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Clemson vs Boston College Film Review: 1st Quarter

Kent State v Clemson Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

Well that wasn’t fun, until suddenly it was. Last week I said Boston College’s defense wasn’t as bad as it seemed in its loss to Notre Dame, and they beat Clemson soundly up front for 3 quarters. I figured BC and their lack of depth would run out of gas in the 4th and ultimately allow Clemson to cover the spread with a fresh Travis Etienne, but their effort up front was so great, Etienne had to put the game out of reach rather than satisfy the bettors once the Eagles’ thin defense finally fell prey to fatigue.

Many will complain about the offensive gameplan, but it’s difficult to do much when your offensive line won’t allow you to run the ball against only a 6 man box and you’re backed up inside your own 10 yard line seemingly every drive. So why not attack the edges of a slow defense? Why not make them run sideline to sideline to wear them out sooner? I expected Clemson to get more creative in finding ways to get playmakers in space outside, but it never happened aside from the horrible screen passes.

Compounding the issues up front was the frequent substituting, which of course finally paid off in the end. With its ability to control Clemson’s ground game with its front, BC didn’t have to compensate and leave themselves vulnerable elsewhere; Clemson was unable to hit anything behind 2 deep safeties in cover 4 all day. BC brought it to Clemson and they deserve credit, sure, but BC seriously sat in cover 4 (albeit tighter than Louisville’s cover 4) all day. Nothing exotic or aggressive. Clemson was ultimately able to run away with the win because it had more and fresher bodies. This should provide a wake up call for the entire offensive unit and staff.

Kelly Bryant is still way off on his screen passes (should be easy yardage) and in general had his worst performance through the air. He was affected by BC pressure but did well on the ground to keep a few crucial drives moving. It was good to see Tavien Feaster get the start and it’s now clear that he and Etienne should be the 1-2 punch as the year progresses. Adam Choice is always good to churn something out of nothing, and was solid in that role. CJ Fuller will see his snap count drop further after another fumble, but this will still be a four-man rotation in the short term; it’s simply obvious which two backs should get the bulk of the carries now.

Tough to complain about much defensively against an improving BC offense. They missed a few open plays and were able to move the pile a bit too much for my liking, but the defense still played well with few exceptions. If BC had any semblance of skill outside, this could’ve ended horribly for Clemson since the defensive line didn’t play nearly as well as the secondary did. This is clearly Venables’ deepest secondary and it’s now crucial with Mullen, Fields, and Edmond out and Smith still perhaps recovering. Can’t overstate the luxury of a 5 star boundary corner stepping in and playing well immediately; Terrell probably starts against VT with Mullen’s concussion.

Since the 1st quarter was something of a B1G snoozer, enjoy an Etienne highlight before committing yourself to the yawns found thereafter.

BC ball, 15:00, 25 yard line

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Iso handoff to Hilliman gains 2. Lawrence shovd the center into the backfield and makes first contact.
2nd & 8 12 ace vs 4-3 Bucksweep to Hilliman gains 3 behind the C/LT pull. Mullen set the edge and made a solid low tackle.
3rd & 5 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Offside on Bryant. Welp.
1st & 10 22 I form vs 4-3 under Iso handoff ot Hilliman blocked well but Joseph knives through to make the stop, gain of 2. Joseph read his key and slipped into the hole, his instincts make up for Boulware but with more upside athletically.
2nd & 8 12 ace vs 4-3 PA jet sweep rollout, flare to the TE who is out in front of Jalen Williams, gain of 8. Surprising to see Williams in for O'Daniel so soon, clearly the staff felt comfortable enough with BC's lack of depth to build some of their own. Played with fire for 3 quarters though.
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Counter trey, Robinson(!) comes off his block to make the stop, Muse helps clean up, gain of 3. Teams are going to run at Robinson given his size but he used his hands well to not get pulled into the block. He sheds and bounces into the hole to initiate a solid tackle.
2nd & 7 12 ace vs 4-3 PA flare to the TE vs cover 3 BCB blitz, Joseph is all over it, complete for a gain of 1. Clemson blitzed Mullen so there was a soft spot for the flare here, Joseph read it the whole way.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs 3-2-6 DIME OF DOOM Straight drop vs man cover 1 overload blitz, RB screen, pretty much everyone read it and rallied to the RB, no gain. Amazing to see no gain on a screen vs a 6 man blitz; that's the perfect call to beat the blitz but the recognition here is fantastic. Venables effect.

