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Clemson vs Virginia Tech Film Review: 1st Quarter

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Another week, another top 15 victory

NCAA Football: Clemson at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Ho hum, another dominant win in a packed enemy stadium. Clemson is now the first ever team to beat three top 15 teams in September. I liked the game plan to come out and let Bryant hit the deep fades and corner routes against man coverage early; it is clearly his best and most comfortable read/throw. Helps to have WRU at your disposal and it’s remarkable to see 5’10” McCloud continue to win those battles outside. The offense bogged down in the second half but again, I have little issue with turtling when up by 2+ scores in the second half when Brent Venables is roaming your sideline.

The defense obviously played well throughout, but VT’s offensive line did better in pass protection than it should’ve. I really expected plenty of sacks in this game, even with just a 4 man rush. The linebackers and secondary were outstanding, and I can’t say enough about Ryan Carter. Remember when he was a liability in coverage in 2015? Now he’s a stalwart who can play three different cornerback positions. Sure he gave up a late TD, but that’s in garbage time and he was supposed to have safety help from Denzel Johnson; a deep post should never be open against man cover 2.

Clemson was able to rest Trayvon Mullen even though he made it through concussion protocol, which is probably the most wonderful long term takeaway of the entire game (both a testament to the secondary depth/versatility and the staff’s awareness of Mullen’s future health). Given the rampant CTE headlines and Thursday night’s helmet-to-helmet in Green Bay, I’m so glad the staff doesn’t play around with head injuries.

I said this all week, and I’m going to bury you in smug again: just as film showed Louisville’s defense was obviously in for a rough night two weeks ago, VT’s offense never had a prayer against Clemson. Their only touchdowns came on a 3 yard drive after an awful punt (Spiers had a bad game; that return is on him) and a late garbage time coverage bust. It’s a shame the final score and stats won’t tell the whole dominant story, but even a turtling Clemson never let VT make a game of it.

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 = zone 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 underneath zone to take away crossing routes.
ZR = Zone read option play.

VT ball, 14:55, VT 23 yard line

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 (DE dropped way off the line in the flat like Venables defended Syracuse last year) PA rollout flare to the TE pressured and covered, thrown away. A defensive end sitting in the flat tells me Venables isn't worried about the run game at all and wants to dissaude screens/short tosses to Phillips.
2nd & 10 01 shotgun vs 4-3 Tunnel screen to the trips side, O'Daniel stones the blocker and funnels the receiver to the sideline, Fields flies in, gain of 2. With O'Daniel and Ferrell split so widely, Venables is betting those big bodies will overwhelm perimeter blocking on screens just like we saw here. Daring VT to run at a 5 man box.
3rd & 8 10 shotgun vs 4-3 RB screen vs cover 4 (Mike fire, SDE flat drop), thrown right into Bryant's zone, who split the blockers and wraps up, no gain. Early mastery from Venables. Fuente is afraid to run or call conventional passes against this pass rush so early in the game.

Clemson ball, 13:28, Clemson 47

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun (stacked) vs nickel ZR dive to Feaster vs man cover 1 nickel fire, Hearn and Hyatt move the front 5 yards downfield, gain of 4. I love Feaster's inside running. Backside fill prevented a bigger gain here.
2nd & 6 Empty shotgun vs nickel Tunnel screen to Cain overthrown and incomplete, sigh. An on target throw could've been a sizable gain, but Feaster couldn't hold his block anyway.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs nickel Straight drop vs man cover 1 double LB bullets, deep fade to McCloud complete for 27. Bryant throws a beautiful deep fade, it's been the revelation of the season to me. Props to McCloud for soundly beating a corner with 4 inches on him.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel ZR keeper, pass to Renfrow (Clemson's version of the triple option) gains 3. VT flew to the ball well because Renfrow had a lot of space to gain more initially.
2nd & 7 11 shotugn vs nickel PA rollout crossing route McCloud incomplete. VT was in a man blitz but the DBs switched on the Renfrow/McCloud cross, preventing an opening.
3rd & 7 10 shotgun vs nickel Straight drop vs man cover 1 LB fires, corner route to Renfrow wide open, gain of 16. McCloud and Thompson cleared out underneath and Renfrow's fake inside turned the safety in man coverage around, wide opening for Bryant to hit.

