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Clemson Outlasts Louisville: 4th Quarter Film Review

Critique the performance and relive the moment.

Louisville v Clemson Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

4th quarter. Wildest crowd in Death Valley history and the whole country saw/heard it. I bled at some point; not sure how. Twitter rumors are true and I did in fact collapse/faint across my seats after Edmond’s stop and the subsequent official review. Then I literally ran downtown to 356 and stayed up til 6 am because exhaustion-induced delirium is more fun than sleep. Probably the best night I can remember. Even made it to brunch with my family in Greenville at noon, I was that inspired/foolhardy. Still worth it.


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

Good news! A Georgia Tech fan posted the full game on YouTube, and will soon lament the fact his most-watched video doesn’t feature Tech at all. Cheers to GT Bob on YouTube nonetheless! And if you have yet to re-watch the game at all, that link is a necessity. The last 7 minutes of this game are epic and emotionally earth-shattering.

Beginning of 4th quarter.

Clemson ball, 15:00, Clemson 38, 28-26 Clemson lead

2nd & 7, 11 shotgun vs 3-4 man cover 1 double LB fire, ZR handoff to Gallman has no chance with a free rusher on the other side of the line from the read, no gain...11 shotgun vs dime strong side overload blitz, Hearn gets matador’d in pass protection and Watson somehow avoids the sack, dumps the ball at Gallman’s feet, PUNT.

Louisville ball, 14:05, Louisville 26, 28-26 Clemson lead

11 shotgun vs nickel (Carter NB, Edmond FCB) man cover 1 Mike blitz SS spy, coverage is sound so Jackson scrambles right, forced out of bounds by Jadar, gain of 3...hurry up, quick out to the TE in the flat vs cover 3 Will bullet, nobody covered the flat since Jackson’s feet are so dangerous, easy first down, gain of 12...

11 pistol vs nickel man cover 1 double LB bullet (Wilkins in coverage vs the RB for the second time this drive?!), Jackson avoids pressure and finds the open curl route in front of Van Smith, gain of 7...

A 310 pounder covering a running back? This is amazing on its own.

2nd & 3, 11 pistol vs nickel Mike blitz man cover 1, IV keeper, Pagano and Watkins both get sealed out, Jackson slips through a few holes before he runs out of bounds, gain of 20...

11 pistol vs nickel NB fire, man cover 1 spy, nothing open initially but Jackson has all day and tries to hit the slot down the sideline in the endzone, poor throw vs great coverage and Jadar should’ve had an pick in the endzone, defensive holding called on Boulware, looked like a weak flag but why is Boulware manned on Hikutini anyway...

False start, 1st & 15 from the 25, 11 pistol vs nickel (once again the slot is aligned on the boundary side, leaving Boulware to cover the wide side of the field; this is how I would attack Clemson every single play) Mike NB overload blitz vs ZR keeper, Wilkins sets the edge and sits on the keeper, forcing Jackson backward, he and Carter clean up, loss of 6...

Jackson blew this read. Easy yards up the middle but Jackson wants to be superman. This is at least the second time he killed a drive by taking a loss on a misread keeper and ultimately settled for field goals on both occasions. If he were a great QB as opposed to simply a great athlete, Louisville would’ve won.

11 shotgun (motion to empty) vs nickel cover 4, pass to the running back on the wide side flat (Boulware with too much space to cover), Edmond misses the high tackle but ties up the feet, gain of 9...11 pistol vs nickel man cover 1 robber, far side comeback route complete in front of Edmond, stopped a yard short of the 1st, FIELD GOAL GOOD.

An exhausted defense is no longer rushing the passer or finding penetration up the middle. A missed read by Jackson and a crowd-induced false start (foreshadowing!!) saved Clemson from a touchdown.

Clemson ball, 10:15, Clemson 31, 29-28 Louisville lead

11 shotgun vs nickel Will blitz, ZR handoff, blitzer attacked the mesh point and the play is doomed from the start, too predictable a play call, Gallman does well to prevent a loss...11 shotgun vs 3-4 Mike blitz in front of cover 3, Watson tries the lob fly to Cain but it’s overthrown inside and easily intercepted, goodness...

Louisville ball, 9:41, Louisville 44, 29-28 Louisville lead

11 shotgun vs nickel Will fire in front of man cover 1, PA, looking for the deep quick shot but Jackson quickly tucks, Boulware lost the edge on his rush and is behind Jackson, who runs untouched for nearly 40 yards before forced out of bounds...

11 pistol vs nickel, IZ handoff hit at the line but bounces forward 5 yards, Huggins ate a stiff arm...same formation and alignment, QB sweep, Wilkins sets the edge and forces Jackson inside where Lawrence brings him down for 2...11 pistol (normal alignment) vs nickel fire, speed option away from it and nobody sets the edge, Boulware is cut by Hikutini, Smith flies the alley well but misses the tackle, it’s an easy touchdown along the sideline, wow.

Manhandled everywhere. Wanna beat Clemson? Convert third down and wear them out, then it doesn’t matter how many 5 stars there are or who’s calling the plays.

Probably the worst sequence imaginable: an ugly interception and a quick strike vs an exhausted and suddenly sloppy defense. I felt it was over at this point. Luckily Artavis Scott provided the spark on the ensuing kickoff, comeback likely doesn’t happen without his play.

