. When Clemson finally did run the ball, it’s a touchdown on the first run.

BC ball, 9:22, BC 25, 7-3 Clemson lead

12 ace vs 4-3 cover 2, PA, nobody open so Towles tucks and gains 8...false start, 2nd & 8, 12 shotgun vs 4-3 over cover 4, quick curl to the TE tackled immediately by Boulware, gain of 6...3rd & 1, QB sneak stoned but generous spot to say the least, 1st down...

11 shotgun vs nickel double LB overlap bullets, Lawrence slips past the guard who went to double team Watkins too early, easy TFL and a big tackle, loss of 1...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, quick swing pass to the running back read immediately and three defenders close for the TFL...3rd & 16, 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM (Wallace box safety) 2 man rush, 9 drop, blatant hold on Ferrell, rollout pass thrown away, great coverage once again, penalty declined, PUNT.

Downfield coverage has been excellent and forced three throwaways despite Towles extending plays each time. We look much better defending underneath and in the flat thus far, but BC doesn’t exactly have the speed or talent to test us there like Louisville did and NC State/FSU will.

Clemson ball, 5:22, Clemson 29, 7-3 Clemson lead

11 shotgun vs 4-3, ZR bucksweep to Choice gains 1, Fruh and Hearn pulled well but BC flowed to it...11 shotgun vs 4-3 Mike biltz in front of man cover 1, wheel route to Choice incomplete, interference called...

11 shotgun (trips to field) vs nickel, IZ to Choice gains 4, boundary corner came unblocked for the tackle...11 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1, fake jet IZ, deep go route to Williams perfectly executed, amazing throw and catch...

1st & 5, QB draw touchdown called back for a weak block in the back, defender sold it with a dive after Cain barely touched him...1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs 4-3, ZR keeper gains 2...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, deep cross to Leggett overthrown out of the endzone...3rd & 8, fade route complete to Williams for the touchdown, here’s a perfect example of the red zone threat we lacked without him last year, beautiful.

BC ball, 3:12, BC 25, 14-3 Clemson lead

12 ace vs 4-3 BCB blitz, Tank comes in free and makes the easy TFL, loss of 2...12 shotgun vs nickel, IZ gains 4, double team washed out Watkins, Lawrence was sealed...3rd & 8, 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM 3 man rush cover 4, Towles flushed left and throws incomplete along the sideline, PUNT.

Clemson ball, 1:40, Clemson 44, 14-3 Clemson lead

11 pistol vs cover 4, PA sucks in the Mike and Leggett rolls through the middle completely uncovered, nobody within 10 yards of him at the catch, makes two sick cuts and takes it all the way, TOUCHDOWN.

Play-action over the middle is deadly when there’s an established run threat. With Gallman’s 2 straight 100 yard games, the run threat has returned. Let’s see more of this play calling please.

BC ball, 1:24, BC 19, 21-3 Clemson lead

12 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, quick curl taken away by Boulware so Towles is flushed again, avoids the sack and scrambles for 2...11 shotgun vs nickel, ZR handoff gains 5, Yeargin was the read man but showed good quickness to move down the line and bring it down from behind...3rd & 3, 11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, slant open but dropped, PUNT.

End of quarter

Big play offense is back! Tough to complain about much except Ray-Ray’s muff and the initial 3 & out. When Clemson’s offense is on, they’re unstoppable and are clearly a top 3 team — maybe even #1 with the defense playing well above expectations once again. But when they’re off... well, that’s in the second quarter review.

The deep pass coverage woes and safety busts of 2015 have all but evaporated, and now it seems “nickel and diming” this defense in the flat is its relative weakness. Even SPECIAL TEAMS (sans short punts) are miles better than last year. Dare I say it, this team might be as good or better than 2015 in every facet but power running, perimeter blocking, and the pass rush.

If the run game continues to round into form, Venables finds an answer for underneath coverage without sacrificing deep coverage (a delicate balance), and Austin Bryant makes the expected impact upon his return...this may materialize into the dominant playoff favorite we all expected from mid-January through early September.