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Clemson Beats Alabama: 3rd Quarter Film Review

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CFP National Championship Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson Ball, Clemson 23, 14:53, 14-7

1st and 10, 11 trips vs. 3-4, Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams are serving as de facto defensive ends, jet sweep fake, buck sweep, Renfrow crack block,, no one picks up the play side linebacker… 2nd and 7, 10 trips vs. 2-4, Renfrow is running a stick route against a linebacker, gets open inside, turns up field…

Unless you’re comfortable leaving a backside receiver one on one and rotating both safeties to the trips side it’s hard not to have to have an inside linebacker widen out to guard the inside receiver in trips. Renfrow, meanwhile, is running an option route where he’s able to use his quickness to cut based on how the linebacker reacts. As long as Watson and Renfrow, a former high school quarterback, make the same read at the same time it’s nearly impossible to guard.

1st and 10, 11 vs. 2-4, play action, C1, five man rush, slant route to Mike Williams broken up… 2nd and 10, 11 trips vs. 2-4, inside zone read handoff met at the line, Rashaan Evans is filling too quickly against the run to be blocked, Gallman fumble at this point could have been the game… FUMBLE

Clemson is struggling to block second level defenders in the run game. Watson is making the correct reads, which is good, because even if this hadn’t have been a fumble it would have been third and ten.

Alabama Ball, Clemson 16, 13:54

1st and 10, false start… 1st and 15, 21 vs. 3-5, both safeties are in the box and Ferrell is playing as an outside linebacker, power met at the line of scrimmage, Scarbrough falls forward… 2nd and 12, 11 vs. 4-2, quarters coverage and Hurts throws a fade to a well covered Riley… 3rd and 12, 11 trips vs. 3-5, both OLB’s and a MLB blitz, C0, Dig route to OJ Howard is just barely completed, still short… FIELD GOAL GOOD

The “Okie” front Venables ran more heavily as the season went along

Venables ability to run two different fronts from the same personnel grouping enables him to keep his play calling unpredictable. The false start may have killed this drive, if not the short first down run all but did. Jalen Hurts would finish with a completion percentage just barely north of 40%,

Clemson Ball, Clemson 16, 12:22, 17-7

1st and 10, 10 vs. 2-4, Gallman motions out of the backfield, drawing a linebacker with him, five offensive lineman vs. five in the box for the QB draw… 2nd and 5, 11 vs. 2-4, Alabama is in quarters, the boundary side safety is slow to help vs. #1 vertical, Deon Cain makes an incredible catch one on one…

1st and 10, 10 trips vs. 2-4, ILB widens out to cover the innermost slot receiver again, Alabama’s hesitancy to play man coverage is understandable, middle screen to Renfrow, breaks a tackle and weaves behind his blockers… 2nd and 9, 11 bunch vs. 2-4, motion end around fake to RRM3, Watson breaks contain and runs to the sideline…

1st and 10, 10 vs. 2-4, swing pass to the boundary tracked down by Rueben Foster… 2nd and 7, empty vs. 2-4, Marlon Humphrey is giving up two inches and ten pounds, has to go backwards and has no idea where the ball’s going, covering Mike Williams on a fade route is not fair…

3rd and 1, empty vs. 2-4, both guards and Guillermo cut block at the snap, Renfrow nearly makes a tough catch falling to the ground, ruled incomplete on review… 4th and 1, 11 trips vs. 3-4, Watson quick kick chased down by Renfrow…

Clemson has two receivers who just cannot be accounted for reliably with solo coverage. Combined with Watsons ability to run for decent chunks of yardage and some underneath throws taking advantage concerns about the deep ball are enough for Clemson to keep the ball moving. Alabama’s linebackers are so fast that it’s near impossible to break off a big play underneath. A good punt at the end of a sustained drive wins Clemson field position.

Alabama Ball, Alabama 5, 9:14

1st and 10, 11 bunch vs. 4-3 over, inside zone handoff met in the hole by Lawrence and Joseph… 2nd and 7, 21 vs. 4-3 under, play action crossing route broken up by Boulware, pressure from Wilkins forced an early throw… 3rd and 7, 12 vs. 3-4, Austin Bryant has replaced Ferrell as the OLB/DE hybrid, five man rush, both OLB blitz, Hurts is incredibly shifty but can’t shake the entire secondary… PUNT

Clemson has been able to get pressure up the middle, particularly on the right side of the line. Hurts limitations as a passer have allowed Venables to pack the box and assign defenders to spy the QB.

