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Clemson v Auburn 1st Quarter Film Review

Auburn physically dominated Clemson to start the game, but squandered what turned out to be its only scoring opportunities.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Clemson Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone else think Dabo Swinney really likes beating Auburn, especially in a home night game? This staff simply doesn’t get out-coached, and certainly not by a Gus Malzahn-led staff. Yet for much of the 1st quarter I was worried by Auburn’s apparent physical dominance. It looked like Auburn would be able to play keep away and rack up the play count to eventually do whatever they wanted against a tired front, but then I stopped and realized all of Auburn’s points came off an iffy pass interference and a fumble recovery at the 10. Ironically, Auburn’s strongest quarter sealed its fate; they couldn’t score touchdowns in what turned out to be their only two opportunities to do so.

Even more ironic is I began the game asking where on earth was Clemson’s pass rush, only to finish with 11 sacks. Auburn’s line held up very well in pass pro early and Stidham was only brought down from holding the ball too long, as is his wont. From the very start, I loved moving Kendall Joseph to Mike and Dorian O’Daniel to Will when in nickel; it adds further versatility to an already versatile unit. 11 SACKS.

Many may be worried about the offense after turtling in the 2nd half similar to Notre Dame in 2015, but I have no problem going ultra conservative and playing field position given the way each defense played the majority of the night. I kept having to remind myself it was actually a one score game throughout. After Bryant’s second touchdown the game felt misleadingly out of reach because it certainly didn’t feel like Auburn could score 8 points, when in fact they were two plays away from a tie game. Auburn’s front was nasty as expected and Clemson didn’t find a spark until we hit the back shoulder throws (absolutely perfect throws) and implemented some QB counters (both TD runs).

This is Kelly Bryant’s team now. Without his accuracy outside and his toughness after getting knocked out, Auburn could’ve smelled blood and actually perhaps done something. We have answers on him now, and they’re all good ones. Alright y’all let’s go ahead and get Q1 out of our systems; most boringly frustrating and shortest quarter I can remember watching...

Auburn ball, 15:00, Auburn 25

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs nickel (Carter NB, OD WLB, Joseph Mike) Dropback vs man cover 1, Ferrell gets pressure off the edge, Stidham steps up and rolls but can't escape Bryant or Joseph, sacked for a loss of 2. Yep, already Stidham wants to hold the ball forever. Clemson was solid in man coverage.
2nd & 12 10 shotgun bunch left vs nickel Bubble screen blown up by Mark Fields, he beat the blocker to the edge, loss of 2. Carter and Fields read the screen; Carter met the blocker and Fields got around the other.
3rd & 14 20 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Dropback vs 3 man rush cover 3, Stidham hits a seam between Lamar and Muse, gain of 23. Cover 4 would've prevented this completion, but Wallace was a 5th underneath defender in cover 3.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Strongside power handoff to Pettway, Bryant meets the H back and redirects Pettway inside to Lamar, gain of 3. Lamar makes the tackle but is thrown backward. Pettway is a load and fell forward for 2 of his 3 yards. This actually describes almost all of his carriest tonight.
2nd & 7 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake IZ and orbit dropback, deep crossing route open but thrown high and incomplete. Stidham again held the ball longer than necessary, then rushed himself and missed high.
3rd & 7 10 shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs cover 3 Mike/Sam fire, back shoulder fade thrown to field and Edmond getst the PBU, but PI called This is somewhat iffy. Edmond has his hand on Davis but both are looking at the ball and fighting for position. Refs understandably booed.
1st & 5 31 shotgun vs 4-3 Bucksweep gains 3. Pettway is again met at the line and again falls forward for an extra 2.
2nd & 2 20 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ handoff has a huge backside hole, Pettway cuts through for an easy 15 Simple cut agaisnt the grain finds a massive lane.
1st & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet motion RPO vs man cover 1, RPO slant inaccurate and incomplete, almost picked Jet motion pulls Muse down and Wallace has to shift to deep safety. Stidham watches Muse chase jet outside and pulls handoff, throwing the open slant. Clemson used this play with Mike Williams frequently.
2nd & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ handoff to Pettway, no gain Gang tackling required to keep Pettway from churning through tackles.
3rd & 10 10 shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs man cover 1 NB/Mike fire, Stidham rolls away from it and runs for 9. Fields was beaten at the line and scrambling to catch his receiver on the go, so Stidham just had to beat pursuit to the edge for easy yards.
4th & 1 21 shotgun vs 5-3 IZ handoff met at the line but Pettway gets a yard on second effort Tough to stop a 240 pounder when he only needs half a yard unless he's met in the backfield.
1st & 4 21 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ gains 2, good stop by Joseph Joseph's instincts are fantastic, shifting into the hole and meeting Pettway with momentum.
2nd & 3 21 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ gains 2, Lamar shot his gap and redirected Pettway into a wall but Pettway churned Wilkins shift off the nose gave Lamar the A gap to shoot
3rd & 1 14 ace vs 5-3 Quick toss is stoned by JD Davis (!) Davis shot his gap and made solid contact, solo tackle.
4th & 6 Field goal FG made Delay of game pushed them into a field goal, I still fail to comprehend how anyone thinks Malzahn is a good coach

