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Clemson vs Georgia Tech Film Review: 1st Quarter

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Georgia Tech v Clemson Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Well, that was easier than I expected. Based on preseason win projection figures and the fact I’ve picked against Clemson once in nearly three full years (to Bama in the first title game), I’m known as one of the sunnier optimists here. I really thought Kelly Bryant would lack the health to flourish in a monsoon, much less play well, and drag Clemson’s entire offense down with him; eventually wearing out a dominant defense, allowing Tech to find success late. I was wrong, and it was another deceptively dominant performance from the start.

I can’t say enough about Bryant. He looked sharp with a wet ball and healthy making movements on a slick surface. The passing game was the most diverse it’s been since Louisville, and we FINALLY saw Clemson take advantage of a tight end seam off play action. No matter Bryant’s actual health, I feared the staff would call plays as if he weren’t healthy (see: Syracuse) and lead us on the aforementioned downward spiral. It never materialized; we saw zone read, plenty of RPOs, and even inverted veer and counter options all in the first few drives. It was a refreshing performance from the start, even if it eventually turtled as expected due to weather.

The defense, meanwhile, continued its dominant ways against Paul Johnson. Tech’s first two drives were almost exclusively dives because they knew there was nothing to be found on the edge with so much speed and aggression in Clemson’s back 7. Any positive yardage was found on dives behind combo blocks, but that didn’t last long when Tech was pushed into 2nd/3rd & long all night. Were it not for the one 65 yard bust in the first quarter, Tech would’ve had, what, 50 yards of offense before garbage time?

I’m used to seeing teams pull their middle linebacker deep off the line to defend the option (keeping him clear of cut blocks to defend the dive) but Brent Venables really wanted to force Tech outside with his strategy. He stacked his Will behind his Mike — so the bigger Tre Lamar could attack cut blocks and the savvy Kendall Joseph could clean up — trusting his DEs to hold the edge (notice the weak side line shift and Bryant in a 2 point stance below) and his secondary to fly the alley to lock down the outside. Clemson will never again lose to Tech with Venables on the sideline.

So disregard the misleading 14 point margin and my uncharacteristic pessimism last week; if Bryant and Clemson looked this sharp in a monsoon against a vastly improved Tech team, it’s fair to expect a fun November and another playoff run.

Clemson is coming.

GT ball, 14:55, GT 24 yard line

Down & Distance Formation Play
Down & Distance Formation Play
1st & 10 30 flex vs 4-3 TO dive, Ferrell plugs the hole and makes the stop with a free O'Daniel, gain of 2.
2nd & 8 30 flex vs 4-3 (Joseph stacked behind Lamar) TO dive, Wilkins is doubled and blown back, Joseph fills but gets dragged, gain of 7.
3rd & 1 30 flex vs 4-3 TO dive, Tech doubled Wilkins again and barely picks up the first with a questionable spot.
1st & 10 30 flex vs 4-3 under TO dive, Joseph fills and immediately forces a fumble, recovered by Smith.

Clemson ball, 13:13, GT 45

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick curl to Cain vs soft cover 3 gains an easy 7. GT clearly expected a run with an 8 man box in front of soft zone. Passing on early downs is a successful tendency breaker which is actually becoming a tendency.
2nd & 3 Empty shotgun vs nickel Another curl to Cain vs man cover 0 double LB bullets, easy completion and then one broken tackle is an easy touchdown GT again expected a run in the monsoon, making it too easy for Bryant.

GT ball, 12:44, GT 16, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 21 flex vs 4-3 TO dive, Bryant gets inside the TE block and makes the stop, no gain. You can't block Bryant with a TE.
2nd & 10 30 fliex vs 4-3 TO pitch, Ferrell stones the dive, OD forces the pitch outside and still flies down the line to make the stop with Smith, loss of 2. And this is why GT is so desperate to establish the dive.

Continued

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
3rd & 12 203 shotgun vs 4-3 under Dropback vs man cover 1, immediate pressure from Bryant forces a scramble and errant curl attempt, incomplete, PUNT. Vintage option dominance, Paul Johnson knows he's in trouble.

Clemson ball, 11:13, Clemson 35, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play
Down & Distance Formation Play
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs nickel IZ to Feaster, gain of 3.
2nd & 7 Empty shotgun vs nickel Inverted veer keeper, big hole up the middle behind Morris' pull, gain of 7.
3rd & inches 11 shotgun vs nickel ZR to Feaster gains 2.
1st & 10 11 shotgun (Cain at field, Higgins at boundary) vs nickel PA, double go routes vs cover 4, both Cain and Higgins are doubled so Bryant tucks for 7.
2nd & 3 11 shotgun vs nickel ZR keeper, Bryant stretches and loses 6 yards.
3rd & 9 11 shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs cover 4, checkdown to Feaster gains 12.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs man cover 0, slant to McCloud gains 6.
2nd & 4 11 shotgun vs nickel Jet motion counter handoff to Etienne, burst through the line but fumbles, recovered by Tech.

GT ball, 7:44, GT 26, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play
Down & Distance Formation Play
1st & 10 30 flex vs 4-3 TO dive, Davis runs to an outside gap and Joseph is cut, huge hole, gain of 65.
1st & 9 30 flex vs 4-3 TO dive, O'Daniel is on the line and gets doubled, gain of 4.
2nd & 5 30 flex vs 4-3 TO dive, Bryant fights off the cut and makes the stop, gain of 1.
3rd & 4 30 flex vs 4-3 PA power option pass, immediate pressure hides the coverage bust on the A back slant and it's a sack for Bryant, field goal good.

Clemson ball, 4:46, Clemson 45, 7-3 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play
Down & Distance Formation Play
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel PA go route to Overton but a high snap alters the timing and Bryant overthrows a potential touchdown.
2nd & 10 10 shotgun vs nickel QB lead draw gains 3.
3rd & 7 11 shotgun vs nickel PA rollout, corner comeback route to Thompson complete on the sideline, gain of 10.
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs nickel ZR dive to Fuller, Hearn gets 2 seals in a split second to find 4 yards for Fuller.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs nickel Pop pass to Rodgers, gets the edge and bulldozes his way through tacklers to find 5 yards.
3rd & 1 11 shotgun vs nickel PA rollout, out route complete to Renfrow, gain of 12.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Counter handoff to Feaster hit at the line, gain of 2.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs nickel PA seam pass to Richard vs cover 3 completely uncovered, easy touchdown from attacking the middle with the TE FINALLY!

GT ball, 1:48, GT 26, 14-3 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play
Down & Distance Formation Play
1st & 10 30 flex vs 4-3 TO keeper, Ferrell takes away the edge and Huggins makes first contact from inside, gain of 2.
2nd & 8 30 flex vs 4-3 TO keeper, Wilkins completely stuffs it but can't finish the tackle, Marshall dives back to the line, no gain.
3rd & 7 30 flex vs 4-3 Man cover 1 bltiz forces a throwaway, punt.

End of quarter.