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Clemson vs Georgia Tech Film Review: 1st Quarter

Clemson started out with a bang Thursday night.

Clemson v Georgia Tech
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Count me among those who let the outstanding first half and uninspired second half lead to Troy game-esque knee-jerk overreactions Thursday night. Like QT said, a win is a win is a win, but the second half set off so many alarms that it’s impossible to ignore the huge contrast in execution before and after intermission. Below lies the 1st quarter review, which is by far the best and most complete performance by Clemson thus far this year, so this is where I’ll return to pumping my usual sunshine. Even the gloomiest of fans will enjoy this segment.


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 (quarter, quarter, half) = coverage scheme by the secondary. DIME OF DOOM = 3rd down 3-2-6 havoc formation. FCB = Wideside 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. 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 = TB/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 is listed as a 2 digit number where it is listed: # of RBs, # of TEs, # of WRs like 21, which is 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR.

As most of you know by now, Tigerray felt the YouTube the banhammer because the ACC is dumb and the only full-length video of the game I found on YouTube is the RUSSIAN BROADCAST. SERIOUSLY.

Clemson ball, 15:00, Clemson 25

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel, IZ to Gallman who bounces outside, Leggett missed an easy seal block on the Mike linebacker who fortunately doesn’t have the athleticism to keep Gallman from bouncing out for 6 yards...2nd & 4, 11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, fake screen to Gallman, screen pass to Leggett who tries to outrun a corner instead of wait for his blockers to help, trips and falls when trying to accelerate, gain of 2...3rd & 2, 11 shotgun vs nickel Mike bullet in front of soft cover 3, Watson takes the easy short curl to Williams, gain of 9...

Here I’m watching the offensive line in pass protection. Clemson expected a blitz and soft zone with 6 blockers and a quick pass. The guess was correct and Tech brought a very straightforward, simple 5 man rush; no stunts or disguises. As in, an easy early test for the line. Still, it’s a good sign that all 5 rushers were accounted for after some of the struggles we’ve seen so far this season.

From now on, personnel and formation is 11 shotgun vs nickel unless otherwise noted.

1st & 10 bucksweep, Leggett seals the DE and Guillermo leads through the B gap, but Gallman hesitates in the backfield which gives the backside DE time to close from behind, only a gain of 1...

We’re quick to harp on the offensive line’s struggles, but this stuffed play is Gallman’s fault. He should’ve followed Guillermo through the massive lane from the first but his quick look outside doomed the run.

2nd & 9, 21 shotgun look (Scott in backfield) triple option reverse pitch to McCloud (fake dive to Gallman, McCloud intercepts apparent pitch to Scott on his fly motion), Ray-Ray has moves and a flash of strength, nobody has improved this year more than him, gain of 17...

Ray-Ray is dirty.

1st & 10, quick curl to Leggett vs lazy cover 4, Leggett splits the nickel and Mike for a gain of 14...

1st & 10, counter to Gallman vs LB bullet blitzes, Gallman niftily cuts behind the pulling Hearn and drags a defender or two for 6 yards...2nd & 4, jet sweep pass to McCloud freed to the edge by a great block from Gallman, finally shoved out at the 4, gain of 16...

1st & 10, corner fade to Williams complete, TOUCHDOWN.

Aside from a couple early and admittedly nit-picky mistakes from Gallman and Leggett, this drive was perfect. No line busts, no drops, no incompletions, just athletes turning easy plays into chunks. This is a flash of the elite potential we expected from the start. Now what if Clemson can field an elite defense to match it...

Georgia Tech ball, 11:25, Tech 25, 7-0 Clemson lead

1st & 10, 30 flexbone vs 4-3, Wilkins is the read man but blows up the whole thing, forced Thomas to keep it and then destroyed him, mercy this is about to get erotic for me, loss of 4...

Wilkins isn’t even playing his natural position and he’s still been the best player on Clemson’s entire team this year. By far.

2nd & 14, flexbone vs 4-3 under, power option (A back lead blocks for QB and B back on a sweep) blown up by Wilkins and O’Daniel, gain of 2...false start, 3rd & 16, 20 flex vs DIME OF DOOM, LB bullets, Thomas flushed outside and is almost obliterated before he does a 360 no-scope throwaway, classic trickshot from the nerds, PUNT.

Nothing is more fun for me than a dominant defensive line. I spent the entire first half laughing hysterically at everything about this game.

Clemson ball, 9:22, Tech 47, 7-0 Clemson lead

1st & 10, inverted veer keeper, Watson bursts through the middle with more speed than I’ve seen from him on such a run, plows for 8 yards...2nd & 2, straight drop vs cover 4, Watson has all day to throw and steps into a go route to Scott, overthrown out of bounds, safety would’ve broken up/intercepted an accurate throw anyway...3rd & 2, empty set pulls the Will linebacker out to the sideline in man coverage vs Gallman, QB draw all the way, GUILLERMO PANCAKE ALERT, Watson gains 12 and almost broke it for more...

