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Clemson Finishes the Season, and the Journey

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How the unthinkable became reality.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama The Greenville News-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it happened. Everyone in the media told us: “They’re frauds,” “Clemson isn’t big enough,” “Clemson isn’t fast enough,” “They’re good, but they can’t keep up with Alabama,” “This is the best defense Saban has ever had,” “Deshaun Watson isn’t as good as last year”... That worked out well didn’t it?

This game, in my mind, was one of the best Championship games we’ve ever seen; second only to the USC/Texas game in the 2006 Rose Bowl. For the average football fan, it was probably somewhat boring. It seemed towards the beginning it was going to be the same old story, just a different year. Alabama took an early 14 point lead, Watson was looking shaky, and Clemson looked like a shell of itself. But as the game went on, I noticed a pattern.

It may have been boring to the average fan because for a while it was a chess match full of punts and broken plays. But to someone who goes through and dissects film every week of this Clemson team, I noticed something very important happening on the sidelines; adjustments. This year, we saw how much a coach can mature in just one season. Dabo and his assistants were able to make in-game adjustments, while Alabama continued to do the same thing over and over.

Did you notice how calm everyone on the Clemson sideline was? Venables was speaking to his guys, as calmly as he can, and was simply showing them what Alabama was doing. And it worked. As the 2nd half started we saw the changes that were made show, continually stopping Alabama and inching our way closer to a victory. Yes there were a few more touchdowns that happened for Bama (The OJ Howard touchdown was another painful flashback), but Clemson responded. And in the words of Deshaun Watson, “I looked up at the clock and smiled, because I knew they left a little too much time on the clock.” He was right; they left 1 second too long and then this happened:

Now that we’ve experienced what it feels like to be National Champions for a week; let’s check out how that stress-filled 7-7 2nd quarter went:

2nd Quarter begins on a 3rd & 1

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 = 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.

Format

  • 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.

Clemson ball, 15:00, Clem 9

104 Pistol vs. 4-1 Dime, spur on the far side of the defense, rush from Gallman through the A-Gap for gain of 3…

104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, quick slant pass to Renfrow for gain of 5…Spread 5-Out vs. 4-2 Nickel, jet sweep to Gallman for gain of 6 yards…

104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, Watson keeps the ball up the middle on the draw, loss of two yards…Spread 5-Out vs. 4-1 Dime, read-option sweep, Watson keeper, gain of 4 yards...104 Shotgun vs. 3-2 Dime, trips receivers to the right, pass right to Leggett overthrown…PUNT

Alabama ball, 12:06, Bama 26

122 Ace vs. 4-3, spurs on either side of the line, Stewart comes in motion from left to right, sweep given to Stewart for a gain of 25 yards…

122 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, handoff left-side to Scarborough for a gain of 3…122 Pistol vs. 4-3, 7 men in the box, screen pass left to Ridley for a gain of 12…

113 Pistol vs. 4-3, 3 bunched to the left, screen pass to Ridley for a gain of 1…113 Ace vs. 4-2 Nickel, handoff left off-tackle…TOUCHDOWN

Okay, I know we won the game and all, but seriously.. I am beyond over defensive backs attempting to “shoestring- tackle” these grown men running the football. It is inexcusable at every level. Watching this play was like living out the movie Groundhog Day and thinking about trying to tackle Henry last year..

Clemson ball, 10:35, Clem 22

113 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, quick pass to Renfrow for gain of 9…113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, Bama shows strong-side blitz, handoff right to Gallman for no gain…113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, roll out right, Watson pass incomplete to Renfrow…PUNT

Alabama ball, 9:22, Bama 35

104 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, trips bunched left off-tackle, handoff through the 5 hole to Harris for gain of 2 yards…104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, Hurts pass complete to Ridley for gain of 11…

203 Weak vs. 4-2 Nickel, handoff left to Harris for gain of 1…203 Weak vs. 4-2 Nickel, Hurts rolls right, pass thrown out of bounds…113 Shotgun vs. 3-2 Dime, Hurts looks for quick slant pass, batted down by Christian Wilkins…PUNT

Clemson ball, 7:42, Clem 13

104 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, toss right to Gallman, gain of 3…104 Shotgun vs. 4-1 Dime, Gallman motions out to the left, Bama blitzes 6, Watson screen pass righto Cain, gain of 39…

How good did this play feel? I mean watching Deon Cain slice and dice his way through the big bad Alabama defense was what kept me from having a 1st half stroke. But giving credit where credit is due, HOW BOUT THOSE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN?! You know you’ve got a solid play when your Center and Right Guard are 30 yards down field in a full sprint.

104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, Watson pass deep, incomplete…104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, slant pass to Williams falls through his hands incomplete…Spread Out 5 vs. -1 Dime, Bama rushes 4, pass complete to Leggett for gain of 26…

104 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, receivers stacked on both sides, screen pass left to Williams, two spin moves later, gain of 5 yards… 113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, McCloud motions right to left, Watson keeps the ball out left…TOUCHDOWN

Alabama ball, 6:03, Bama 38

113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, excellent read option keeper, Hurts runs right for gain of 3…104 Shotgun vs. 4-3, trips bunch right off-tackle, soft zone coverage, Hurts pass left to Ridley on the curl route, gain of 14 yards…

113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, read option give to Scarborough, gain of 5…113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, play action screen pass to Ridley falls incomplete…113 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, defensive loaded to the right side, Hurts keeps to the left, tackle made in the backfield by Joseph…

Boulware knew that play was coming before Alabama did. It was obvious he has done his fair share of film work, he was signaling for help, that the play was coming that way, and sure enough…

Clemson ball, 4:04, Clem 20

Spread 5-Out vs. 4-2 Nickel, Gallman gets the jet sweep left, tripped up outside for a gain of 4 yards…Spread 5-Out vs. 4-2, pass left to Williams complete for a gain of 19 yards…

113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, handoff to Gallman through A-gap for gain of 1…104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, Bama rushes 5, quick pass left incomplete, Anderson hits Watson hard…104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, excellent coverage downfield, Bama rushes 4, Foster sacks Watson for loss of 8 yards…

Alabama ball, 2:28, Bama 40

122 Ace vs. 4-2 Nickel, Scarborough gets the handoff left, through the 5 hole, gain of 2…113 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, handoff left off tackle, gain of 2 yards…104 Pistol vs. 4-2 Nickel, handoff right, off-tackle, stopped in the backfield by Watkins and Boulware…PUNT

Clemson ball, 1:04, Clem 5

104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, quick slant pass to McCloud falls incomplete, 104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, inside handoff to Gallman for gain of 4 yards…Spread Out-5 vs. 3-2 Dime, Watson completes pass left to Renfrow for gain of 18…

This play may not be as significant as the other GIF’s but in celebration of what he has done the last two years, I thought I would toss in a Hunter Renfrow catch since he is now a legend.

Spread Out-5 vs. 3-2 Dime, pass intended to Renfrow batted by Evans incomplete…FLAG (False Start) …Spread Out-5 vs. 4-2 Nickel, Watson rushed out to the right pass incomplete (thrown away)… 104 Shotgun vs. 4-2 Nickel, tunnel screen pass right to Renfrow for a gain of 4 yards…PUNT


Well fellow Clemson faithful, I am not only proud but honored to have gone through this journey with you in what has been one of the greatest seasons in Clemson history. I cannot wait to see what Dabo and the boys will have for us next season; but as for now, we move forward as National Champions..

“Dear Old Clemson, we will triumph

And with all our might

That the Tiger’s roar may echo

O’er the mountain height..”