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CFP National Championship: 4th Quarter Film Review

CFP National Championship Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With signing day behind us and spring ball still a month away, now seems an appropriate time to finally conclude film review. The following is of course the best and most important quarter in Clemson football history. I’m crying all over again.


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.


  • 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.

Play by Play

Clemson ball, 15:00, Alabama 8 yard line, 24-14 Alabama lead

2nd & 1, 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 nickel, fake jet sweep counter option keeper gains 4...

11 shotgun vs nickel FS/Mike fire, IZ handoff to Gallman gains 2...11 shotgun (2x2, Leggett and Williams to boundary) vs nickel man cover 0 Sam/Will fire (safeties aligned on slot receivers), rub route frees Williams in the corner for the TOUCHDOWN.

Alabama fans are still crying over the pick to later win the game (except they run this play too and man coverage invite this), but this one was far more controversial than the winner. The only reason this isn’t an illegal pick is because Leggett does a great acting job by getting his hands up like he expects the ball is to him. Even if he didn’t, the contact appears to be more mutual than offensively initiated so a flag would’ve been just as controversial as the no-call.

Alabama ball, 14:00, Alabama 31, 24-21 Alabama lead

12 pistol vs 4-3 (Muse at FS on boundary LOS in front of Tank), ZR dive, Watkins double teamed and the center climbs to Boulware who misses the tackle, gain of 12...

12 ace vs 4-3 cover 3 Sam fire, PA, O’Daniel takes the TE’s arc block and Wilkins wins on a bullrush, should be an easy sack but Hurts shakes Wilkins, Watkins cleans up for a loss of 1...11 shotgun (2x2) vs 4-3 cover 4, quick curl to Ridley incomplete when Tank breaks quickly from his soft coverage...11 shotgun (bunch left) vs nickel cover 3 behind double LB bullet blitzes, perfect play call to beat it as Hurts throws a RB screen but the TE picks it off himself, only a gain of 5 thanks to Lawrence’s shoestring tackle from behind, disaster averted, PUNT.

Clemson ball, 12:14, Clemson 20, 24-21 Alabama lead

Empty shotgun vs nickel Sam/Mike bullets, quick curls have no chance when Evans simply splits Guillermo’s and Hearn’s cut block attempts, easy sack, loss of 6...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 2, deep crossing route thrown into double coverage and incomplete...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, checkdown pass complete to Gallman for a gain of 7, PUNT.

Alabama ball, 10:30, Alabama 40, 24-21 Alabama lead

11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, Hurts checks off the quick screen and wants to hit Stewart on the backside slant, but Stewart slips and Hurts tucks for a gain of 3, big hit from Boulware...12 pistol vs 4-3 (Muse on LOS), ZR dive gains 2, Lawrence makes the tackle from his knees...12 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, Muse and Joseph get tangled and Howard is free on a crossing route, but Hurts scrambles the opposite direction and never sees him before running out of bounds, loss of 2, PUNT.

Clemson ball, 9:02, Clemson 22, 24-21 Alabama lead

11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 2, RPO keeper (Evans split out to cover Renfrow, leaving 5 OLmen and Gallman vs 4 DL and Foster) but Watson is pulled down from behind, Crowder couldn’t hold his block long enough for Watson to fully clear the line, gain of 3...empty shotgun vs man cover 2, sliding slant complete to Renfrow over the middle, just enough for the 1st down...

11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 2, deep fade to Williams incomplete, iffy no-call on the interference...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, Watson sits in the pocket before somehow avoiding the sack, rolls right and throws a deep corner to Leggett, just overthrown and incomplete but saved 10+ yards by avoiding the sack...11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 2, double scissors routes, Bama busts the man coverage due to traffic underneath and Leggett comes free, but Leggett misjudges the trajectory drops the 1st down, PUNT...

This one is on Leggett. Fortunately he made up for it on his diving, one-handed catch on the final drive.

