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Pitt Knocks Out Clemson: 1st Quarter Film Review

Wondering what went wrong against Pitt? Here are the gritty details.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Disgust. Utter and complete disgust. If you can’t run block or play adequate defense, you have no business being competitive in a football game. Despite the nauseating inability to do either, Clemson still should’ve emerged victorious in this shootout — perhaps comfortably, even — against Pittsburgh on Saturday. This isn’t a whiny critique on officiating either; there’s been a clear precedent for interference/holding flags yet Clemson still can’t play with proper technique in the defensive backfield. Endless mistakes finally caught up with Clemson, who lost to an unranked team for the first time in 5 years. Worst of all, they lost at home. There is NOTHING worse than losing in Death Valley and it will never, ever be excusable.

The only silver lining on the weekend is that Clemson should remain in the top 4 thanks to pandemonium throughout the country. Even before the other upsets, Clemson still had a clear shot at the playoff as likely ACC champions, but the weekend’s results should keep Clemson in the top 4 this week instead sneaking into the field after conference championship weekend.

To all those who try to spin this loss as a blessing in disguise or impetus for a wake up call: no. A loss is never a blessing. A lesson, yes, but the same lesson should’ve taken hold after Troy, NC State, etc. Instead we heard excuses like “the numbers are similar to this time a year ago.” The numerable wake up calls to date should’ve shaken this team from its sloppiness weeks ago. There is no way to spin this loss as anything other than a complete and total butt-kicking. Deshaun Watson was largely marvelous and is the only reason Clemson was even competitive, yet late in the game with a chance from the 3 yard line to ice the game with a mere field goal, he finally failed in the clutch like never before. Pittsburgh was excellent and I don’t mean to take away from their performance, but once again Clemson couldn’t put an opponent away despite many chances to do so. Though they effectively became Texas Tech on Saturday, Clemson should’ve won...but certainly deserved to lose.


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

Pitt ball, 15:00, Pitt 25 yard line

12 ace vs 4-3 double OLB fire, rollout corner route incomplete...12 empty shotgun vs 4-3 double OLB blitz in front of cover 3 (Johnson and Joseph underneath), Tank sits on the out route instead of dropping into his deep third and lets the fullback run past him on the fly, gain of 44...

This is on Tankersley. Worried about James Connor underneath instead of the fullback running through his zone. Bust.

12 shotgun vs 4-3, shovel pass option (essentially a speed option but the pitch man is inside instead of outside) to the tight end, Joseph whiffs, rumbles for a gain of 8...12 shotgun vs 4-3, IZ to Connor through a huge B gap hole, gain of 7...

The line shifted to the strong side after all the motion and Pitt ran to the weak side. Ferrell went outside on a rush and that left only Boulware on the play side, who was double teamed immediately. Is this the same Matt Canada who could never put together a good offense at NC State?

12 empty vs 4-3 double OLB fire, INVERTED VEER SHOVEL PASS, WHAT IS THIS and its a wide open lane to the endzone, vomit.

We’ve seen inverted veer and we’ve seen the shovel pass, but this is a triple option concept I’ve yet to encounter. Burn everything.

Clemson ball, 13:02, Clemson 22, 7-0 Pitt lead

11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1, quick out complete to Renfrow for 9...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, triple option (zone read plus a third option being the pass outside) swing pass to Scott gains 10...

11 shotgun vs 4-3l cover 4, PA, deep post/eventual crossing route to Cain thrown just a little too far in front, slightly more air underneath it is a walk in touchdown...11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, IZ to Gallman, immediate interior penetration but Gallman sidesteps, hit hard after a 5 yard gain...11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, quick out complete to Leggett for 7...

11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, lob fly route complete to Williams, beautiful catch, gain of 31...

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, quick swing pass to Scott gains 4...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, wheel route to Leggett intercepted in the endzone...

This never should’ve been thrown. The linebacker carried Leggett up the field and the corner sat in his deep quarter when Scott ran inside, simply had to wait for the ball to fall into his lap. Easy interception.

Pitt ball, 10:35, Pitt 20, 7-0 Pitt lead

12 ace vs 4-3, counter handoff stuffed at the line by Lawrence, no gain...12 ace vs 4-3, PA counter/jet sweep pass incomplete...11 shotgun vs dime, QB scrambles for the 1st down but holding called...11 shotgun vs dime man cover 2, jet sweep gains 2, PUNT.

Clemson ball, 9:10, Clemson 49, 7-0 Pitt lead

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, counter handoff to Gallman gains 2...11 shotgun vs nickel, PA rollout pass to Scott incomplete...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, fly route to Williams complete, this catch is even better...

11 shotgun vs 4-3, IZ handoff, slight hole closes immediately, gain of 1...11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, out route to Scott complete, run down the sideline all the way to the 1...Gallman runs it in on the next play, TOUCHDOWN.

Pitt ball, 7:19, Pitt 25, 7-7 tie

11 shotgun vs nickel, NB fire, jet sweep straight into it, Jalen Williams sets the edge and finishes the tackle, no gain...12 shotgun vs 4-3, IV shovel pass again, gain of 17, gotta adjust gap responsibilities so slow this...12 ace vs 4-3 cover 4, PA rollout, O’Daniel releases the TE to contain the rollout and of course the pass goes right past him, gain of 15...

12 shotgun vs 4-3, flare screen to Connor stopped by Tank for a loss of 2...12 shotgun vs 4-3 double OLB fire, wheel route to Connor undefended, easy touchdown...

Bust due to one of two options: either Tankersley busted cover 3 by chasing the inside route or Joseph busted man under. Looks like guys were playing completely different calls so it’s difficult to say for sure. Either way it’s a bust.

Burn everything.

Clemson ball, 5:22, Clemson 30, 14-7 Pitt lead

11 shotgun vs 4-3, counter to Fuller gains nothing...11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, out route to Cain complete for 14...11 shotgun vs 4-3, ZR keeper (surprising) gains 2...11 shotgun vs nickel, deep comeback to McCloud incomplete...11 shotgun vs nickel double LB blitz in front of cover 3, Watson eludes pressure in the pocket and gets the throw off to Williams just in time, complete for a first down...

11 shotgun vs 4-3, bucksweep to Fuller gains 6...empty shotgun vs nickel double LB blitz in front of cover 3, curl route complete to Scott who runs it in but penalty called for hands to the face, pushed back to the 30 yard line...

Empty shotgun vs nickel, tunnel screen to Williams gains 7...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, Watson is superman and avoids pressure in the pocket again, slings a laser to Williams for a first down...

After a few plays, Clemson punches it in on 4th down...after a review shows Gallman crossed the plane before fumbling. Crisis (temporarily) averted, TOUCHDOWN.

Pitt ball, :40, Pitt 25, 14-14 tie

11 ace vs 4-3, IZ gains 5 yards...11 shotgun vs 4-3, IV triple option handoff gains 17, Johnson whiffed at the line...END OF QUARTER.