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Clemson vs Georgia Tech Film Review: 4th Quarter

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

We return to the the weird yet disturbingly dull second half of Clemson’s victory over Georgia Tech, concluding with the 4th quarter. I want to preface this by saying the second half output isn’t as bad is it seemed live — Tech held the ball almost the entire 3rd quarter, and the 4th did not warrant tempo from Clemson’s offense. Nevertheless, it’s amazing the recurring failures to simply execute and put teams away on offense have yet to cost Clemson. I obviously agree with the coaching staff that the drive-killing mistakes are correctable, simple blunders; but after seeing the same issues with the offensive line on film for weeks, I’ve begun to worry there’s an issue deeper than mere execution, and it derives from a soft mentality.

I don’t know if the players on offense are too nice to have a killer instinct (the offensive leaders certainly have nice-guy personalities, as do I, so I’m not saying it’s bad) or if it’s laziness when they have a lead/face an overmatched opponent. Call that a bad hot take but either way, Clemson of late seems to get lazy when it thinks the game is all but won. I’m not simply calling for style points, mind you; I want garbage time so the backups can build depth and we can get the stars off the field uninjured. That’s not a critique on conservative play-calling either; it’s smart to try to get your struggling line to work on the ground game when you’re up in the 4th. As a matter of fact, the staff was more aggressive late in the 4th than I’ve seen in a while, and if the last pass to Overton hadn’t been overthrown we wouldn’t even have this discussion.

Yet my concern lingers, perhaps unfairly, but to those who say Clemson can simply “flip the switch” and play with focus and execute properly when it matters (both before games are decided and against better opponents like Louisville, FSU): that reminds me too much of Tommy Bowden’s propensity to play up or down to the competition, which is what brought about the archaic “C” word in the first place. Not to mention it goes against everything Coach Swinney demands from his teams.

Swinney preaches a faceless opponent and unrelenting focus ad nauseum before and throughout every game. He gets it in spades from his defense but not consistently from his offense. I don’t see similar letdowns (excluding fatigue) from the defense, where you have intense, fiery leaders in Boulware and Tankersley who demand perfection and from their peers. I wonder if there needs to be a change in mentality among the players on offense, and if so it should start with the unit’s leaders demanding perfect execution from their teammates on each and every play, no matter the opponent or score.

End rant, on to review.

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 (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 are 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.

Again, Clemson is in 11 shotgun vs Tech’s nickel unless otherwise noted.

Georgia Tech ball, 15:00, Clemson 40, 23-0 Clemson lead

4th & 1, Watkins jumps offside on the hard count, well there’s a mental letdown for the defense...1st & 10, 31 flexbone vs 4-3 under cover 3, deep post intercepted by Edmond but he’s called for PI, every single iffy call/ref mistake has gone Tech’s way but this one is valid...

1st & 10, 31 flexbone vs 4-3 under, IZ handoff to B Back gets 5...2nd & 5, 20 flexbone vs 4-3, TO dive breaks free when Ferrell crashes inside, O’Daniel takes the QB/pitch, and Joseph is blocked in the hole, gain of 20...

Tech punches it in from the 2 on the next play...

Penalties and B back off-tackle runs give Tech its first breath of offense tonight. Just a solid adjustment by Johnson to move away from our DTs and DEs crashing inside.

Clemson ball, 13:21, Clemson 25, 23-7 Clemson lead

1st & 10, option toss sweep to Gallman picks up 12, Cain and even Leggett sealed a lane for Gallman along the sideline...

1st & 10, power handoff to Gallman finds 7 yards, Morris pulled and Gallman squeezed through him and Guillermo nicely...2nd & 3, ZR RPO keeper with Leggett as the lead block/pass option but it’s played very well by Tech and Watson has to eat it for a gain of 2...3rd & 1, ZR keeper goes nowhere when Tech times the FS fire blitz perfectly, could say Watson made the wrong read and should’ve given to Gallman but Tech just made an athletic play for once, PUNT...

Georgia Tech ball, 10:58, Tech 17, 23-7 Clemson lead

21 flexbone vs 4-3 man cover 1, Tech tries a hilariously bad B-back pass and it’s easily intercepted by Smith, returned to the Tech 27, I don’t even know what to say other than thanks for giving the game away...

Clemson ball, 10:48, Tech 27, 23-7 Clemson lead

12 shotgun vs 4-3 (8 man box), RB dive, interior line actually gets a good drive and moves the line of scrimmage 2 yards forward, but Gallman bounces it outside directly into the DE who worked outside of Hyatt, ugly TFL and it’s Gallman’s fault...

