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SMUG ALERT! Clemson Destroys Louisville: 1st Quarter Film Review

Everyone at STS told you this would happen and we’re not going to live it down.

Clemson v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

That was fun. All week the narrative here focused a wider talent gap between these two programs than the one Lamar Jackson nearly overcame a year ago, and it proved emphatically prophetic. A week ago I truly thought Louisville could win this game for the same “reasons” many in the media who don’t pay close enough attention to film did; then I watched Louisville’s film and saw an unmitigated drop off on defense which they couldn’t compensate for despite Jackson’s improvement. Yet the more I asserted the game shouldn’t be close, that Louisville needed serious turnover help like last year, that Kelly Bryant should have his coming out party against this defense and perhaps outplay Jackson, the more I tried to hedge. Surely I was missing something. Everyone seemed to expect a close game. Why? Irrational and unfounded takes surrounding Jackson’s reputation and ignorance surrounding Bryant’s competence.

Ryan, Dbbm, Calvin, and I all predicted wins for the same reasons listed above, ranging from 3 points to 11. I thought my 11 points weren’t too outlandish, close enough to not seem overly disrespectful but a wide enough margin to show I didn’t think Louisville could hang with Clemson for 4 quarters without something whacky in their favor. Early in the 3rd quarter, I wondered why oh why did I hedge when I knew better? To not seem like a homer? Fears around Jackson’s wizardry? The expectation Clemson is due for at least two silly turnovers per game as they have been the last two seasons? I allowed myself to spew the lazy “well, ya know Jackson will do something crazy” cop out or “Clemson will probably mess around and struggle on the road” bile even though the rosters told me otherwise; the film told me otherwise.

So today I want to apologize for trying to hedge with the same lazy, unfounded “reasoning” you’ll find elsewhere. I’m sorry I only said Clemson would win by two scores when I seriously knew better. This dose of humility is the only thing keeping me from burying you in smug for the next month, so accept it while you can.

Louisville ball, 14:53, Louisville 31

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 ace vs 4-3 Toss left, Mullen sets the edge and fights through the block for the tackle, gain of 2 Mullen was my favorite to start at boundary corner and he has looked great all season.
2nd & 8 12 pistol vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 4, Jackson flushed right and finds an opening between Lamar and O'Daniel, thrown behind Smith but should've been caught I thought Clemson caught a ton of breaks early from Louisville's receivers dropping/just missing catchable balls. Jackson wasn't off by much but his receivers did him zero favors.
3rd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 3, Jackson steps up and scrambles through the middle, brought down by Ferrell short of the first down, punt. The theme of the 1st half manifested itself from the beginning: successfully playing keep away from Jackson to avoid the play count which almost cost Clemson a year ago.

Clemson ball, 13:40, Clemson 21

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ handoff to Fuller gains 4, hard contact after hitting the initial hole. I like Fuller when there's a hole, he bursts through it decisively and makes defenders pay to tackle him.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out to McCloud vs soft cover 4, gain of 5. Ray Ray had 1st down yardage but juked himself backward, probably a little overager to burn a corner who's been bad on film. Which is why Louisville gives such a big cushion.
3rd & 1 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR dive vs man cover 1 Sam fire, gain of 2 for Fuller. Hyatt sealed and Hearn climbed to create a wide B gap, Fuller already has the 1st before contact.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Jet sweep to McCloud not blocked well, Renfrow pushed back into Fuller, but McCloud jukes to find 7 yards. Renfrow's man got inside of him before he could initiate contact and almost blew this up. Richard's blocking actually allowed McCloud the room to make a move.
2nd & 3 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA deep post to Renfrow vs cover 4, crossing route underneath pulls weak safety help away and Renfrow's route gets separation behind a safety now essentially matched in man, gain of 40. 2nd & short near midfield is when Clemson tries its deep play fakes, love getting Renfrow downfield on a post when everyone expects him to be merely a safety valve. He makes every catch look so impressive.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun (11 personnel) trips right vs 4-3 ZR dive to Fuller, Hyatt and Hearn double team clears a lane off tackle, Fuller gets into it for 5. Evidence of improved vision here.
2nd & 5 11 shotgun (all on left) vs 4-3 Bubble screen to McCloud, Cain and Renfrow double team the press corner before Cain climbs, but Renfrow loses the block, gain of only 1, big hit, missed targeting call. Renfrow's blocking still needs work. He's never going to blow defenders out of the play at his size but he loses positioning quickly. And seriously, this is targeting. Happens very quickly but defender clearly lowers his head and leads with it.
3rd & 4 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Straight drop vs cover 4, Cain and Renfrow clear out the underneath cross for McCloud but Louisville is all over it, Bryant runs for the corner, gain of 3. Louisville is showing mostly pattern match cover 4 so far to try and keep eyes on Bryant and defend the deep shots to Cain, but they're running with crossing routes well (a weakness in regular cover 4). It's allowed Renfrow to get 1 on 1 deep but it's preventing shallow crosses thus far.
4th & 1 12 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ vs cover 0 LB jailbreak, great push from the OL for Fuller to get the easy 3 yards. Offensive line has played very well this drive. Beating UofL up front and Anchrum has been solid at RT.
1st & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake jet QB counter because what else would you call, Bryant powers through for the touchdown. This is probably my favorite run play in the playbook and Bryant is the perfect QB to run it. Hearn and Hyatt are bringing it up front.
When your left tackle is a lead blocker off the right side C gap :)

