clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Clemson vs Auburn Film Review: 4th Quarter

New, 28 comments

Auburn film review concludes with 4th quarter analysis and, of course, a take on Swinney’s 4th down decision.

Clemson v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 4th quarter at Auburn got weird, annoying, exasperating, stupid, confounding, and worst of all dramatic. I’m still uneasy simply reviewing it. Without further ado, the standard reminder:

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 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!

Auburn ball, 15:00, Clemson 15, 13-3 Clemson lead

2nd & 7, 11 pistol vs nickel, pre-snap motion pulls Wiggins into box and means Boulware is on the strong side now (teams will eventually take advantage of this), ZR triple option, Franklin gives, big hole on the weak side B gap, Tank flies in to fill after a gain of 4...3rd & 3, White in at QB, funky 12 shotgun (unbalanced line, RB playing HB, HB split wide with receivers) vs 4-3 over Mike bullet in front of C3, jet sweep PA doesn’t fool Wilkins who isn’t blocked, forces the underneath pass to Johnson who is quickly stuffed by OD, loss of 4...FIELD GOOD GOOD.

Auburn used an unbalanced line to free the TE across the middle but it didn’t work against zone coverage. Wilkins forced the underneath pass too quickly for Johnson to do anything, plus O’Daniel played his zone and the ball perfectly.

Clemson ball, 13:46, Clemson 25, 13-6 Clemson lead

Auburn you have sealed your own fate.

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel Will fire in front of man C1, PA rollout but Leggett can’t block Lawson, Watson niftily avoids the sack and finds Renfrow for a gain of 8...2nd & 2, 11 shotgun vs nickel C2, tunnel screen to Cain but Guillermo and Crowder both miss their blocks and he’s stuffed for a gain of 1, frustrating to finally call a screen only to whiff and kill what would’ve been a big gain...3rd & 1, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 under Sam fire in front of man C1, IZ handoff finds a hole on a good seal block by Crowder, Gallman gains 7...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel C2, quick pitch to the boundary, Gallman finds 5...2nd & 5, 11 shotgun vs nickel Mike fire in front of man C1, PA jet sweep to Scott, another back shoulder throw to Williams, gain of 35...

Despite a seemingly pedestrian performance, Clemson’s offense still forced Auburn to pick its poison. They chose Mike Williams 1v1 outside.

1st & 10, 11 shotgun trips weak vs nickel, ZR handoff gains 2...11 shotgun trips weak vs nickel, quick outside screen to Scott who fights for 3 yards, personal foul after the play, 1st down...

1st & 7, 11 shotgun vs nickel man C1 spy, slant to Williams dropped in the endzone, he’s elite but doesn’t have Deandre Hopkins’ hands...2nd & 7, 11 shotgun vs nickel fire in front of C0, QB power is stuffed when Gallman misses the block on Ford, woof...

Ford was too quick for Gallman, who was phenomenal in pass protection, though, particularly on the next play...

3rd & 15, 11 shotgun vs nickel JAILBREAK (7 rushers, all 4 receivers 1v1), double hitch/corner routes, Gallman buys Watson enough time to launch what looks like a prayer/throwaway, only for Renfrow to haul it in on his corner route. TOUCHDOWN.

Doesn’t get much better than this.

Auburn is tackling extremely well; nobody is missing tackles or letting us fall forward. Are we sure this is Kevin Steele? Watson delivers the throw of the night under pressure, should be enough to secure the win if, ya know, we make the PAT and if the defense isn’t yet fatigued...

Auburn ball, 9:51, Clemson 23, 19-6 Clemson lead

1st & 10, 10 shotgun vs nickel C3 quick out dropped thanks to Tank’s hard close, incomplete...2nd & 10, 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM LB/FS fire (Joseph, Boulware, Smith blitz in front of 2 underneath, 3 deep coverage) PA reverse, deep post open behind Jadar, gain of 45...

Exact same play I highlighted in my film preview. Wasn’t an outright coverage bust like we saw a lot from TJ Green; Johnson let the play action distract him. Eye discipline...

1st & 10, sub infraction...1st & 15, 01 shotgun vs nickel man C1, immediate pressure from Ferrell forces a bad throw, but Johnson gets turned on the corner route and blatantly interferes, Auburn bailed out by a bad throw...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun (Franklin QB) vs 4-3 (Williams Sam) ZR triple option dive, Williams fills a little slowly but makes first contact for a gain of 6...2nd & 4, 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Will fire, ZR triple option dive again this time tripped by Wilkins, who was the read man but made the athletic play, gain of 1...3rd & 3, 11 shotgun vs nickel NB fire, ZR handoff right into the Wiggins blitz, shared TFL with the DEX STAR wrecked the double team like it was Alderaan, loss of less than 1...4th & 1, (White QB) 10 shotgun vs nickel C3, slot out route complete, underneath zones were too deep, gain of 7...

