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Clemson Flops, Escapes NC State: 1st Quarter Film Review

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Clemson won, but allegedly also lost.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

NC State was lucky it was not blown out on Saturday; Clemson was even luckier to escape with the win. The Clemson offense put up 500 yards, Deshaun Watson was efficient, and the defense allowed only 10 points in Death Valley. So HOW was this game even close? The trademarks of the 2016 Clemson Tigers, that’s how: sloppiness, horrible run-blocking, and of course, the rampant turnovers which throw all statistics and roster superiority in the dirt. For a year now, we’ve lamented the inexcusable lapses which nearly undid otherwise dominant performances; making games far more interesting (frustrating) than they should be. This was a trend that began in late 2015 and, with few exceptions, has only grown worse here in 2016.

NC State played much better than almost all of us expected, sure. Their game plan allowed Ryan Finley to distribute the ball quickly against the known weaknesses in underneath coverage and exposed Clemson for its aggression up front with a heavy diet of screens and cutback lanes on stretch handoffs to Matt Dayes. Yet despite all their success (much like Clemson), State couldn’t score.

Meanwhile, Clemson had even more success than State on offense, but gave the ball away inside the red zone 3 times (2 fumbles and a 4th down failure at the goal line), another in State territory (Gallman knocked out), and the horrible interception touchdown to open the 3rd quarter. Those are 5 instances in which Clemson took points from itself and/or directly gave State points, providing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities an underdog needs to have a chance of upsetting a top 5 team on the road. Make no mistake, State was fortunate Clemson was so “hospitable” and refused to win until Dave Doeren — in his first meaningful moment as State’s coach — returned the favor and gave away the game himself in the last 60 seconds of regulation. Thank you Dave...

Shorthand

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.

Format

  • 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

NC State ball, 15:00 State 25

22 offset I-formation vs nickel, toss sweep, Edmond sets the edge adequately and Joseph drags Dayes down for a gain of 3...20 shotgun vs man under cover 1 robber, swing pass in the boundary to Hines who is manned up on Boulware, yikes, gain of almost 40...

Why put Boulware on State’s fastest player???

Empty shotgun vs nickel cover 3, tunnel screen gains 4, Carter overran it and the receiver ran away from Joseph into Carter’s void...false start, 2nd & 11, 11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, swing pass to Samuels, run out of bounds after a gain of 6...3rd & 5, 10 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, quick out route complete and hit short, but receiver fights and falls forward, 1st down...

False start, 1st & 15, 11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 robber, TE out route incomplete...false start, 11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 robber, PA deep curl incomplete...3rd & 20, 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM, OZ handoff gains 6...FIELD GOAL OFF THE POST, MISSED.

Clemson is playing more man coverage than we’ve seen all year, likely due to little fear of State’s receivers outside or Finley’s ability to scramble. The drawback will be in underneath or slot coverage, like we saw with Boulware on Hines for a huge gain...

Clemson ball, 10:55, Clemson 26

11 shotgun vs nickel, jet sweep motion IZ to Gallman, playside DE took McCloud (this is why we never saw the actual jet sweep all day) on the sweep action and Hyatt double teamed the DT to seal him, Gallman hits the lane, gain of 7...empty shotgun vs nickel soft cover 4, easy slant to McCloud for 6 yards...

11 shotgun (trips to boundary, Williams isolated to field) vs nickel cover 3, quick out/fade to Williams is easy pitch and catch, gain of 6...11 shotgun vs nickel, QB power gains 7...

11 shotgun vs nickel, option toss sweep to Gallman gets the edge, gain of 8...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, swing pass to Gallman gains 15 before he’s hit and knocked unconscious, FUMBLE RECOVERED BY STATE.

Solid, efficient drive in which Clemson easily took what State gave is undone by a hit which couldn’t be any closer to targeting. Unfortunate turnover, not Gallman’s fault of course.

12 shotgun vs nickel, ZR handoff gains 3, Huggins shot the gap but holding created a hole behind him...113 shotgun vs nickel BCB blitz cover 3, lateral to the trips (field) side, WR pass to the open TE, everyone flew to the WR...

A decent throw could’ve been a touchdown. Luckily the pass was dreadful. The good news is nobody has beaten Clemson over the top this year without trick plays...

104 shotgun vs nickel, quick tunnel screen stopped quickly by Carter and Johnson, gain of 3...21 offset I-form vs 4-3 BCB blitz, stretch handoff, Dayes cuts back inside the TE and Smith drags him down after a gain of 12, the DL gets washed down and Boulware is held from behind while trying to fill (he would’ve been taken out by the lead blocker anyway, moot point)...

1st & 10, holding...1st & 20, 12 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 robber/Will fire, rollout away from the blitz (seems as if they ran away from pressure all day, great game plan/scouting from State honestly) corner route overthrown out of bounds...chop block, 2nd & 35, 02 shotgun vs 4-3 Will fire cover 3, inverted veer PA, deep crossing route overthrown due to pressure...3rd & 35, 10 shotgun vs dime of doom 3 man rush deep cover 3, go route seems open when Edmond releases to the flat, late and slow pass gives Johnson plenty of time for the easy PBU along the sideline, incomplete...PUNT.

Clemson ball, 5:42, Clemson 15

11 shotgun vs nickel, power handoff to Choice goes nowhere, Crowder was slow to pull and he ran right into Hearn who was stoned himself, Choice runs into the back of both of them, gosh...

How bad will things be next year when Watson and Gallman aren’t here to mask the run blocking deficiencies? Why is Crowder pulling? Never has been or will be the strength of his game.

2nd & 9, 11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3 cloud, PA IZ out route complete to Leggett who turns upfield for a gain of 12...

11 shotgun vs nickel, fake ZR pass to Scott, McCloud can’t hold the block long enough for Scott to get outside so he cuts back inside towards State’s help, only a gain of 3...11 shotgun vs nickel double LB bullets man cover 1, back shoulder throw to Williams incomplete...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, Watson tucks and scrambles for 9 yards...

12 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, PA deep post to Cain wide open, beat the corner, safety was caught underneath on play fake, just overthrown, ugh...11 shotgun vs nickel Tampa 2, rollout pass complete to McCloud on the curl, late hit out of bounds adds 15 to the gain...

11 shotgun vs nickel, IZ handoff to Fuller, line gets great push in the middle but Fuller misses it and plows into the scrum on the right side, moves the pile for 4 though...11 shotgun vs nickel, QB power goes nowhere, Hyatt missed his block on the second level...3rd & 5, empty shotgun vs nickel LB bullets cover 0, Watson overthrows the slant to Leggett out the back of the end zone, FIELD GOAL GOOD.

NC State ball, 1:17, State 25, 3-0 Clemson lead

11 shotgun vs nickel, speed option keeper gains 17, Wilkins defended the pitch but everyone else was sealed out...

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, quick curl route complete to Hines who spins out of a tackle, jukes Boulware, and races down the sideline for a 1st down...

11 shotgun vs nickel, IZ handoff gains 1 yard, defensive line did well to not get washed down or pushed backward, Boulware was free to fill with authority...END OF QUARTER.

Like I said, State’s game plan is solid. They’re running stretch plays to create cutbacks and getting the ball out of Finley’s hands before the rush can arrive; namely to Hines who has been dynamite. Penalties have kept them off the scoreboard, nothing else. Offensively, Clemson is attacking State’s bend and don’t break approach efficiently but lost likely points on the Gallman fumble (in this case the turnover was bad luck, not sloppiness) and the missed deep shot to Cain (everything about it was executed perfectly except the throw). Play-calling has been fine, at this point it seems like Clemson is about to wake up...alas.