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ACC Champs: 4th Quarter Film Review

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Virginia Tech
The pressure that forced the game-winning interception.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a Brent Venables fanboy like me then proceed at your own risk. With Dorian O’Daniel ejected, I immediately expected Clemson to play nickel. It never happened until the final drive. Clemson stuck with an unhealthy Jalen Williams at Sam instead of trying nickel and paid for it in the second half. I questioned it immediately after O’Daniel was ejected and in my 1st quarter review, and QT raised the same questions in his in-depth.

Why not employ nickel personnel in the first place against a team who can’t run the ball with its running backs? More importantly, why not switch to nickel after the loss of O’Daniel? Why not try someone else when Williams isn’t up for it? Are we truly this inadequate behind O’Daniel? Why didn’t we redshirt K’Von Wallace if we weren’t going to call upon him in this sort of situation? It’s the postseason, they should be ready to contribute by now or else it’s a wasted year of eligibility. Why was an internet hack like me asking these questions on the 3rd drive of the game and we never found an answer?

I consider this blasphemy on my part, but I view this as a bit of a brain fart from Venables. I’m not even mentioning the infamous “cover 11” either — that was miscommunication — I’m questioning the personnel usage minus O’Daniel. All of a sudden I have concerns about this defense matching up against Ohio State. There’s depth up front and at corner, but not enough elsewhere to survive the loss of a flexible player like O’Daniel. Recruiting a hybrid nickel/Sam (not a grayshirt guy either) has to be a priority...


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

VT ball, 15:00, 50 yard line, 35-21 Clemson lead

2nd & 5, empty shotgun vs 4-3 (with Jalen Williams at Sam, WHY?!) cover 2, tunnel screen to the field, Tank gets blocked 20 yards downfield, Jadar misses the tackle, and Williams gets dragged past the marker before Joseph cleans up.

Oculus help me.

11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 3 BCB blitz (Edmond, not Tank who is on the field side vs Hodges), ZR keeper RPO, Evans wants to hit the receiver behind Edmond but Smith dissuades him, hit by Ferrell behind the line but falls forward for 1...11 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1 (double OLB green dog blitz), pressure can’t get there and Evans hits Ford in front of Edmond on the comeback for a gain of 10...

Pass rush looked slow and exhausted here.

11 shotgun vs 4-3, speed option pitch read and contained well, gain of 3...11 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1, pump fake doesn’t open the downfield shot and Evans tucks, runs into all 3 linebackers on a green dog, no gain...11 shotgun vs 4-3 Mike/Sam overload, slant thrown right behind it and there’s nobody in the zone, gain of 10...

Throwing into a blitz is a simple concept in theory but difficult for most QBs. VT has so much potential next year with Evans; truly played a great game.

10 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4 soft, QB draw, Lawrence and Joseph miss tackles and Evans then rumbles for 15...

12 shotgun vs 4-3, fake jet sweep QB power, Boulware meets him but gets stoned backward and Evans bulldozes into the endzone, TOUCHDOWN, PANIC.

Yeah it’s bad but VT is playing well. Trying to keep that in mind before losing my mind at this poor display of defense.

Clemson ball, 11:34, Clemson 25, 35-28 Clemson lead

FALSE FREAKING START...11 shotgun vs nickel NB fire, fake jet sweep power handoff (Hearn pulling), Hyatt moves to block the nickel and lets the backside end go free, who then comes untouched through Hearn’s vacated gap to hit Gallman for a loss of 4...

I’m not an expert in offensive line play so I’ll let a commenter correct me if I’m wrong, but Hyatt has to block the DE here, not worry about the blitzing NB. Watson’s run fake (or Watson himself) can neutralize the NB; Hyatt’s responsibility is to prevent backside penetration.

Empty shotgun vs nickel man cover 1, 4 verticals, Renfrow makes the circus catch as usual on his vertical route and in hindsight probably saves the day...

This dude...

11 shotgun vs nickel, power option toss gains 9...11 shotgun vs nickel, IZ to Gallman gains 4, could’ve gained a few more if he followed the left side of the line (Guillermo Hearn and Hyatt were bulldozing) but he tried to bounce outside...

10 shotgun vs nickel double LB bullets cover 3, quick out complete to Scott for 6...FALSE START...ANOTHER FALSE FREAKING START...empty shotgun vs nickel cover 4, deep comeback route to Williams overthrown, too high and out of bounds...empty shotgun vs nickel NB/Mike fire cover 0, Watson throws up a fade to Cain before the blitz reaches him, Cain makes an excellent catch, he and Renfrow saving the day...

11 pistol vs nickel, ZR triple option pass to Renfrow, perfectly executed and Renfrow is free down the sideline for the touchdown.

Clemson’s version of the triple option, run to perfection. Look at everyone bite on Watson’s run while Scott just waits to block. Poetry.
Too good to show only once.

VT ball, 7:28, VT 24, 42-28 Clemson lead


10 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, RPO QB draw/pop pass, linebackers attack the draw and the pop pass is wide open down the middle, gain of 35...

Justin Fuente is going to be a nightmare in Blacksburg.

Empty shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 2, tunnel screen gets 5 yards on the edge...10 shotgun vs 4-3, strongside bucksweep, Williams sets the edge and Joseph makes first contact but gets dragged for 4 yards...11 shotgun vs 4-3, IV keeper (Tajh Boyd play) easily picks up the 1st down, fell forward for about 10 yards...

11 shotgun vs 4-3, orbit triple option pitch gains 1, Boulware forced the pitch and contained the pitch man very well...10 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 2, slot out and up burns Williams to death and Jadar can’t get to the sideline in time to support, easy touchdown, resume raging against a 4-3 with Williams against a spread...

Jalen knew immediately he messed up and I don’t mean to pile on him; he’s an injured grayshirt being asked to do too much. Johnson should’ve been in better position to help.

Clemson ball, 5:43, Clemson 25, 42-35 Clemson lead

FALSE START OH MY GOD...11 shotgun vs nickel, QB sweep gains 5 yards behind Gallman and Leggett...phantom holding call on Hyatt on the next snap...2nd & 20, 10 shotgun vs nickel, QB power gains 3, why...empty shotgun vs dime 3 man rush cover 4, deep post to Cain underthrown, incomplete, PUNT.

VT ball, 4:03, VT 41, 42-35 Clemson lead

10 shotgun vs NICKEL FINALLY, tunnel screen mercifully incomplete...10 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 Will fire, quick curl to Ford gains 9 in front of horribly soft coverage from Tank...10 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 Will fire, QB draw, Lawrence has him in the backfield but Evans still fall forward through him Joseph, picks up the 1st by inches...

10 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 Mike spy, quick slant complete to the slot between Carter and a spying Joseph...11 shotgun vs nickel NB fire cover 3, Edmond way too deep and the corner comeback route is wide open for 14...

10 shotgun vs nickel, weakside speed option pitch contained and forced out of bounds, loss of 1...10 shotgun vs nickel, QB power finally contained for “only” 4 yards...10 shotgun vs nickel, QB power draw stopped immediately by Ferrell and Wilkins...

10 shotgun vs nickel double LB fire man cover 1, immediate pressure forces an early and wobbly pass, diving interception made by Tank, PRAISE BE TO OCULUS WE SURVIVED AGAIN.

In spite of ourselves, PLAYOFF BOUND AGAIN.