TURNING POINT: Clemson ball, 7:39, Louisville 23, 36-28 Louisville lead

11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 nickel (safeties shifted to Mike Williams), QB sweep forced inside by blitzing Sam, Watson fights for 3 yards...11 shotgun vs standard 3-3-5 nickel, PA IZ skinny post to Williams complete for a touchdown, play-action pulled the safety in and Williams got inside, easily drags the defender and slams him down in the endzone, oh my...2 point conversion fails.

This is the same route Watson missed in the first half on the would-be-touchdown-turned-interception. He doesn’t miss in the clutch. We have a game again. Mike Williams is a man.

Louisville ball, 6:59, Louisville 29, 36-34 Louisville lead

11 pistol (trips to field side) vs nickel Mike bullet cover 4, curl route underthrown and incomplete, pressure from a stunting Watkins up the middle forced Jackson backward as he released...

For a guy with such good feet, Jackson has...really bad footwork. Often times against no pressure, he didn’t step into throws either. Still an athlete playing QB but I don’t look forward to playing him next year.

2nd & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel, quick curl to the running back gains 7...3rd & 3, 11 pistol vs nickel Mike/NB blitz, once again nobody covers the flat but Watkins bails us out by tipping the ball at the line, exhale, PUNT.

First forced punt in like 2 hours of real time and it’s lucky as hell.

Clemson ball, 6:11, Clemson 15, 36-34 Louisville lead

11 shotgun vs 3-4, fake jet IZ handoff, Hyatt blows his man 5 yards off the line and Gallman bounces it that way, looks like he may round the corner but he squeezes past Scott just as Scott released his block, somehow only a gain of 6...quick tunnel screen to Williams only 1 block away from a big gain, but Harvey-Clemons slips under the oncoming Hearn to grab Williams’ feet, gain of 5...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs 3-4 double OLB fire in front of cover 3, deep ball to Scott thrown in-stride but Scott can only get one hand on it, bobbles, and finally drops it...11 shotgun vs 3-4 double OLB blitz/man cover 1, Watson steps up, rolls left, throws across his body to Thompson on the deep drag route, great diving catch, gain of 15...

11 shotgun vs nickel, fake jet IZ, Hyatt gets a seal (almost holds) and it’s enough for Gallman to squeeze the B gap for 3 yards, Harvey-Clemons is a phenomenal tackler, took Gallman head on and won... 11 shotgun vs nickel NB fire, PA IZ rollout, blitz closes off the rollout and Watson has to tuck and run upfield, nowhere to go, gain of 2...3rd & 5, 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 nickel double OLB blitz in front of deep cover 2, high/low crossing routes put the Mike in a no-win situation (he looks completely lost) Watson hits Cain right down the middle, huge throw, gain of 24...

12 shotgun vs...well who knows? Becomes a 3-5-3 since Louisville has 12 men and the boundary corner decided to jet off the field since nobody else could, didn’t get off in time and it’s a free play, PA rollout RPO, Leggett blends then cuts back to the left, no corner over there in zone since he ran off the field, wide open, easy catch and run for the score, TOUCHDOWN. 2 point conversion jump pass complete to Leggett.

I’m sorry but this is kind of funny. Confusion leaves a defensive lineman trying to keep up with Leggett. I can’t even pretend to diagnose this coverage but I assume it was supposed to be some sort of cover 1. Wish they had a camera on Grantham’s face for this.

Louisville ball, 3:14, Louisville 25, 42-36 Clemson lead

Straight drop, Jackson makes his best throw of the night on a far side comeback (an NFL route but not an NFL quality pass), gain of 12...

11 pistol vs nickel vs man cover 1 robber/spy, motion to empty, pressure gets to Jackson but he spins out, slips around for a gain of 8...11 pistol vs nickel Will blitz in front of cover 3, once again no one covers the flat and the TE gets an easy first down, gain of 3, Smith was late to his zone because everyone rightfully fears Jackson’s feet...

11 pistol vs nickel cover 3, quick dump to the running back in the flat gains 7...speed option vs cover 4, Wilkins sets the edge and takes away the pitch, Jackson brilliantly cuts back and finds a huge opening on the back side...

This is just a brilliant playmaker.

11 pistol vs nickel double LB blitz in front of cover 3, quick curl complete in front of Edmond, who was bailing deep with no safety help behind him, gain of 7...2nd & 3, Will blitz in front of cover 3, quick out route complete to the slot, gain of 9...

11 pistol vs nickel NB fire, ZR handoff (probably should’ve kept and run around the edge this time) gains 3...2nd & 7 man cover 1 spy is too tight and Jackson tucks, runs out of bounds for no gain...3rd & 7, DIME OF DOOM Mike/NB overload, Carter gets there freely but whiffs, Jackson eludes Watkins and Wilkins as well, throws a prayer to the endzone but there’s that monster tight end again, Smith gets there in time (perhaps too early) and breaks it up, too close and too big a situation to throw the flag there though, here we go...

DIME OF DOOM BLITZ LOOK AND DEATH VALLEY CREATE A FALSE START, 4th & 12, all LB/NB fire blitz in front of cover 4, another quick out to the slot wide open, uh oh Edmond has no help in the flat and he’s the lightest guy on the field, but EDMOND FORCES HIM OUT SHORT, GAME OVER.

James Quick comes up short in Death Valley again, y’all.

Here’s to you, Marcus Edmond. Kept his outside half on the receiver’s inside half, thus removing the cutback and forcing Quick out of bounds. This is an attention to details and fundamentals in practice. This (and the crowd) is why Clemson survived.