Two more runs (IZ and QB counter) get Clemson to inside 1 before a false start forces a 3rd down pass to Cain, which is broken up. Field goal from Spence is good.

VT ball, 9:46, VT 21

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ handoff, penetration from Wilkins forces VT right into Lamar, huge thud, no gain. Ouch.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick hitch vs cover 4, gain of 9. Jet motion pulled O'Daniel just a bit too much outside and Jackson was able to hit the opening inside him.
3rd & 1 12 shotgun vs 4-3 IV keeper is stoned, Carter flew off the edge when his receiver ran the jet to make first contact. Ferrell works down the line and made the thud to help Carter out, Clemson knew Jackson was the run threat.

Clemson ball, 8:08, Clemson 34

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Jet sweep pass to McCloud gains 3. Richard got out on the edge and actually had a pancake block!
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick flare to Feaster vs man cover 1 nickel fire (DE manned on Feaster), cuts back in for a gain of 3. Obviously a mismatch but the DE made an athletic play to corral Feaster before he could work blocks outside.
3rd & 4 11 shotgun vs nickel Straight drop, no pressure, Bryant checks off McCloud and works back to a wide open Feaster, free down the sideline for a 60 yard touchdown. VT is in man cover 1 robber but 3 Hokies follow McCloud on the drag route. Feaster simply slips out and Bryant did well to check to the other side of the field, a hugely positive sign he can handle progressions since often coaches will limit progressions to one side of the field for inexperienced QBs.
The Mike had man coverage responsibility on Feaster, but he thought Feaster was blocking so he focused on the crossing routes. Great awareness from Bryant.

VT ball, 6:48, VT 25

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet sweep, Register gets stalk blocked out of the play and there's a free edge, gain of 7. DE depth hurts...
2nd & 3 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Option, Davis flies the alley and forces Jackson to keep, O'Daniel fills and makes a hard tackle, gain of 2. Look at JD Davis out here making a positive impact early.
3rd & 1 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Straight drop vs 3 man rush cover 4, QB draw almost stopped by Robinson but Jackson squirts free for 6 yards. Illegal formation brings it back.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs nickel (DOD at Will and Joseph at Mike) Cover 0 LB bullets, out route to the TE in the flat incomplete, short of the marker anyway. VT handled the blitz well but Jackson panicked early.

Clemson ball, 4:47, Clemson 21

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel ZR give to Etienne gains 3. Bryant probably should've kept, the read man latched on to Etienne as he hit the line.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs nickel Speed option pitch to Etienne gains 1. Yep I still hate this play, the unblocked DE once again makes the tackle.
3rd & 7 10 shotgun vs nickel Straight drop vs cover 4, Bryant tucks and finds a lane up the middle but inexplicably slides just short of the marker. Defenders were 2 yards away from he started his slide.

VT ball, 3:14, VT 28

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Stretch handoff but the edge is set and oh boy is there a wall inside, loss of 1.
Included just for Joseph’s celebration.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
2nd & 11 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA handoff, jet, finally a RB screen, well blocked but O'Daniel gets around his and makes the stop, gain of 7. Good call to try and victimize an aggressive, hungry defense. Linebackers mitigated the damage so well and that's why even good calls are tough to really gash Clemson.
3rd & 4 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Motion out and in to Phillips vs cover 3, gain of 6. Motioned outside and then cut back in to find the gap in what was pretty tight underneath zone.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Power inside is filled by Lamar but VT spins free, Joseph recovers to stop it at 3. Clemson almost ran itself out of its gaps when the runner cut back in.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet sweep, O'Daniel sets the edge and still gets in on the gang tackle, gain of 1. Do not challenge O'Daniel :)
3rd & 6 10 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM Straight drop vs man cover 1 LB fire, deep fade to Phillips incomplete vs Carter. Phillips should've been called for PI but he dropped it anyway, punt.

After back to back false starts, Bryant keeps a ZR for 18 yards to end the quarter.