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Clemson vs Auburn Film Review: 1st Quarter

NCAA Football: Clemson at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the new film review format in which we break down the entire game — offense and defense — as it unfolds, one quarter at a time. This will make it easier for you to follow along in your own review, not to mention cut down on the read time and each writer’s workload since the marathon reviews of last season took a lot of time. This is a group effort, so formatting will not always be identical, but those who follow me will largely follow the precedent set here.

The biggest takeaway: Clemson was undeniably fortunate to escape Auburn with the victory. Clemson did its best to give the game away but Auburn refused to take it, both sides doing so in ulcerating fashion. Every time we thought our Tigers were set to pull away, they made a mistake; every time Auburn had the opportunity to close the deficit, they derped as only a team without a prayer on offense can derp.

I would be remiss if I did not give Kevin Steele credit and take back what I said in my prediction. I saw Auburn’s great defensive line and question marks in the back seven as a perfect parallel to Steele’s defenses at Clemson, and I expected Deshaun Watson to run and throw as he pleased like quarterbacks did to Steele when he was here despite having NFL linemen.

Auburn’s DL never found much penetration, but they stonewalled the Clemson OL in the run game. The back seven played more than well enough to win; they were let down by Gus Malzahn trying and failing to implement what looked like a desperate JV high school attack. Malzahn lost it for Auburn far more than Clemson won it for itself, and unless he can pull a 10 win season out of his rear (he certainly won’t with that offense), he’s in his final months at Auburn. We must count ourselves fortunate, indeed.


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 D gap. 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 always, this is meant to supplement your own review of the game. Tigerray has the game on YouTube already (of course) this year in 1080p!

Play By Play

Clemson ball, 15:00, Clemson 35

1st & 10 false start, 1st & 15 11 shotgun vs 4-3 over, IZ handoff to Gallman, gain of 4...2nd & 11, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 over man C1 spy, quick slant to Scott who worked inside his man, gain of 7...3rd & 4, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 double LB bullets in front of man C1, Watson works the back shoulder throw to Scott, gain of 20...

And so begin Steele’s man blitzes. Risky vs a QB like Watson who excels at throwing into it, but also running past it. I was begging for more of these all night. Watson knew he had Scott 1v1, and a well-thrown back shoulder pass is impossible to defend.

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 C3, quick toss outside to Gallman, Leggett gets a good seal to give Gallman the edge with a head of steam, easy 7 yards before he is forced out of bounds...2nd & 3, 11 shotgun vs 4-3, IZ handoff, seal off the right side B gap and Gallman churns through for 5 yards...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel C4, quick slant to Cain in the slot overthrown, interception dropped...2nd & 10, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Samn fire, IZ handoff bounces outside for 5 yards...3rd & 5, 11 shotgun vs nickel C4, Watson steps up and finds Gallman alone in the flat (flat defender had carried up the field with Leggett) but it’s another inaccurate throw, incomplete, would’ve been a big gain...4th & 5, 11 shotgun bunch left vs man C1 spy, crossing route from a bunch formation vs man coverage gets Cain WIDE open but the spying linebacker fills the passing lane, forces the incompletion, TURNOVER ON DOWNS.

This was the perfect play call against an expected man blitz but the spy watched Watson’s eyes the whole way

Good first drive stalls when Watson is inaccurate. I don’t disagree with the mindset of going for it on 4th, and it was in fact a good play call. Watson’s inaccuracy killed the drive.

Auburn ball, 11:51, Auburn 32

1st & 10, 11 pistol vs 4-3 (O’Daniel split out showing man on the slot), stretch handoff, Wilkins and Wiggins set the edge beautifully, Boulware and Joseph penetrate a little too far but bring Truitt down from behind, gain of 1...2nd & 9, false start...2nd & 14, funky 21 shotgun vs 4-3, “statue of liberty” outside handoff, Wilkins sets the edge AGAIN, Boulware and Smith share the TFL, loss of 2...3rd & 16, 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM (Wiggins nickel, Jalen Williams box safety...ummm???) 3 man rush in front of C4, WR screen, Watkins brings it down from behind, gain of 4, PUNT.

Auburn must’ve read my self-scouting report because they attacked the edge on all 3 plays. Guess what?! They got NOTHING. Christian Wilkins shuts down the edge. How can you not love everything about this man. Perfect start for the rebuilt defense.

