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Clemson vs Duke: 1st Quarter Film Review

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The worst quarter of the season SERIOUSLY DO NOT READ

NCAA Football: Duke at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

If you expect some humble pie from me here you are sorely mistaken. This is a pecan pie only palate this week and I’m not concerned about Clemson’s offense after one bad half. Aside from the obvious dropped passes throughout, the offensive line wasn’t great and the play-calling was mystifying at times, but it isn’t that Clemson ignored the run game so much as Trevor Lawrence checked out of runs and kept on most RPOs.

I wouldn’t be so bold as to say Tony Elliott needs to call fewer RPOs; they’re some of Clemson’s most effective plays and should indeed never be wrong in theory. But it’s remarkable how unnecessarily often Clemson continues to throw the ball. The only rationale I can find for it — aside from Elliott’s perpetually overthought “take what is given” which is actually just letting a defense dictate your approach — is that it’s more live passing reps for Lawrence. Even if Lawrence is trying to do too much and is needlessly checking out of runs, keep in mind it’s crucial he grows more comfortable and seasoned for the postseason than any other player on offense.

But here’s where I have an issue: Duke was giving Clemson the run by nature of a 6 man box and by simply being a horribly undermanned Duke defense. Duke timed a few run blitzes well, but never loaded the box pre-snap to warrant a check or keep on the RPO. My guess is Lawrence is perhaps a bit too pass happy (this is understandable) but Elliott needs to adjust earlier than halftime, say to hell with it, and feed Travis Etienne.

That said, this was the worst quarter of the entire season and I can’t sugarcoat it more than I did above. The few runs Clemson actually attempted went nowhere or outright backwards. Even the defense gave up a few chunk plays through the air (we finally saw a coverage bust) and on the ground. All that can be said is they forced Duke into field goals.

This quarter is an aneurism. Punch me in the face.

Clemson ball 14:56, Clemson 21

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick out to Higgins vs Mike bullet man cover 1 robber, gain of 11. Soft coverage outside left the out wide open.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Power handoff to Etienne brought down hard on the edge, gain of 1. Hyatt pulled well and Etienne was clear off tackle, not often we see him brought down with space to bounce outside.
2nd & 9 11 shotgun vs nickel RPO, quick hitche to Renfrow gains 8. This is why I won't harp on the lack of run calls as much as I want to...Lawrence is keeping most RPOs and has done so successfully, though this looked like a give read to me.
3rd & 1 11 shotgun vs nickel Bubble screen to Renfrow incomplete. Lawrence pulls out of the zone read (DE was unblocked) and throws the bubble becuase the nickel is playing off. He read the Lawrence and would've made the stop in the backfield anyway.

Duke ball, 13:25, Duke 9

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Quick curl vs cover 4 gains 6. Lamar vacated the middle to rush the flat, Jones hit the curl behind him.
2nd & 4 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Tunnel screen gains 2. Simmons fought off his block and met Wallace in the alley for the stop.
3rd & 2 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Spring out, Jones finds nobody opens and tucks for 3. Lamar was caught chasing the running back motion and couldn't step up on the QB run in time.
1st & 10 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Man cover 1 robber, quick slant tipped by Lawrence and almost picked by Wilkins. Lawrence at 3 technique, holy God.
2nd & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Zone read dive gains 2. Ferrell blew up the QB, beginning a recurring theme.
3rd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Cover 3 fire zone, short comeback complete but only for a gain of 2. Duke already knows they have to get their throws off quickly, so far everything is a short dump or a moving pocket. Pressure is still getting there.

Clemson ball, 10:35, Clemson 35

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Counter to Etienne gains 2. Etienne tried to bounce outside a Rodgers crack block but was tripped up by a good low tackle.
2nd & 8 Empty shogtun vs nickel Quick slant to Rodgers vs soft cover 4 gains 6. Duke is lining their nickel at safety depth and the quick passes will be there.
3rd & 2 Sprint out rub to Renfrow vs man cover 1 double LB bullets, overhtrown incomplete. Duke timed the blitz perfectly and Lawrence needs to mix up the cadence. Renfrow wasn't open and wouldn't have had the 1st if it were caught.