Clemson ball, 11:52, Clemson 3

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR give to Feaster gains 6. Left side of the line pushed BC off the ball and Feaster churned behind them.
2nd & 4 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out to Renfrow gains 4. Here's an example of a technically successful play which wasn't executed efficiently. Bryant does not get the ball out quickly; partly due to a long delivery and in this case a slow trigger. BC was onto Renfrow before Bryant threw the ball.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR give to Feaster gains another 6. Left side of the line working again, Hyatt's seal gives Feaster a lane.
2nd & 5 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick slant to Renfrow vs cover 4, Renfrow spins out of a tackle and runs down the sideline, gain of 25. Simple read and a better delivery from Bryant this time.
1st & 10 10 shotgun (double stack) vs 4-3 Tunnel screen to McCloud thrown high and slow, corner bullies Renfrow straight into McCloud, loss of 3. It's unbelievably frustrating Bryant can't execute a screen pass properly, since many figured the short/screen game would be the only reliable passing element with him behind center. This should've been a big gain with only one press corner against two receivers.
2nd & 13 10 shotgun (trips left) vs 4-3 IZ to Feaster gains 3. There was a hole but it closed when Crowder couldn't hold his block on the 1 tech after Falcinelli climbed to the Mike.
3rd & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Straight drop vs man cover 2, go route thrown to Cain against double coverage, thrown a bit too far inside and Cain can't quite reach it even though he gets behind the coverage. Good ball from Bryant despite the pressure, Cain perhaps should've gotten under this.

BC ball, 8:44, BC 20

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 PA vs cover 3, seam complete to the TE behind Joseph, gain of 37. Joseph was held up a bit by the umpire but he still fell victim to the PA.
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Stretch handoff to Dillon, Ferrell can't set the edge and Dillion rounds the corner for 5. Good effort by Mullen against the block to force Dillon out.
2nd & 5 12 ace vs 4-3 Brown muffs the center exchange, loss of 1. Put 'em in a passing siutation.
3rd & 6 12 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM Straight drop vs another 6 man overload, coverage bust though, Brown misses the TE underneath for an easy 1st and throws incomplete vs Mullen. Muse and Smith covered the same area, leaving only O'Daniel to cover underneath. This tells me the call was cover 3 but and one of the safeties should've played underneath with OD. Fortunate break.

Clemson ball, 7:27, Clemson 20

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake jet power option pitch gains 1. Jet motion didn't pull BC away because they're sitting in cover 4; it merely left an unblocked defender which McCloud would've been in position to block without jet motion. Feaster cut back in rather than try and use his speed to beat the unblocked defender to the edge.
2nd & 9 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR keeper, Bryant follows Feaster and gets outside for 7. Solid blocking from the OL, neither Feaster or Bryant were touched til the second level.
3rd & 2 11 shotgun vs nickel Bubble screen to McCloud vs nickel fire, again thrown high and slow, Renfrow has to delay and climb to catch it and is immediately hit when McCloud gets blown up trying to block. More easy yardage left on the field with horrible execution. Throw wasn't horrible but McCloud was eaten alive.

BC ball, 5:32, BC 39

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 PA iso reverse to Smith gains 7. BC blocked the edge well and nobody could fight off til Smith had the edge.
2nd & 3 12 ace vs 4-3 Power handoff to Hilliman gains 4. Big interior push by the BC front.
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 PA vs cover 3 BCB blitz, Mullen flushes Brown straight into Bryant, easy sack. Bryant benefitting from another coverage sack.
2nd & 16 12 ace vs 4-3 Toss sweep, Bryant gets outside to set the edge but is completely unblocked easiest TFL imaginable, loss of 1. BC simply missed him; each guy thought the next guy would block him.
3rd & 17 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM Draw vs another safety fire, Simmons works around the line to get the trip in the backfield, loss of 2. Three consecutive TFLs. Simmons looks like a better Jayron Kearse flying around.

Clemson ball, 2:42, Clemson 9

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet PA go vs cover 4, Cain double covered so Bryant tries to check down but is flushed, gains 11 outside. Many will cite this as an example of Bryant failing to check down, but I have no issue with it given he was in his own endzone. Look deep, get out of the endzone if Cain's bracketed like he was.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA rollout TE arc flare to Richard, nobody is there to immediately cut him, gain of 10. I like this play design. Richard goes in motion left and the line blocks that way for Fuller, while Richard's supposed arc to the backside is actually a route for KB to hit on the rollout.

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
2nd & inches 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Straight drop vs cover 4, Bryant wants to go deep but Landry powers through Hyatt and hits Bryant's arm on the release, ball goes straight up and is easily intercepted. Hyatt beaten by a 1st rounder, understandable.

BC ball, 1:32, Clemson 28

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Stretch handoff, O'Daniel sets the edge in the backfield and forces the run straight into Lamar and Joseph, no gain. Beautiful linebacking from all three of Clemson's.
2nd & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 IZ, Bryant works inside the backside TE and makes the stop. Bryant has certainly made a name for himself early this season.
3rd & 8 11 shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM Rollout left vs 3 man rush cover 4, Ferrell gets immediate pressure, Brown throws across his body and Simmons drops the pick 6. Why would anyone roll towards Ferrell? Field goal NO GOOD.

Clemson ball, 0:29, 26

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR handoff ot Fuller gains 3. Good double team from Falcinelli and Morris but Simpson missed the Mike fill, otherwise Fuller had a hole.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick drop, out route covered and Bryant wants to check down but he's flushed by Landry (Pollard did well on him but can't hold him for 3 seconds) Bryant somehow escapes the sack and runs around for 3 yards. Pollard actually did well enough here. He maintained good position on Landry long enough for even a longer developing route, but Bryant rolled right into Landry's outside move.

End of quarter.