It took Clemson’s offense a while to get off the bus on Saturday. A combination of sloppy execution and an underrated Eagles defense held the Tigers to 13 points in the first half. The teams went into the locker room for halftime with Clemson only leading by a couple of field goals. The running game in particular struggled, with Boston College focusing on keeping the ball in Lawrence’s hands on RPO’s. The tackles had a rough day, which makes Hyatt leaving the game with stingers pretty concerning.
The way the Tigers defense was playing, however, six points would be an insurmountable lead. The Eagles lone score came on a punt return. Other than that Boston College went absolutely nowhere. Starting quarterback Anthony Brown was knocked out of the game in the first quarter, and the running game wasn’t able to pick up the slack at all, totaling 9 yards on 33 rushes. Christian Wilkins put on a show in front of a home crowd, and Tanner Muse appears to be putting it all together at safety, leading the team with ten tackles.
Special teams were a mixed bag, and the Tigers have a lot of room to improve this week. In addition to giving up a punt return touchdown there was a punt fumbled by Amari Rodgers. Rodgers would make up for it by returning a punt for a touchdown in the third quarter. After rampaging through the weaker parts of the ACC (and a ranked NC State team) the Tigers were due for a relatively difficult game. They can’t all be Florida State or Louisville.
Clemson opened the second quarter fair catching a punt at the Clemson 38 yard line. The Eagles defensive ends were crashing option runs, forcing Lawrence to keep the football. Although Lawrence is a good scrambler he hasn’t reliably shown he can make plays on designed runs yet. At 6’5” he has a hard time getting around the edge on zone reads, and he’s too skinny to run over linebackers. In addition Boston College’s flat players would cover receivers before rallying back to Lawrence. I would expect more defenses to do this going forward. If you have the option of putting the ball in Lawrence, Higgins or Etienne’s hands who do you choose?
Clemson can, and did, counter this by having a tight end kick out the backside defensive end. But doing this takes Clemson out of the 4 WR formations they’ve had so much success with lately. A fade route against a cover 1 inside linebacker blitz to Kendrick converted a third down to keep the drive alive. Etienne got to the edge on a counter run, breaking a tackle from the corner and scampering for an easy first down. Because counter is such a slow developing play the “kick-out” player sometimes finds that the defensive end has crashed down inside. When this happens the kick-out player has to “log” block the end, sealing him inside and turning the counter play into more of a sweep. The tight end and running back have to read that block and bounce outside.
A pair of inside zone dives took Clemson to 3rd&4 at the 6 yard line. Boston College comes out in quarters coverage, with pressure off the edge forcing Lawrence to throw the ball away. Field goal good!
Boston College has Clemson beat here. With Austin Bryant and JD Davis both playing the dive, a tight end arcing around to pick up Muse and a WR running the corner off the only person in position to touch EJ Perry is K’von Wallace, who doesn’t have a great angle. Perry, however, falls down. It was that kind of night for the Eagles.
A reverse pass from Jeff Smith (started some at QB in 2015) ended in an intentional grounding call. EJ Perry kept the ball again on a 3rd&12 zone read, but was stopped comfortably short of the first down marker.
Clemson fair caught the punt just inside their 30 yard line. Etienne got a handoff on a stretch play out of the pistol, with Lawrence faking a bootleg to hold backside defenders. Clemson hasn’t run much outside zone this year, and wasn’t able to create a crease. The Tigers came out in empty, with Renfrow as the innermost receiver to the trips side. Doing this made it very likely that a linebacker would be tasked with covering Renfrow regardless of if it’s zone or man, and predictably he isn’t able to keep up with a double move.
Clemson ran a zone read on 3rd& 2, with the backside defensive end crashing down to make the tackle after a one yard gain. Boston College had eight in the box, running what appears to be an overload fire zone to the strong side.
The punt took the Eagles to about their 30 yard line. A dive with a fake reverse to the bunched receiver was good for a couple yards. Boston College ran a 12 personnel formation with both TE’s in line and the WR’s as wings. Dillon was able to follow a pair of blockers on a pin-pull sweep, get outside and gain five. Zone read keeper by Perry, following a pair of TE’s lead blocking, good for just enough for a first down.
Play-action pass on 1st&10, Ferrell defeats his blocker instantly and Perry takes a hit to get the pass off. Venables is running cover two robber, a coverage popularized by Bud Foster in the 90’s in part because it could get 9 into the box against the run. Although too run heavy to survive as a base defense in college the approach helped lead to the aggressive quarters coverages popular today. Much like those quarters coverages, robber coverage is vulnerable on play action. Once Wallace commits against the run he can’t get deep enough to take away throws in front of the bailing corner.
A snap over the head killed any and all positive momentum, setting up a 2nd& 42. This sprint out pass never really had a chance. I think the tight end got the wrong play because I truly don’t know why else he’d be run blocking. A screen on 3rd& 47 was snuffed out behind the line of scrimmage. Boston College’s punt dropped well short of the first down marker, and Clemson would have had excellent field position if not for an Amari Rodgers fumble. I’m not sure that was the correct call, but whatever, it’s in the past now. At the time it looked like a missed penalty that could potentially allow BC back in the game.
Boston College would take advantage of this second chance (and field position) with a holding call on the next play. Facing 1st& 17 the Eagles faked a jet sweep to Jeff Smith before coming back with a screen to the bunched receivers for a two yard gain. Boston College ran the exact same play, but for reasons that escape me Smith ran behind the quarterback this time. Perry tries to make something happen (and could have still thrown the screen) but throws the ball out of bounds. 3rd & 15 brings out the DOD, with a corner route safely covered by Nolan Turner.
Clemson started the drive around their own 10 yard line with an RPO hitch backside. A play action shot to Kendrick was broken up. Clemson converted the 3rd& 2 with a shovel pass RPO. Normally on sprint out passes sealing the edge is the hardest part of the play to block, consequently teams have sent their running back there to help as part of the blocking scheme. By reading the edge defender Clemson can still account for him and punish BC for aggressive defense.
A play-action shot to Ross fell incomplete, overthrown. BC runs a late showing blitz, sending the MLB and strong safety with cover 1 behind. Higgins makes a falling, spinning catch to the backside for a first down. Hyatt gets hurt on this play. Another 1st& 10 play-action shot to Higgins falls incomplete, overthrown.
Clemson comes out in 10 personnel trips, with the Eagles showing a double A gap blitz. Boston College actually sends the backside corner, rotating into an inverted cover 2 on the backside. It’s a clever blitz, but they’ve run it before and the rotating safety arrives late backside. Pass to Ross good for a short gain.
Boston College sends late pressure to the strong side, rotating into cover 1. Choice picks up the free rusher and the “switch” route acts as a natural pick for Ross, who gets an easy first down. 1st&10, BC shows double A gap pressure again before dropping into cover two. Hitch to Rodgers tackled in bounds. Timeout.
Delayed MLB blitz, cover 2 behind, Anchrum loses his man on a TEX stunt. He has to pass the defensive end off to the guard and take the looping tackle. With the linebacker blitz Choice isn’t around to clean up free rushers.
The hail Mary to end the half fell incomplete, and Clemson went to the locker room with a 13-7 lead.