Louisville ball, 9:45, Louisville 25, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inverted veer give to Bonnafon, Lamar is on it all the way and makes the tackle, with O'Daniel who fought through a block, gain of 2. When your "worst" linebacker is a 6'4" 250 Mike who can run and hit like this, your linebackers are elite.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA fake against soft cover 4, UofL's front gave Jackson a clean pocket to climb and throw to the open slot corner between O'Daniel and Carter, receiver just drops it. Jaylen Smith with poor effort here. Jackson wasn't off by much but a better effort should be an easy catch. Another break for the defense early.
3rd & 8 10 pistol vs 4-3 Short dropback vs man cover 0 Will bullet (Lamar and Bryant spy), deep slant open in front of Van Smith but again Jackson is just off, diving effort but incomplete. That's 3 passes now which could've moved the chains but ultimately got Clemson's defense off the field. Crucial to keep the unit fresh.

Clemson ball, 8:53, Clemson 23, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 QB power/sweep right, DE gets around Richard's block but Bryant CARRIES THE GUY 5 YARDS ANYWAY. This could've been a monster gain, Bryant had like 3 lead blockers but Richard couldn't hold his block.
2nd & 5 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Cover 3 boundary corner blitz against a QB rollout away from it, Bryant overthrows Overton's hitch incomplete out of bounds. It's odd that Bryant's been least accurate on short throws and screens, since many expected that'd be the majority of his passes this season before he lost the QB job. Likely a byproduct of his long and very over the top throwing motion.
3rd & 5 Empty shotgun vs nickel cover 3 Dropback, Richard and Thompson cross which pulls the Mike out of the middle, huge hole for Thompson to sit in between the inside backers and the deep safety, easy gain of 17. We hadn't seen many throws down the middle from Bryant until this night and he didn't disappoint at all. Clutch throws on well-designed plays like this can make this offense elite.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR dive to Fuller, no hole, gain of less than 1. Fuller tried to bounce outside after getting stoned but couldn't wiggle around.
2nd & 9 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 3, pressure gets around Pollard and Bryant dumps it at Fuller's feet. Crowder was beaten to give up inside pressure and Pollard got outworked on the edge.
3rd & 9 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 4, Pollard gets WORKED on an inside move and Fuller can't clean up, Bryant eludes but can't escape, loss of 14, punt. How did Pollard regress so horribly this offseason? Completely whiffed on the inside spin.

