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ACC Champions: 1st Quarter Film Review

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NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Virginia Tech Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Back to back Champs! Plenty of negatives in this game, but the significance of another playoff appearance and ACC title cannot be overlooked. This is another month of publicity and exposure for a program already riding high. Many still speak of the Ford glory years, but these are indeed the glory years; all that is needed to completely end the debate is a national championship. Once again, Clemson is right there with a chance. This is a top 5 program (not merely top 5 team) right now and no matter what Will Muschamp tries to tell high school parents, that’s not changing anytime soon.

Heisman: to the most exciting player in the country with unreal stats — which have regressed seemingly every game since early October — or the best player in the country over the past two years? Read the Heisman trophy description and the choice should be an easy one.

It’s frustrating Clemson once again started strong but faltered when the opponent adjusted. This speaks to great game planning and focus but a hesitancy to adjust to the opposition’s adjustments. The catalyst to an iffy defensive performance was losing O’Daniel to a stupid (correct, but stupid on his part) targeting penalty on a 3rd down stop. Clemson clearly felt they could put O’D on VT’s slot and hold up both in man and underneath zone. Jalen Williams replaced him and had himself a poor game; certainly not yet recovered from the knee injury. I wondered why Clemson didn’t immediately move Carter inside to nickel and roll with Fields or Edmond out wide. Also worth noting: when Hodges was split out widest, Clemson put Tank on him even on the field side. Wise move, considering Carter gives up a whole foot on Hodges, but it created a mismatch against Ford. Carter has been great at nickel this year but is a mismatch against a #1 receiver.

Most disappointing was the defensive performance in the second half. Clemson had 14 point leads 4 times and lost them; one of which was a 21 point lead. This game was far too close, given how it started, and even how it felt after Clemson went up 35-14 in the second half. Unforced errors and a questionable “cover 11” call almost led to disaster. Luckily, Clemson survived and advanced thanks to the late stand because VT very likely may have gone for a 2 point conversion had they scored on their last drive.

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

Clemson ball, 15:00, Clemson 25 yard line

Empty shotgun vs nickel, QB draw gains 3...11 shotgun vs nickel vs nickel, tunnel screen to Scott gains 7 despite Renfrow’s missed block...

11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 blitz, PA rollout, Williams comes open on the long crossing route for a gain of 13...

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, power handoff (Crowder pull) to Gallman, easy 11 yards behind good blocking across the field, especially Leggett(!)...

11 shotgun (bunch left) vs nickel, screen to Scott gains 2...21 shotgun (Scott in backfield) vs nickel, counter to Gallman gains another easy 10...

Diversity in the run game!

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, fake offside freeze, delayed screen to Leggett (same as opening TD against Miami last year), Hearn moving well in space but misses the open field block and it’s only a gain of 13...

11 shotgun vs nickel, jet sweep to Scott, Williams and Leggett create a lane and Scott beats the safety to the corner, but steps out of bounds at the 3...

11 shotgun vs 4-3 (3 corners and 1 safety), ZR keeper, Watson uses Gallman as a blocker and walks into the endzone before anyone has a clue, TOUCHDOWN.

Yardage in chunks on the ground and in the air. Watson is efficient, line is creating holes, Leggett throwing key blocks. Perfect start.

Virginia Tech ball, 11:42, VT 32, 7-0 Clemson lead

11 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1 Mike fire, Ferrell obliterates the the TE’s block and gets to Evans for the sack, Virginia boy fired up, loss of 4...11 shotgun vs 4-3, shovel pass to the tight end gains 2, everyone thinks they can beat Clemson like Pitt did but Pitt used it in a triple option...10 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1, deep lob to Ford vs Carter overthrown, just out of Jadar’s reach, PUNT.

Surprised to see Clemson roll with the 4-3 instead of nickel, especially on 3rd down. Big game needed from O’Daniel...

Clemson ball, 10:03, Clemson 17, 7-0 Clemson lead

11 shotgun vs nickel strongside overload blitz in front of cover 3, handoff to Gallman runs right into it for a gain of 2...pass interference...

Empty shotgun vs nickel, quick curl to Scott vs 10 yard cushion, gain of 6...false...empty shotgun vs nickel cover 0 LB bullets, slant complete to Williams gains 6...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 2, nobody open and Watson chucks it high to Leggett, interference called, lucky break there...

10 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 Mike bullet, QB power, Watson bounces outside for 8...11 shotgun vs nickel NB fire, inverted veer handoff runs directly into it, Watson should’ve kept, loss of 3...10 shotgun vs nickel cover 0 FS/Mike bullets, Watson gets the quick out to Scott just in time, gain of 6...

11 shotgun vs nickel, bucksweep (Crowder pull) gains 8...10 shotgun vs nickel NB fire, ZR handoff gains 3...

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, PA inverted veer pulls the deep middle safety down to the line, absolutely nobody playing center field and Leggett is wide open as possible, TOUCHDOWN.

Oh man when Clemson is on, they are ON.

Virginia Tech ball, 5:51, VT 23, 14-0 Clemson lead

10 shotgun vs 4-3, IZ handoff gains nothing, defensive line playing big early...empty shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, nobody open and Evans has to eat it, sacked by BIG DEX...

10 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1 LB bullets, quick flare out to the back immediately met by O’Daniel, but he targets and is ejected, preventing a 3 & out...

This turned a likely blowout into an eventual close game.

11 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 2, PA deep comeback incomplete...11 shotgun vs 4-3, orbit triple option dive gains 2...10 shotgun vs 4-3 Sam/Mike fire, QB draw completely stuffed, loss of 3...FAKE PUNT CONVERTED, GAIN OF 20...

Sigh.

Running back pass results in pass interference.

VT has now taken the Will Muschamp approach to scoring on Clemson. If they score, that’ll be their only points tonight right?

11 shotgun vs 4-3 Will fire cover 4, wanted an out and up but pressure forces Evans to scramble up the pocket, gain of 4...11 shotgun vs 4-3, jet sweep gains 2...10 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 3, slant opens up between Carter and Boulware, tripped up just short of the goal line...

Evans punches it in 2 plays later, TOUCHDOWN.

Clemson ball, :51, Clemson 25, 14-7 Clemson lead

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, quick curl complete to McCloud, gain of 9...11 shotgun vs nickel, ZR handoff to Fuller and there’s a huge hole, gain of 28...

11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 3 Mike fire, PA go route, dropped by Leggett...

END OF QUARTER.