Duke ball, 9:21, Duke 2

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 4, checkdown to a delayed curl incomplete. Terrell with blanket coverage.
2nd & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 PA bootleg, complete to the TE flare for 8. Joseph beat Lamar back to the play and made the tackle even though he was aligned farther from it. Rough outing for Lamar thus far. No surprise we'd later see Joseph slide inside and Shaq Smith play Will; with Duke's short passing and quick lobs all night, Smith's speed was needed at OLB.
3rd & 2 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Tunnel screen against soft cover 4 easily gains 6. Nobody was within 10 yards of the screen; let the other receivers run them out.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone gains 1. Lawrence SPUN OFF A DOUBLE TEAM and into the hole, made first contact with Wilkins. Beloved souls.
2nd & 9 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs 3 man rush cover 4, TE seam gets gain of 33. TE got open behind Simmons, who was too shallow while Wallace was caught in the deep middle, and Terrell who didn't drop deep but stayed shallow to eye the back running to the flat.
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 PA bootleg, deep crossing knocked away by Wallace. Less air or a better lead and it's an easy touchdown. Receiver had to wait and jump for the ball, giving Wallace time to recover and knock it out. Dodged a bullet there. Great pressure from Ferrell helped save the TD.
2nd & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone against backup DTs, gain of 11. Pinckney gets worked outside and there's a lane to the second level, center climbs to seal Joseph.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone gains 2. Huggins was doubled but the back fortunately ran right into the lineman who was trying to pancake Huggins; Pinckney held up well and made contact.
2nd & 9 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Cover 3 fire zone, Jones checks to the flat and nobody is there, easy gain of 11. Simmons had flat responsibility but followed Jones' eyes and essentially doubled the slant inside, leaving nobody near the flat.
False start, 1st & 10 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out vs man under, gain of 8. Rahming is Duke's quickest player and a tough match for Muse in man coverage, but he held up well enough and forced him out.
2nd & 7 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 COVER 0 JAILBREAK, Jones throws off his backfoot on the deep fade, incomplete. Essentially a throwaway, Jones has already taken a beating.
3rd & 7 Empty shotgun vs DIME OF DOOM 3 man rush cover 4, nobobyd open and Jones tucks for a gain of 5. Field goal good. Simmons is still prone to eye manipulation in zone but he's a sure tackler in the open field.

Clemson ball, 3:59, Clemson 11, 3-0 Duke lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 pistol vs nickel Stretch to Etienne loses 4 yards. Falcinelli and Hyatt were both beaten; Falcinelli let pressure inside of him and Hyatt couldn't hold the edge. Wow.
2nd & 14 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick hitch to Richard against cover 2 gains 8. Easy yardage between the Will and corner.
3rd & 6 10 shotgun vs nickel Dig route to Rodgers against cover 2 is knocked out, would've been big yardage. Simply a good play by the safety to swipe it as Rodgers secured it, Rodgers had the momentum and angle to win the race to the endzone.

Duke ball, 2:39, Duke 49, 3-0 Duke lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Zone read dive, Bryant destroys Jones but the back is free off the edge, gain of 22. Joseph was late to react and couldn't get outside, Muse was blocked out, easy yardage.
1st & 10 11 pistol vs 4-3 PA boot left, Ferrell gives chase and knocks the pass down. Rather than simply trail and chase, Ferrell dropped back to give himself an angle to pressure Jones face. Brilliant defending.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet pass vs FS/Will bullets, loss of 3. Ferrell set the edge and met Wilkins and Lawrence for a group hug. This is a complete DE; total package whose pass rushing is only secondary to why he's so high on draft boards.
3rd & 13 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep fade vs fire zone, Terrell called for PI. Blatant PI, easy call.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 QB draw vs cover 3 Mike bullet gains 6. Lamar was clipped by the TE and Jones found a lane.
2nd & 4 20 shotgun vs 4-3 QB draw vs Sam fire, loss of 2. Lawrence abused a poor guard and provided the big hit while Simmons flew in for good measure.
3rd & 6 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out vs cover 0 Mike bullet, timing off and the ball arrived before the receiver was ready. Field goal good. Venables said to hell with this and started sending pressure, Jones is tough and playing well, but a bit rattled and feels the need to dump it quickly or run.

Flush this down the toilet.