Alabama ball, 7:36, Alabama 29, 24-21 Alabama lead

12 pistol vs 4-3 cover 3 Will bullet, stretch handoff, Bryant at WDE doesn’t maintain outside leverage but Joseph fills and makes first contact at the LOS, he and Smith wrap up for a gain of 3...empty shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 0 Mike blitz/Will spy, Hurts rolls right and eventually throws it away...11 shotgun vs nickel (safeties at LB depth) man cover 1, deep go route to Steward who has Edmond beaten, luckily its overthrown since Johnson was too shallow to help in coverage, Lawrence may have forced an early or inaccurate throw, PUNT.

Clemson ball, 6:33, Clemson 12, 24-21 Alabama lead

11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 2, swing pass to Gallman gains 9 despite failed blocks by Renfrow and Leggett...21 shotgun (McCloud shifted to backfield) vs nickel cover 2, counter ZR bucksweep keeper frees Watson for an easy 5 yards on the edge...

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, fake bubble screen to Williams, wheel to Leggett is open between the corner and safety for a gain of 16...

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3 Mike bullet, lob go route complete to Williams, amazing catch plus a late personal foul and suddenly Clemson is in the red zone...

11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1, Watson takes the counter option keeper to the corner and flies towards the endzone before he’s forced out at the 1...

I love this play. Motion takes advantage of the man coverage and Gallman clears the safety. From there it’s all Watson.

Next play from the 1 and we see Guillermo and Hearn make up for previously poor performances with a dominant double team:


Alabama ball, 4:38, Alabama 32, 28-24 Clemson lead

11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, Hurts ends up throwing away in the face of pressure...11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 3, PA RB screen immediately diagnosed and destroyed by Boulware, huge loss of 6, I honestly thought that was game over at this point...

3rd & 16, 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM man under cover 3 Will fire, Hurts escapes pressure and rolls right, throws back across his body to Stewart in front of Edmond and underneath the deep safeties, gain of 15...12 pistol vs 4-3, IZ gains 5, Lawrence was double teamed and Joseph was blocked before he could fill the gap...

12 ace vs 4-3, Stewart catches a fake screen, WR pass and throws a strike to Howard on a deep corner, luckily Johnson was in the deep middle and picked him up, gain of 25...

12 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 3, Bama tries fake screen/wheel but Hurts steps up to avoid Watkins’ pressure and has room, runs through the middle nearly untouched for a 30 yard touchdown...

Clemson ball, 2:01, Clemson 32, 31-28 Alabama lead


11 shotgun vs 3-2-6 dime man cover 4, quick out complete to Leggett for 4 yards...11 shotgun vs dime man cover 1 jailbreak blitz, Watson gets enough time to lob a go route to Williams who of course climbs and reels it in, gain of 25...

11 shotgun vs dime cover 4 Mike blitz, quick curl to Scott with a hook and ladder pitch to Gallman, hit in the backfield but fights for 6...11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 2 spy, Watson steps up but can’t elude Anderson, who turns a potential big gain into only a gain of 1, clock running under a minute...11 shotgun vs nickel, clock now under 30 seconds and I truly thought we were playing for a field goal, quick slant to Renfrow in front of man cover 1 LB bullets, gain of 6...

Watson spikes the ball with 19 seconds left, luckily the awful clock management there worked out for us...11 shotgun vs dime man cover 1 Mike bullet, corner route complete to Leggett, gain of 16, amazing throw and better catch...

11 shotgun (bunch right) vs dime cover 7, deep corner to Leggett is the Williams interference and Clemson gets the ball at the 2 with 6 seconds remaining:

This is another rub route vs man cover 0 and Bama should’ve expected it. This is also far more legal than the first rub pass with which Clemson scored; the defender tackled Scott which is of course exactly what we wanted. Renfrow simply had to run to the pylon and hold on for (my) dear life.

Jeff Scott is me.