1st & 7, 10 shotgun vs nickel man, ZR handoff gains 1...2nd & 6, empty shotgun vs nickel double LB bullets in front of man C0, WR tunnel screen batted down by Wilkins, wish he hauled it in, he had running room...3rd & 6, 11 shotgun vs dime 3 man rush with C4 behind it, endzone fade overthrown out of bounds, Fields pulls a Mack incompletion celebration...4th & 6, 10 shotgun vs dime Mike bullet in front of C4, White tries to thread the needle and it’s an easy interception for Boulware at the goal line. INTERCEPTION.

Staying on the field far too long with conversion after conversion. Easiest way to beat Clemson’s defense is to tire it. Luckily White made a dumb throw to keep points off the board. Shame Boulware fell and couldn’t help the offense with better field position, would’ve prevented some later drama. At this point I thought that was the game, assuming we could get a 1st down or two, but the field position handicapped the offense on its next drive...

At this point there’s an odd gap in the game coverage and we skip Clemson’s 3 & out to bring you Auburn’s next possession...

Auburn ball, 4;44, Clemson 36, 19-6 Clemson lead

1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel, jet sweep, Wiggins backs into coverage and doesn’t set the edge, finally forced out by Jadar, gain of 15...

1st & 10, Wing T nonsense vs nickel C4, arc motion PA, looking for the deep post again but it’s not there, White scrambles but TRE LAMAR cleans up for the sack, loss of 2...2nd & 12, more Wing T vs 4-3, outside sweep, Williams sets the edge nicely and forces Johnson into his help, Boulware and Wilkins whiff the TFL and Johnson spins for a gain of 2...3rd & 10, 10 shotgun vs dime 3 man rush C4, White rolls right and throws incomplete but Boulware left coverage and rushed him, inexcusable late hit...

1st & 9, wildcat keeper off the right side, Yeargin gets sealed inside, looks manhandled honestly, Tank finally sets the edge and forces Johnson inside to Smith but Smith is blocked from the side, Boulware can’t get outside quickly enough to trip him up, TOUCHDOWN...

Defense is gassed, this seems familiar

Clemson ball, 3:22, Clemson 25, 19-13 Clemson lead

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel man C1, quick pitch to Gallman on the edge, gets the corner for 6 yards but steps out of bounds, not a huge deal since it will quickly restart but it becomes a recurring theme on this drive...2nd & 4, 11 shotgun vs nickel (9 man box) PA rollout shut off by Lawson on the edge so Watson steps up and escapes for 5 yards, a broken tackle there would’ve been 20 more...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel, QB power goes nowhere, timeout Auburn...2nd & 8, 11 shotgun vs nickel man C0 robber/spy, 10 yard hitch to Williams is incomplete and oh my the clock, I was fuming here I’ll leave it at that...3rd & 8, 11 shotgun vs nickel double LB bullets man C1, back shoulder to Williams complete and out of bounds, once again the clock stops...

1st & 10, 11 shotgun vs nickel, IZ handoff, Gallman squeezes and bursts outside for 17 yards, timeout Auburn, exhale right?

1st & 10, 12 shotgun vs basically a 9 man front, whatever, ZR handoff, no gain, last timeout Auburn...2nd & 10, 12 shotgun vs only a 7 man front this time, ZR handoff tackled for no gain, clock running...

3rd & 10, 22 I FORMATION vs another 7 man front, power handoff, Gallman bounces it outside for some yardage he runs out of bounds SO HELP ME GOD. WHY. WHY. 4th & 7, Clemson runs up the middle for 4 yards and oh boy the drama, TURNOVER ON DOWNS.

Auburn drives 40 yards or so before the final Hail Mary attempts fall incomplete thanks to Jadar Johnson. No need to break down a few plays of prevent defense (trying to avoid an aneurism over here) so I’ll jump onto the back of the elephant in the room:

The Decision

Allow me to comment on Coach Swinney’s decision to give Auburn the ball back instead of kicking the field goal on Clemson’s last possession. Given his concern with the kicking game (bad long snaps, the missed PAT), it is not hard to see why Swinney had some rational, legitimate, and ultimately correct reasons not to attempt a field goal.

It certainly would’ve been the right decision to forgo the field goal if Gallman had stayed in bounds — clock management on the last possession is what I find truly infuriating, not the decision — and Auburn only had 5-10 seconds with which to work. With 40 seconds though I’d take my chances with a block and return, seems less likely than a 40 second TD drive. Luckily it didn’t matter, but it seems to me that Swinney let irrational fears (his Bama losses at Jordan-Hare, weird Malzahn luck in 2013) influence his judgment.

I don’t fault the choice he made; I fault his reasoning. If you’re “playing the odds” as he said, you’re kicking there. You have an All-ACC kicker (I know he missed a PAT, I know) who can end the game in one stroke. Should he miss, Auburn gets the ball just as they would if you go for it and fail to convert. A block and return must be longer odds than giving up a 40 second touchdown drive; in fact Jadar Johnson is the ONLY reason Auburn failed to score on the last two plays. I know next to nothing about gambling, but Swinney mixed up the odds due to an irrational fear, based on experiences years past.

Again, I don’t necessarily think it was the wrong choice; it worked out how we all hoped and we’d lament his choice to kick if it were blocked and returned. But to cite superstition as a factor, no matter how small, strikes me as unsettling at best and erroneous at worst.