Clemson ball, 9:43, Clemson 34

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 over Sam fire in front of man C1, IZ handoff to Gallman hit in the backfield, no gain...2nd & 10, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 over BCB blitz in front of man C1, screen pass to Gallman on the edge for a gain of 9...3rd & 1, 11 shotgun, Dye at RB vs 4-3 man C2, QB rollout left RPO, Watson tucks and scrambles for 2, first down...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 over, Scott runs fly motion before the snap and runs into Dye on the play-action, ugh, deep shot to Cain thrown well out of bounds...2nd & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel man C2, ZR handoff to Choice gains 3 yards...3rd & 7, 11 shotgun vs nickel man C2, out route to Leggett overthrown, PUNT

Extremely dysfunctional drive, Watson is still off. We need to start attacking the perimeter in the run game and the middle of the field in the passing game vs split safeties and man under coverage by the linebackers. Mainly, Watson needs to start throwing accurate balls.

Auburn ball, 7:18, Auburn 14

1st & 10, 13 wildcat shotgun vs 4-3 over, Auburn trying to get creative in the run game already ha, dumb spin move wildcat keeper gains 2...

Auburn has gone full high school JV team

2nd & 8, Franklin at QB, 113 shotgun trips to the weak side so Boulware is split out in the 4-3, this is a mismatch...

Quick tunnel screen blown up by Tank because that’s who Tank is, loss of 2...3rd & 10, 113 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM (same personnel as before, this better be just for this game) strong side overload blitz from Joseph and Wiggins in front of C3, quick jet sweep completely STONED by Wiggins, beautiful, PUNT.

Auburn is still wisely trying to attack the edge but they are so incompetent on offense it is comical. I enjoy their futility immensely. Welcome back Korrin Wiggins!

Clemson ball, 5:29, Clemson 18

1st & 10, 11 shotgun shift to empty vs 4-3 C4, QB draw for gain of 3...2nd & 7, 11 shotgun vs 4-3, fake jet sweep IZ, Leggett seals and Gallman finds a hole inside for a gain of 11...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel, IZ handoff somehow gets 5, all Gallman despite no hole...2nd & 5, 11 shotgun vs nickel, nickel fire blitz in front of man C1 spy, quick slant to McCloud complete for a gain of 4...3rd & 1, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 double LB blitz, IZ handoff completely stuffed, PUNT.

Up to this point it’s been Watson’s inaccuracy which kept points off the board, but here I take issue with the play-calling. IZ on 3rd & 1 was telegraphed and I would’ve preferred QB power or a ZR to create a numbers advantage or some sort of RPO rollout. Or the jumbo package which got us the 2nd quarter touchdown, that was erotic. But regardless it was the perfect run blitz from Steele. Making me eat my words against him...

Auburn ball, 2:49, Auburn 20

11 shotgun vs 4-3 over BCB blitz, Johnson inverted veer, Ferrell is the read man but flies into the backfield so quickly that either read is wrong, trips Johnson who stumbles to the line for no gain...11 shotgun vs 4-3 C4, jet sweep motion with inverted veer keeper, Johnson finds a lane this time for 3 yards...3rd & 7, 10 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM soft C4, out route complete underneath for the 1st down, Ferrell jumped offside anyway...

Here’s a nifty cover 4 blitz: Boulware and Joseph show blitz and drop, Williams (box safety) fires, 4 deep and 3 underneath coverage. Problem here though was too much buffer; clearly Clemson expected a deep shot and gave the underneath to an inaccurate QB. This time he made the throw.

1st & 10, 10 shotgun vs 4-3 (DOD split in man look) double LB fire, stretch handoff, seemingly the entire team sets the edge and eats the RB alive, Watkins is blocked in the back otherwise it’s way more than a loss of 1...

Watch Watkins and Lawrence go to WORK inside. This is almost erotic. Auburn still can’t find anything outside, the ends are holding up and this defense looks fantastic...or is Auburn really this bad? Right now it’s both.

2nd & 11, delay of game, 2nd & 16, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 over (OD split on slot, Boulware on LOS showing bullet), IZ handoff, Smith fills the hole but is shaken off, Boulware fights off the block and gets the stop after a gain of 6...


A frustrating quarter on offense, yet utterly dominant on defense. Watson is either rusty or getting warmed up; disappointing he still has these slow starts. The pressure hasn’t really been there yet so there’s no excuse for the inaccuracy, but the Auburn front is holding strong against the inside run game. Time to let Watson and Gallman attack the edge. Points should be on the board by now, it doesn’t look like it’ll take many to win.

Defensively, what more could we ask for? Auburn has no identity or capable personnel on offense but don’t let that diminish the dominance of the Clemson defensive line, which is destroying a supposedly good Auburn offensive line. Clemson is owing the edge but it remains to be seen if we will be as dominant when fatigue sets in. Auburn hasn’t tested the rebuilt secondary as of yet but when the play calls are predictable based on which quarterback is in the game, the entire defense is at an advantage. I want to say the defense is exceeding expectations, but truly this is the expectation against an offense this toothless and predictable. Fatigue will be the real test.