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Clemson Film Review Third Quarter: Drawn and Quartered

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Pittsburgh v Clemson Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson Ball, Clemson 19, 14:53

1st and 10, 10 bunch vs. 4-2, zone read, Hearn gets met at the line and beat outside by a linebacker, Gallman forced to bounce outside and tackled behind the line… 2nd and 11, 10 trips vs. 4-2, one linebacker on the LOS, five man rush, slip screen to RRM3 but Hearn misses a block in space and his man tackles the ball carrier near the line for the second play in a row… 3rd and 8, 3-3 vs. 11 trips, five man rush, outside linebacker and middle linebacker both take the crossing route and RRM3 is open underneath on a ten yard out…

1st and 10, 11 unbalanced vs. 4-2, pretty decent hole on the buck sweep, the turf monster gets Gallman… 2nd and 9, 10 vs. 4-2, nickel blitz, Watson tries to throw to RRM3 on a snag route and misses by a yard, nearly picked off… 3rd and 9, 10 vs. 3-3, fade/out to one side, out/seam to the other, another out route to RRM3, this time overthrown… PUNT

A pair of poorly blocked plays nearly turned this drive into yet another third quarter three and out, but good pocket passing bails out the drive. Hearn struggles to block in space much more than you would expect from a guard that has moonlighted at tackle. Sometimes turning the corner is hard, trips happen. Two badly overthrown balls from Watson in a row killed the drive. Combined with a bad kick return to open the half and Pitt has pretty good field position.

Pitt Ball, Pitt 31, 12:54

1st and 10, 11 vs. 4-2, naked bootleg, pass to the tight end coming across the formation to the flats, because Clemson has rolled Van Smith into the box this is in effect a 4-3, with Jadar Johnson both deep and centrally located and all corners aligned over a wide receiver there’s no one to account for the tight end if the linebackers play the run, the linebackers play the run, all wide receivers are blocking, this looks like a designed screen, nearly gets a first down …

All images via Tiger TV

2nd and 2, 12 unbalanced vs. 4-2, both Smith and Tankersly in the box, bubble screen blown up behind the line singlehandedly by Ryan Carter… 3rd and 5, 01 vs. DOD, jet sweep motion, pitch to H back finds a crease underneath, probably should have been taken by Wilkins…

1st and 10, 12 trips vs. 4-3 under, PA inside zone, both tackles get beat badly and force Peterman to step up into D’oD and fumble attempting to throw the ball away… FUMBLE

Pitt was able to move the ball with plays designed to take advantage of Clemson’s aggression before a random fumble gifted Clemson the ball deep in Panther territory. For every negative play Clemson seems to be giving a sizeable gain soon after.

Clemson Ball, Pitt 48, 10:48

1st and 10, 11 vs. 4-2, well run bubble screen erased by a hold… 1st and 15, 11 vs. 4-2, nickel aligned inside the slot, nickel blitz leaves a deep safety and corner two on two with Scott and Renfrow, Scott blocks the corner and Renfrow makes the safety miss before being tracked down, twenty yard gain…

1st and 10, 11 trips vs. 4-2, PA max protect, fade route to Cain, isolated on the wide side of the field, Watson drops a perfect back shoulder throw and Cain is too tall and fast for the corner, safety help arrives too late… TOUCHDOWN

Clemson was able to take advantage with Pitt’s aggressive defensive style and alignment on two consecutive passing plays. When you play Narduzzi’s version of corners safeties often are asked to cover for nickel players attacking the run and corners are asked to hold up one on one so the safeties can align inside to come downhill. Doing this leaves teams vulnerable to short passes to the outside and one on one deep balls. Against a WR core as talented as Clemson’s that will eventually burn a defense.

Pitt Ball, Pitt 25, 9:53

1st and 10, 12 unbalanced vs. 4-3 under, speed sweep fake strong, inside zone weak, brought down by Dexter Lawrence and Joseph… 2nd and 8, 12 unbalanced vs. 4-3 under, inside zone cutback met in the backfield by Carlos Watkins… 3rd and 9, 10 trips vs. DOD, two extra pass rushers from the weak side, fade to the single receiver broken up, PI on Clemson…

1st and 10, roll out shovel option freezes the ends and causes linebackers to fly up, the running backs defender in man coverage is playing the run and no one is there for the flat route…

1st and 10, 11 vs. 4-3, inverted veer/shovel slow played by Ferrell, Ferrell dives and trips up the tight end long enough for pursuit… 2nd and 8, 11 vs. 3-4, look at how much the pre snap shift causes Clemson to have to adjust

Three man rush forces Peterman out of the pocket and the ball is thrown away… 3rd and 8, off sides… 3rd and 3, 12 vs. 4-3, shovel option/invert veer has been adjusted for and Boulware is there to meet the tight end in the hole but there’s a personal flag…

