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Clemson vs. South Carolina: 2nd Quarter Review

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A Will Muschamp coached team was able to give the most talented defense in Clemson history problems running the no huddle. We know nothing.

South Carolina v Clemson Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Hopefully we don’t have a problem with SEC teams. In context it was a great game for South Carolina, injuries to seemingly the entire starting defense excuse the performance on that side of the ball, and the offense put up more points against Clemson than anyone has this year. Jake Bentley played the game of his career against a team that looked like it had his number. The Gamecocks were able to keep things close, and even briefly take a lead, after going down by 30+ points to Clemson the last two years. Will Muschamp’s program appears to be figuring some things out. It’s disconcerting and I don’t like it. I don’t know if this was a moral victory for USC, but it was sure the kind of loss that’s easier to build on than these games have been of late.

On the offensive side of the ball it’s hard to ask of anything more from the Tigers. The offense was getting pretty much whatever it wanted on the ground or through the air. Dabo’s rant was overblown, and I doubt he really cares that much since (as Alex pointed out) Venables has sounded like watching this game caused him physical pain.

The Tigers enter the 2nd quarter having just taken a 14-7 lead on an RPO post to Higgins. The drive was one of three 90+ yard drives Clemson was able to put together Saturday. The Gamecocks started the quarter in trips, throwing a bubble screen to take advantage of Clemson’s weak coverage of the flats. With the OL cut blocking and the ball out instantly Clemson’s pass rush can be erased. The Gamecocks, who cannot really run against the Tigers, have more or less abandoned it, calling 16 passes to 5 runs. Play-action, three man rush, Bentley has time to scan the field, hitch route far side complete for first down. 11 vs. 4-2, inside zone run met by Ferrell and Joseph after a couple yards. 11 vs. 4-2, RPO slant tipped but complete between Mullen and Muse. 11 vs. 4-2 quarters, Bentley has time but comeback route overthrown. 11 vs. 4-2, appears to be an RPO, Bentley rolls away from pressure, hits Denson on a wheel route for a first down. 11 vs. 4-2 quarters, RPO slant, both safeties commit to the run, pass interference on Mullen trying to prevent a TD. Quarters coverage will give you nine in the box against the run, but quarters often leaves your corners on an island against run action passes.

10 trips vs. goal line, six man rush, cover 0, corner route overthrown. 11 vs. 4-3 under, inside zone handoff tackled immediately. 11 vs. goal line, play-action, cover 0 vs switch routes outside, pass overthrown. 10 vs. 4-2, five man rush, cover 0, smash, corner route overthrown, turnover on downs.

USC is recreating a lot of what Duke had success doing, namely quick throws to the outside. South Carolina’s RPO’s are almost all turning into passes, but with how aggressively the Tigers safeties have played the run that’s been the correct read. The problem the Gamecocks (and Blue Devils) ran into is that it’s next to impossible to score the ball in the red zone without a reliable running game.

12 vs. 4-3 under, inside zone handoff good for a couple. 12 vs. 4-3 under, power + bubble screen, throw to the flats, Rodgers fights for a handful of yards. 10 vs. 3-3, five man rush, cover one, fade to Higgins is complete well before the deep safety can get to the sideline. Lawrence gets the ball out too fast for most single high safeties to make much of a difference, often turning these throws into one on one’s.

11 vs. 4-2, RPO slant complete to Ross. 11 unbalanced vs. 4-2, counter handoff, Feaster has a first down before he’s touched. 11 unbalanced vs. 4-2, counter handoff for seven. The Tigers are able to remove USC’s safety from the box with the formation, then pulling blockers to that side to create an overload.

10 stacked receivers vs. 4-2, bubble to Rodgers good for a first down. 10 stacked vs. 4-2, inside zone handoff tackled, facemask. 1st& goal, 11 vs. 4-2, jet motion, power handoff good for five yards. 11 vs. goal line, counter handoff almost tackled in the backfield, Etienne falls forward. Beef package vs. goal line, handoff to Wilkins tackled at the goal line. Beef package vs. goal line and there’s the people’s Heisman Christian Wilkins getting pitched the ball in space and scoring. Tigers touchdown. 21-7

11 trips vs. 4-2, buck sweep met immediately by Muse, tackle finished by Joseph. 11 vs. 4-2, XT flattens the RB trying to block him, Bentley forced to scramble, pass broken up. Clemson’s line has been oddly absent from the game so far. This hasn’t been a case of Mond throwing on the run, Bentley has generally had time. Empty vs. DOD, four man rush, quarters, roll out pass, smash + crossing routes, the corner route is picked up, Muse doesn’t stick with the crosser, wide open for a Gamecocks touchdown.

11 vs. 4-3, stretch bounced outside. 11 unbalanced vs. 3-3-5, counter handoff gets an easy first down. 11 vs. 4-3, play-action max protect, Cervenka’s man beats him, Lawrence forced to scramble, out of bounds after a big pickup. Clemson’s offensive line has generally protected well lately, only giving up one sack the last five games. 11 vs. 4-2, jet motion, inside zone handoff finds a crease and Choice is almost able to get the touchdown. 11 vs. goal line, inside zone handoff and Choice falls forward for a touchdown. 28-14 Tigers. Clemson has been pretty much perfect on offense so far, no drive has gone less than seventy yards, all have ended in touchdowns.

Emory and Henry (Dabo called this “Ninja”), a gadget formation often associated with Spurrier, vs. 4-2 quarters. Deebo Samuels gets lost by the secondary on a post route and is wide open for the touchdown. Ignore the tackles, they’re out there as decoys, this is a run of the mill bust in Clemson’s base coverage.

11 vs. 4-3, jet motion, power handoff, nice blocks downfield by Pollard and Overton. 11 vs. 4-2, inside zone handoff, Dixon churns forward for nine. 11 vs. 3-3-5, power, Anchrum blows the hole wide open and Dixon gets an easy first. 11 unbalanced vs. 4-2, bubble screen picks up the first down. 11 vs. 4-3, the Gamecocks have 8 in the box, inside zone handoff met at the line. The offense is nearing in on 200 through the air and 200 on the ground in the first half. 11 vs. 4-3, RPO comeback, ball overthrown out of bounds. 10 vs. 3-3, five man rush, screen incomplete. Punt. Hard to be too upset at the offense there. They were moving the ball, but a bad run and poor execution (on a correctly read RPO) put the offense in third and long.

Emory & Henry (“Ninja”) vs. 3 down, jet sweep tackled at the line. Empty vs. 3 down, Tigers having trouble adjusting before the snap and a receiver comes open in the flats for a first down, lucky it’s called back for an ineligible downfield. This is a coverage bust, and Muschamp appears to have been right when he said Clemson can struggle to adjust to tempo.

Empty vs. 4-2 quarters, switch route creates a pick, out route open for a few yards. Empty vs. 4-2, man backside, zone to the strong side, J.D. Davis follows Bentley’s eyes and drifts over to come up with a great interception. It’s odd, but despite the numbers he put up Bentley didn’t play that well or make particularly great decisions.

11 vs. 4-3, five man rush, Rodgers called back for a push off. 10 vs. 3 down dime quarters, out to Rodgers complete. 10 bunch vs. 4-2, man coverage, some pressure but Lawrence slides in the pocket, Renfrow comes open out of the bunch. 10 vs. 4-2, zone read handoff able to get a first down. 10 vs. 4-2, cover one, fade route to Ross incomplete. 10 vs. 4-2, cover two, dig route to Ross dropped. Field goal no good. USC takes a knee to close the half out down only seven.