Clemson Ball, Alabama 42, 8:13

1st and 10, 11 vs. 2-4, play action power read, switch routes to both sides of the field, Cain finds a gap in coverage…

1st and 10, 11 vs. 4-2, jet sweep, power read, Watson keeper behind lead blockers… 2nd and 6, empty vs. 2-4, ILB blitz, C1, Watson pass on the run batted down… 3rd and 6, 11 trips vs. 1-4, all linebackers on the LOS, five man rush, C1, Renfrow beats his man to the inside and turns up field… TOUCHDOWN

Watson is putting the ball exactly where it needs to be and his receivers are making him look good after the catch.

Alabama Ball, Alabama 32, 7:03

1st and 10, 11 bunch vs. 4-3 over, five man rush, C3, deep post thrown to a double covered Ardarius Stewart… 2nd and 10, 11 bunch flexed vs. 4-1, flare out of the backfield immediately met by Tankersly… 3rd and 10, 11 trips vs. DOD, five man rush, C3, Hurts pass dropped… PUNT

Clemson does a good job of moving around to disguise pressures on passing downs

Three straight passes lead to a three and out. The middle stretch of the third quarter was a huge part of why Clemson was able to win. Over the last three drives Alabama has ran two designed running plays for a total of six yards. Hurts is being forced to keep drives alive and against a defense this talented and complex it’s a lot to ask of a true freshman.

Clemson Ball, Clemson 16, 6:00

1st and 10, 01 vs. 4-2, motion Gallman out of the slot, handoff met at the line by Ruben Foster… 2nd and 9, 10 vs. 2-4, fake sprint out, screen to Gallman underneath, good blocks in space by RRM3 and Pollard…

1st and 10, 11 vs. 2-4, jet sweep fake, inside zone handoff, Crowder gets beat with a rip move right at the hole… 2nd and 9, 10 trips vs. 2-4, Watson brought down from behind by Ryan Anderson… 3rd and 15, empty vs. 2-3, Watson is able to elude pressure from his left, step up in the pocket and then this happened a yard short of the first down… PUNT

CFP National Championship Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Clemson making a concerted effort to get the ball into Gallman’s hands is good, but it’s not just fear of being burned outside that’s keeping Saban from stacking the box, as of yet he hasn’t had to. Running against a front that feature as much talent as the Tide have is near impossible. As is keeping your quarterback upright when Anderson and Williams are coming off the edge every play. Alabama’s middle linebackers are nearly telepathic and fast enough to make the play in a hurry.

Alabama Ball, Alabama 21, 2:54

1st and 10, 11 vs. 4-3 over, Pagano can’t hold up to a double team, O’Daniel tries to chase the play down from behind instead of fight through a block, inside zone finds a crease… 2nd and 4, 12 vs. 4-3 over, outside zone handoff, Scarbrough breaks a tackle at the line of scrimmage, brought down by backside pursuit…

1st and 10, 11 bunch vs. 4-3 under, five man rush, cover three, pass falls incomplete…

Venables has been running this zone blitz often on running downs. Hurts has been able to make the correct decision usually but he’s yet to actually complete a pass against it. As such Clemson is free to continue loading the box with an extra safety and sending pressure.

2nd and 10, 10 vs. 4-2, PA Screen, OJ Howard is wide open behind the defense and off to the races… TOUCHDOWN

Van Smith is in a hard position here. As the safety in quarters coverage he’s solely responsible for any vertical routes by the #2 receiver. Smith also has to set the edge both on outside runs and quick passes underneath. Smith comes up too hard to deal with the threat of a screen and OJ Howard is too fast for him.

Clemson Ball, Clemson 28, 1:53 24-14

1st and 10, 10 trips vs. 2-4, four verticals vs. C4, probably should have thrown to Leggett instead of a double covered Williams but Williams is able to draw a DPI…

1st and 10, 01 vs. 2-4, Gallman motion from the slot, QB power away stonewalled by Foster… 2nd and 10, empty vs. 2-4, the boundary side OL and Leggett lead block for Cain on a screen, Cain manages to twist and tumble for a first down…

1st and 10, 10 trips vs. 2-4, five man rush, ILB blitz, C1, fades outside + hitches inside, deep pass to Scott sails out of bounds several yards off target… 2nd and 10, 10 trips vs. 2-4, ILB blitz, C1, Cain makes another back shoulder catch on a sideline fade, he and Williams are abusing defenders in man coverage…

1st and 10, 12 trips vs. 2-4, PA, another four man rush and soft zone coverage, Leggett is able to come open on a crossing route and turn up field…

1st and 10, 10 bunch flexed vs. 2-4, play action screen to Scott is sprung by a fantastic Renfrow block, Scott doesn’t need much room to accelerate…

End of Quarter

Playing against the no huddle requires simplifying your defense. Playing against two receivers you can’t cover in man coverage reliably forces you to stop running man coverage. Even so, it’s remarkable how predictable Alabama gets defensively once Clemson is able to get a drive going. Neither of the outside “linebackers” has been asked to drop into coverage.