Louisville ball, 6:20, Louisville 5, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 Quick drop vs double LB bullets, quick comeback forced incomplete by Muse. I love Muse's fire and aggression. If he keeps it in check...
2nd & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 (Wilkins DE) Inverted veer counter keeper, DL is caught in the wash and Jackson has a lane for 15. This could've been worse; Mullen and Muse did just enough and Ferrell got back to drag him down from behind.
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 Inverted veer keeper again, Muse sets the edge but Bryant can't get outside after sitting on the dive, Jackson splits them for 30. Bryant was surprisingly too focused on the dive and Jackson is just too fast for him to make up the ground.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 pistol vs 4-3 Quick slant/swing combo read vs man cover 1, Mullen takes away the slant but Joseph is nowhere close to the running back swing, gain of19. This is vintage Petrino. One simple read to take advantage of linebackers preoccupied with the QB run threat.
1st & 10 10 pistol vs 4-3 IV keeper again, Bryant looks gassed but chases Jackson down from behind, Muse arrives at the same time and is rightfully charged with targeting. I'd run inverted veer with Jackson basically every play til Bryant stops it. A shame for Muse, nothing malicious, he wasn't aiming for Jackson's head, but when Bryant got him from behind it changed the target but Muse had already lowered his head.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Oh boy, confusio reigns and Dabo wanted the timeout. Coverage was basically improv but pressure gets to Jackson and he rolls out before hitting the TE for a rebound style touchdown. Inexcusable to be so confused after a delay for review. Plenty of time to get personnel and call out there, it was obvious Muse would be out.

Etienne is at kick return, which I love, but unfortunately he bobbled the catch and scrambles to make it to the 9. Good news, this was the low point in the game!

Clemson ball, 4:14, Clemson 9, 7-7 tie.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3, safety alignment says Sam blitz Fake jet IZ blown up by the obvious Sam blitz, loss of 5. Richard's arc block couldn't get there in time, not his fault, just a good blitz. Smart of Pass to ignore the fake sweep and zoom in on Feaster, he's watched film properly.
2nd & 15 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR dive to Feaster, good hole in the A gap, strong running from Feaster (start him!), gain of 9. Pollard and Crowder doubled the 3 tech and Falcinellie sealed the 1 take to give Feaster a lane. For a speedster he shows remarkable power. Feaster should be the feature back until Etienne can steal snaps; Fuller and Choice are situational guys a cut below.
3rd & 6 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick drop vs cover 4, quick comeback route to Cain complete, makes a tackler miss and runs up the sideline for 11. The corner had Cain bracketed against the sideline after the catch but literally let him move upfield, secondary is playing scared.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick tunnel screen vs soft cover 3, Bryant overthrew it, would've been a huge gain with blockers already 10 yards downfield vs the soft coverage. In fairness, Bryant had to throw over the DE but gotta reign it in on his screen passes. He's throwing high, slow passes where he needs quick low ones. If you had told me screens would be his weakest throws so far this year I wouldn't know how to react. Luckily it's because he's lighting it up downfield vs sucking all around!
2nd & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Draw to Feaster beautifully executed, Morris and Falcinelli (remember when he was my greatest concern?!) made a lane and Feaster shows his dynamism and power for and easy 11. If not for right tackle I would have no concerns with this line, they've performed excellently.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Rollout hitch to McCloud vs soft coverage thrown high but complete, gain of 4. Another high pass, gotta keep those down.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA jet, deep go to Cain against man outside, Cain burns the corner by about 5 yards but Bryant gets too much air under it, underthrown, corner tracks it down and knocks it loose. Two overthrows followed by an underthrow. A little less air under it and Cain jogs into the endzone.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 4, thrown into a tight zone around a bracketed Overton, overthrown out of bounds. This may have actually been a throwaway because I can't see Bryant willingly sticking on his first read when he's bracketed.

Louisville ball, 1:14, Louisville 5, 7-7 tie.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out vs a 10 yard cushion from fields, easy 15 yards. Soft zone against Jackson is understandable but a 10 yard cushion is not. Louisville knows they have to get passes out quick with their offensive line; 10 yard cushion allows this.
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 Dropback against a cover 3 Mike bullet, slant off the receivers hands and almost intercepted. Again, Jackson's receivers did him no favors and it's ultimately why Louisville never really threatened Clemson. Convert a few of those drops and it's likely a different game in the 2nd quarter onward.
2nd & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 ZR dive gains 5 up the middle. Better that than Jackson on the edge.
3rd & 5 10 pistol vs 4-3 Dropback vs man cover 1 Will bullet/WDE spy, Jackson avoids the sack about 6 times before Lamar's green dog and Wilkins clean up, loss of 8. Sack sets the tone for the rest of the game, review gets more fun from here on folks.