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Clemson Slams the Door on FSU: 1st Quarter Film Review

Championship phase.

Florida State v Clemson Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I will take just about everything I saw from the Clemson defense Saturday night. Initially lacking Dexter Lawrence, Kendall Joseph, Tanner Muse, Mark Fields, and Marcus Edmond; by the 2nd half the unit was also down Tre Lamar and Ryan Carter. Yet FSU’s only points were aided by one blatantly wrong and another iffy PI flag on Trayvon Mullen to score their first touchdown, and the second came on a desperate trick play. This was dominance from a defense which fielded more reserves than starters for the overwhelming majority of the game. Let that sink in, and marvel.

FSU all but gave up on the run after halftime with the defensive front absolutely eating them alive and placed its prayers in max protection deep posts (as I expected) and crossing routes. With fewer hick-ups than I would’ve guessed given its limited bodies and Justin Blackman’s big arm, the secondary passed with flying colors. If not for the Auburn game (man is that victory aging well) and FSU’s cheap scores (in baseball terms I would consider their two TDs “unearned”) this may have been the most satisfying defensive performance of the season.

The Clemson offense, meanwhile, once again failed to blow out an opponent once mounting a big lead. This is not a 1st world problems nitpick, this is a serious issue which has somehow not bitten this team yet. Many fans have been frustrated with play-calling throughout the season and I have not been one of them; Scott and Elliott truly are adept at taking what is given and being patient. But after Saturday I have one complaint: given Kelly Bryant’s increasingly-glaring accuracy issues, I’d rather not throw on 3rd & short when you have a 6’4” 220 lb QB and a stable of backs like we have. I’d rather be stuffed at the line than overthrow a wide open out route by 6 feet.

In all, the 17 point margin felt about right, considering how the 90% of the game transpired. Clemson’s late touchdowns were a bit of redemption for a struggling offense as much as insurance; literal exclamation points to overwrite the lingering question marks. I don’t care about FSU’s record, I’ll take a 17 point win over the Noles every time.

Clemson ball, 14:55, Clemson 22 yard line

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 15 11 shotgun vs nickel Rollout, out route to Renfrow open in front of James in man cover 1, Bryant overthrows out of bounds. A simple rub-style call to see if FSU is switching crossing routes in man coverage. They're not; this will be open for quick routes all day.
2nd & 15 11 shotgun vs nickel Draw to Feaster gains 6. Well blocked initially, Feaster had a lane but Falcinelli couldn't hold Nnadi, pulls Feaster down from behind.
3rd & 9 10 shotgun vs dime Dropback vs cover 3, speed rush beats Pollard around the edge, sacked for a loss of 4. Thompson was coming open on a deep in but Bryant didn't have time.

FSU ball, 13:33, FSU 41

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 Counter to Akers completely sealed off on the edge, cuts inside to find Davis and Ferrell waiting unblocked, loss of 1. The edge was set 5 yards into the backfield, erotic.
2nd & 11 11 pistol vs 4-3 IZ to Akers bulldozes Lamar, gain of 3. Teams have realized the only way to keep Wilkins out of the backfield on zone runs is to double him and run that way.
3rd & 8 21 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep go vs cover overthrown incomplete. Receiver had a step on Mullen, fortunate overthrow.

Clemson ball, 11:44, Clemson 27

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Bucksweep counter to Feaster gains 3. There was a cutback lane up the middle if Feaster followed Richard but instead he ran into the back of Anchrum.
2nd & 7 Empty shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs man cover 1, Bryant tucks and runs for a gain of 16. Running lanes like these will be open against man coverage.
1st & 10 10 shotgun trips left vs nickel ZR dive to Feaster gains 3. Nnadi shed Falcinelli with force and made the big tackle.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs nickel Fake screen Choice, bubble to McCloud gains 4. This was actually well executed! Sadly the first unblocked defender happened to be Derwin James, so no chance for a bigger gain.
3rd & 3 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick drop vs man cover 1 LB bullets, hitch/out complete to Renfrow, gain of 6. I love this route vs man coverage; gets a defender to jump inside and clear space for Renfrow.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Buckswep to Choice loses 5. Thomas beat the pulling Crowder to the edge and the play had no chance.
2nd & 15 11 shotgun vs nickel Jet motion IV keepr loses 5 more. FSU beat Anchrum to the edge and strung Bryant out, nowhere to go.
3rd & 20 11 shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs cover 4, Bryant tucks and runs outside for 10. Charles Kelly knew as long as he gave up less than 15 yards Clemson would punt; took away everything deep.

FSU ball, 7:28, FSU 10

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 PA, deep post incomplete vs man cover 1 Mike bullet, Mullen nearly had the pick. Surprised Blackman threw this into double coverage, route wasn't open.
2nd & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Draw to Akers well timed vs the Sam fire from OD, gain of 7. Great cut by Akers made Lamar look silly, fortunately Wallace was there to clean up.
3rd & 3 12 ace vs 4-3 Quick count counter to Akers, easy late outside against linebacker flow, gain of 11. Shades of Dalvin Cook...
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 PA rollout corner route overthrown out of bounds. Blackman missed a wide open checkdown to Izzo in the flat.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet pop pass to Murray, Smith overruns the alley and Carter cleans up, gain of 6. When was the last time Carter missed a tackle on the edge?
3rd & 4 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 3 Mike/Sam fire, Lamar comes completely free and makes the huge hit, fumble, and recovery all himself. This is the dream middle linebacker in a Venables system. Closing speed.

Clemson ball, 5:36, FSU 20

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Slant to Overton complete for 5. Poor route design or execution; looks like an attempted rub but Overton knocked Richard down.
2nd & 5 11 shotgun vs nickel IZ to Etienne gains 3. OL sealed a solid lane but Marshall was free to fill unblocked after McCloud's jet motion.
3rd & 2 11 shotgun vs nickel Fake option QB counter, Bryant follows Richard for 2 yards. Richard's block made this play.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs nickel IZ to Etienne finds 4 yards in the B gap. One quick cut from the A gap (filled) to the B gap (sealed) shows what makes Etienne an elite talent.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun (trips right) vs nickel Rollout, attempted clear out underneath to Renfrow covered, Bryant tucks and trucks for 4 yards. Elliott calling plays to get Renfrow his 1st TD of the year I see.
3rd & 2 12 shotgun vs 5-3 QB counter, Bryant breaks a tackle and scores from 2 yards out. Anyone who didn't expect QB counter here is a fool, can't stop it anyway. Broke a tackle from Nnadi, no less. Big time score.

FSU ball, 2:46, FSU 14, 7-0 Clemson lead


Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 21 I-form vs 4-3 Counter to Akers again victimizes the flow, gain of 6. Could've been way worse than 5, Ferrell and Smith recovered quickly.
2nd & 4 21 I-form vs 4-3 IZ to Akers finds 3 yards. Ferrell was sealed out but Davis bounced inside to fill and prevent the 1st.
3rd & 1 12 ace vs 4-3 IZ to Akers gains 4. Akers completely bulldozed Lamar, pure pad level.
1st & 10 21 shotgun vs 4-3 PA deep post incomplete, Mullen with tight coverage. Smith was too shallow to double the post but Mullen was step for step.
2nd & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Power handoff to Patrick is stoned, gain of 1. Wilkins shook a double and makes first
3rd & 8 12 ace vs nickel PA vs cover 3 FCB fire, Bryant gets to Blackman for the sack, punt. Havoc, y'all. End of quarter on a high note.