If an offensive line used to zone blocking gets this sort of movement on a rare drive block...you freakin’ take it, Gallman. #42 worked outside of Hyatt and got the TFL when Gallman should’ve followed the drive blocking inside.

2nd & 11, 12 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, quick out route to the far side vs soft coverage open but Watson short hops it, looks like he tried to drill the “NFL throw” instead of letting it fly...3rd & 11, 11 shotgun vs nickel jailbreak (7 man) blitz, perfect call against Clemson’s slow-developing fake screen to Gallman, actual screen to Leggett, Watson runs for his life and finds Powell, but somehow interference isn’t called, hello refs?...FIELD GOAL GOOD.

Ignoring another questionable PI call/non-call (all of which indeed went in Tech’s favor), Gallman gave up easy line yards for highlight yards and got burned, Watson missed an NFL throw, and then Tech hit a jailbreak on a slow-developing double screen. Ugly. Can’t make excuses based on officiating when you’ve yet to crack 50 yards of offense in a half. Clemson’s offense once again squanders a chance to put the game away. Mentality...

Georgia Tech ball, 9:57 Tech 25, 26-7 Clemson lead

21 flexbone vs 4-3 cover 3, Thomas finds the slot open on the wheel route, Edmond chased the post inside and Johnson was too shallow in the flat underneath, wide open...

1st & 10, 31 flexbone vs 4-3, Tech tries another post/wheel combo this time vs man cover 1, Thomas throws a good back shoulder ball vs Jadar but it’s dropped...2nd & 10, 31 flexbone unbalanced line vs 4-3, fake dive sweep stoned by Watkins, gain of 1...3rd & 9, 11 flexbone vs 4-3 over, BCB/Will fire in front of cover 3, Carter comes free and brings Thomas down for a loss of a million, Watkins got immediate pressure and flushed Thomas right into Carter’s path, PUNT.

Beautiful work from the 3 technique. Once again Tech holds Watkins and they still can’t block him. Goodness, I’d be interested to see the the mountain of film Clemson sent to the ACC officiating office last week...

Clemson ball, 7:48, Clemson 20, 26-7 Clemson lead

1st & 10, bucksweep gains 5 despite Falcinelli blocking nobody...2nd & 5, straight drop, looking for Williams on the skinny post but Hyatt is beaten on an inside move and Watson has to scramble, darts out of bounds for 7 yards...

1st & 10, power to Gallman, Falcinelli pulls as the lead blocker but is so slow Gallman runs into him and tackles him forward, not including a gif of this because I’ve singled him out enough...2nd & 8, quick out to McCloud earns an easy 10 yards, leaves the field with a slight limp but doesn’t seek the training staff so it’s not a concern as far as I know...

1st & 10, Watson overthrows the wheel route to Leggett vs man cover 1, more likely it was a subtle throwaway since Leggett wasn’t remotely open...2nd & 10, flanker screen to Powell gains 5...3rd & 5, fake screen to Williams, screen to Gallman was read by the Mike linebacker who beat Fruhmorgan’s sad attempt at a block, gain of 2, PUNT.

Coaches are searching for a winning combination on the offensive line and have yet to find one. With the exception of Guillermo, everyone looks bad. Hyatt has yet to look anything like he did in 2015, Fruhmorgen is either busting or whiffing in space, and don’t get me started on left guard. I’m ready to throw John Simpson in and see what he can do. If they’re busting anyway, why not throw in the big freshman who is at least physically capable? No one else seems to be...

Georgia Tech ball, 4:22, Clemson 15, 26-7 Clemson lead

21 flexbone vs 4-3 under Sam fire, deep post, Edmond and Smith are there, very well played by Edmond to close and get a hand in there, almost interference but he kept the back hand off perfectly...2nd & 10, 21 flexbone vs 4-3, TO dive gains 5...3rd & 5, toss sweep to the B back gains 2, Boulware filled and flew through the backside hole, gain of 2...4th & 2, TO dive gains 1 at most, Lawrence and Watkins stoned the line and let Joseph run in free for the easy stop, TURNOVER ON DOWNS.

Lawrence penetrates and Watkins stones a double team. This is still erotic.

Clemson ball, 2:51, Tech 24, 26-7 Clemson lead

I want to look at one play on the last drive simply to point out how deadly this play may be in the future. Clemson fakes the option toss sweep to Gallman, which we’ve run quite a bit, and it pulls the corner up, leaving Overton running free behind him. Watson was a bit too juiced on the throw, he certainly isn’t one who lacks killer instinct at least.

The only thing I don’t like about this play is that we showed it on film in garbage time...

End of game.