Clemson ball, 7:13, Clemson 25, 3-0 Auburn lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel PA power rollout vs man cover 1, deep out complete to Renfrow for 9 Bryant on a rollout is essentially an evolving RPO, allowing him to tuck and run easily if necessary.
2nd & 1 Empty shotgun vs nickel Inverted veer handoff to Fuller, works around the edge for 4. This could be a staple play this year with Bryant providing a stronger inside running presence than Watson did.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Tunnel screen to McCloud overthrown incomplete Oddly, Bryant's least accurate ball this season has come on tunnel screens. Richard didn't get a block so an incompletion was a better outcome than a loss.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Jet sweep motion PA IZ, rollout keeper gains 1 As expected, Auburn has far more respect for Bryant's run threat. Plenty of underneath zone/spy to mitigate the QB run threat vs man outside.
3rd & 9 10 shotgun vs dime Dropback vs man cover 2, Anchrum is beaten around the edge and Bryant is flushed left but can't escape, sacked for a loss of 10, punt. 3rd & long will be the bane of Clemson's existence even with solid tackle depth

Auburn ball, 5:02, Auburn 22, 3-0 Auburn lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Illegal motion, 1st & 15 10 shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs man cover 1 robber, go route incomplete but PI called on Fields This contact was far more egregious than what was called on Edmond, but I don't think this ball was catchable.
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs nickel Dropback vs cover 4, Stidham quickly tucks and runs, falling butt backward into a 5 yard gain Absolutely nothing was open for Stidham down field all night, but he makes the wise move here to tuck sooner rather than get sacked.
2nd & 5 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake jet IZ away from the Sam fire, big hole on the left side, gain of 10 Auburn OL really walled off the interior and got a good climb to the second level. Pettway missed the big hole in the B gap but still found 10.
1st & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Power handoff, stoned at the line but it takes a 3rd effort to get him down for a gain of 1 Auburn tried to break tendency with 1st down throws a couple times with little success, has to try again with Clemson jumping the run.
2nd & 9 20 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR RPO handoff, Pettway again finds a seal and cuts for 8 yards. One of the few runs in which the majority of the yards didn't come after contact
3rd & 1 21 vs 4-3 Iso handoff finds a hole on the back side, gain of 5 This is when I really felt Auburn would be able to run away from Clemson with time of possession and depleting the DL depth
1st & 10 21 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR RPO keeper, Stidham weaves for 3 yards OD was concerned with pass coverage and Carter took a bad angle or else this would've been stuffed
2nd & 7 20 shotgun vs nickel Cover 3 vs handoff, reverse, flea flicker deep post, covered well downfield and thrown away. Intentional grounding. Not sure what Malzah was thinking here. He's moving methodically and wastes a gadget he later needed to provide a spark.
3rd & 22 20 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Deep go route double covered and beautifully shielded by Fields, incomplete, punt Fields maintained position so well it was impossible for him to interfere.

After McCloud promptly fumbles a tunnel screen at the 10, Auburn gets the ball right back...

Auburn ball, 1:13, Clemson 12, 3-0 Auburn lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 21 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ gains 5... Have to penetrate or else Pettway has been good for 4 yards every time.
2nd & 5 21 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake inverted veer handoff, scramble and eventual tackle for no gain O'Daniel saved a likely TD with a good open field tackle.

End of quarter. Couldn’t have gone possibly worse for Clemson, who ran only 6 plays. Auburn’s failures here and in the next couple of snaps ultimately cost them the game. If I were an Auburn fan I’d be very much over the Malzahn regime by now; it squanders or fails to develop talent seemingly without exception.