Wish I could put heart-eyed emojis for Guillermo here.

1st & 10 quick slant vs soft zone again gives an easy 6 yards...2nd & 4, toss sweep to Choice gains 2, 3rd & 2, quick out to Leggett vs a safety in man coverage earns an easy 1st down yet again, gain of 5...

1st & 10, counter handoff to Choice picks up 5 despite Leggett completely whiffing on a lead block again (Choice luckily ran to the side where Leggett whiffed, so technically Leggett got in the way!)...2nd & 5, Will blitz in front of man cover 1, fade to Williams in the endzone caught but out of bounds, Williams has to drag the toe better, so close though...3rd & 5, slant lobbed to Williams but Watson overthrows, FIELD GOAL MISSED...

With all day to throw and soft zone coverage, Watson simply has to take the easy throws and he will move down the field in no time at all. No need to try the deep ball when all the easy stuff works so effortlessly. Tech doesn’t have the talent up front to play so soft — there’s no pass rush — but they don’t have the DBs to hold up in man. The poison they picked is a slow death by Watson’s efficiency. Luckily for Tech it worked this time.

Georgia Tech ball, 6:38, Tech 20, 7-0 Clemson lead

1st & 10, fake option pass vs man cover 1, for some reason Thomas throws towards two receivers in the same area, completely missed the wide open wheel route on the far side, Johnson bit on the fake and let his man run 10 yards past him...

At the top of the screen you’ll see an example of the mistakes Paul Johnson needs to make plays through the air. Thomas simply missed it.

2nd & 10, flexbone vs funkiest 4-3 I’ve ever seen, triple option Thomas keeper, edge taken away and he is flattened by Ferrell, no gain...

Believe it or not, this is a 4-3. Ever seen a WLB line up behind the MLB? Venables is a wizard.

3rd & 10, 20 flexbone vs 4-3 over BCB/Will blitz in front of cover 3, Thomas drops back but is swarmed immediately, Tech tried to double team and hold Watkins but he still burst through for the easy sack, this is both beautiful and hilarious, PUNT.

When the talent gap is close or nonexistent, the option is deadly. When it’s the width of the Pacific Ocean, it’s hilarious. Football is the most enjoyable for me not when Clemson looks sharp, but when I can laugh derisively at the opponent’s hopelessness.

Clemson ball, 5:09, Clemson 38, 7-0 Clemson lead

1st & 10, IZ/ZR fails because of Hyatt. He blocked the end initially like a simple inside zone, then left the end free like a zone read after Gallman took the handoff, there’s the first mental bust...2nd & 9, straight drop vs cover 4, Watson climbs the pocket and throws a dart on the run to a sliding Powell, gain of 12...

1st & 10, counter to Gallman stuffed when Guillermo and Leggett get blown backwards on their pulls, Gallman creates a gain of 1 when it should’ve been a loss of 2...2nd & 9 deep fly to Williams perfectly thrown (!!!) but Williams was possibly interfered with and couldn’t slide back to the ball as he is so adept at doing, questionable no call, but good news is that the accuracy was there...3rd & 9, 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5, PA rollout and Watson throws another dart, this time complete to McCloud for 20, beautiful...

1st & 10, jet sweep to McCloud stopped for a gain of 3, Leggett blocked but help came from inside...2nd & 7, PA rollout and Watson again throws a dart on the run, corner route complete to Thompson who steps out at the 1, so close to a score...

Gallman had a rare miss in pass pro, but Watson is good on the run. Too good.

Gallman then punches it in for the score, TOUCHDOWN.

Georgia Tech ball, Tech 35 (kick out of bounds), 2:26, 14-0 Clemson lead

1st & 10, 30 flexbone vs 4-3 under, triple option dive makes it through a pile til Boulware stands it up, gain of 3...2nd & 7, dive again goes nowhere, this time Pagano make instant contact for a gain of 1...3rd & 6, 31 flexbone vs 4-3 under, fake dive corner route incomplete but they call Smith for PI, refs say he got there too early but it was truly too close to call, that’s two PI mistakes which have gone in favor of Tech and more are on the way...

1st & 10, 31 flexbone vs 4-3 under, rocket sweep to the strong side, O’Daniel sheds two blocks and makes the stop for a gain of 2...20 flexbone vs 4-3, triple option pitch blown up by Smith, flew the alley and made the big hit, no gain...END OF QUARTER.

Almost a perfect quarter, only a few nitpicks as far as mental busts. Watson threw a great deep ball to Williams but they missed a possible PI. Special teams was a let down with the kickoff out of bounds and the missed chip shot field goal. Should be 21-0 or 17-0 and it’s frustrating to leave those points on the field. I worried it would cost once the defense wore and Tech found success moving the ball on long drives, but luckily that never happened without the aid of questionable penalties and 2nd half 3 & outs. Best quarter of the season, commence sunshine pumping.