1st and 10, 12 unbalanced vs. 4-3 over, ten men are in the box or just outside the tight ends, no one is more than eight yards downfield, James Conner still somehow sheds an arm tackle by a falling Lawrence and churns for five yards on inside zone…

2nd and 5, 11 trips vs. 3-4 (Bryant is playing as an OLB), play action shovel pass, however because they pull a guard there’s a pretty big hole when Peterman decides to take off and scramble, just short of a first… 3rd and 1, 11 trips vs. 3-4, outside zone, Boulware flies from the backside of the line to make the hit but Coneor is extremely hard to bring down…

1st and goal, 11 trips vs. 4-3, invert veer/shovel, give to Conner is strung along and tackled at the sideline… 2nd and goal, 11 vs. 3-4, invert veer/shovel, shovel pass is easily open, Albert Huggins should never be playing as a 3-4 end if he’s going to handle being optioned like this… TOUCHDOWN

It’s hard to run against Clemson’s defensive tackles. Pitt isn’t usually good enough at passing downs to bail itself out, but a penalty kept the drive alive. Pitt is running play fakes designed to get the running back/tight ends man to play the run and leak said players to the flats for the QB to throw to on the run. We’re not going to talk about the flags. Neither one allowed Pitt to run the ball five straight times (counting the shovel) and score a touchdown. After defending it well two plays in a row that shovel pass came back to bite Clemson for an easy touchdown. I have no idea why Venables broke out the 3-4 package at this point but I’m not sure having slower players at end when the option has been a problem all day is ideal.

Clemson Ball, Clemson 19, 3:49

1st and 10, 10 vs. 4-3, both OLB walked between the slots and the tackles, quick out to Cain, gets a cushion from the corner and completed underneath… 2nd and 2, 11 trips vs. 4-3 under, both corners to the trips side, bubble screen to Scott is well blocked and he gets easy yardage underneath before the safety arrives, sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you and Pitt has absolutely sold out to stop Clemson from being able to run the ball inside…

1st and 10, 01 vs. 4-2, both ILB’s blitz, both ends drop into pass coverage, a free rusher forces Watson out of the pocket, hitch route to Williams finds space underneath, with how far off the corners are the linebackers aren’t fast enough to get out to cover the flats reliably…

1st and 10, 11 trips vs. 4-2, power to Gallman finds a crease and is able to gain five, Anchrum did a good job combo blocking to create a hole before sealing off the backside linebacker, if you look at the nickel you’ll notice he’s still selling out against the run, he’s just not able to stop the play before a solid gain, Clemson was able to force him to align to the trips side and ran away from the trips side…

2nd and 5, 11 trips vs. 4-3, max protect, three verts, a scrambling Watson is able to find Scott on the comeback, Scott picks up a good block from Renfrow and the catch stands easily after review…

1st and 10, 11 trips vs. 4-3, power away from trips, nickel fires faster so Watson throws the bubble, with less room vertically in the red zone the safety is aligned closer… 2nd and 7, exact same play as before with Renfrow in the slot instead of Scott this time, Scott repays Renfrow with some fantastic downfield blocking…

1st and goal, 4-4 vs. 11 trips, all corners pressed, both ILB blitz the A gaps, Gallman is able to find a crease and churn his legs to pick up the yard needed… TOUCHDOWN

By alignment Pitt has taken the decision out of ScElliot and Watson’s hands. The correct decision is almost always to throw the ball outside or deep, and it’s hard to execute those concepts reliably, but Watson is good enough to. Those concepts get even harder to execute in the red zone, and Clemson is without its ace in the hole. Watson cannot run like he usually can in close games, and without being able to run QB direct runs or option concepts Clemson can’t run the ball. Pitt sold out to stop the run and did so successfully. The offense ultimately is scoring quickly but not holding onto the ball for too long. The defense is being lit up.

Pitt Ball, Pitt 25, 1:37

1st and 10, 11 vs. 4-2, Boulware walks up to the LOS, PA jet sweep, five man rush, Peterman steps into a pair of pass rushers and heaves up a prayer, knocked down easily, lost in this mess defensively are some spectacular plays by Ryan Carter… 2nd and 10, 12 vs. 4-3 over, invert veer/shovel, Wilkins is waiting for the tight end and rocks him, good option defense can be a beautiful thing…

3rd and 11, 11 vs. DOD, pass complete, negated by a hold… PUNT

It seems like Venables and co are adjusting to the calls Matt Canada is making. There aren’t many times it feels like Venables has been out coached but this offense has him scrambling.

Clemson Ball, Clemson 31, :35

1st and 10, 10 vs. 4-3, six man rush, PA, Leggett is able to find space underneath easily on a stick route, turns up field for a quick gain…

1st and 10, 10 trips vs. 4-3 under, weak side safety blitz surprises everyone, Gallman barely picks him up, Watson tosses a one on one ball to Cain… 2nd and 10, 10 vs. 4-3 under, flare screen to Gallman gets solid blocking for a few yards before the safety arrives… FOURTH QUARTER