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ACC Championship 1st Quarter Film Review

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NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Pittsburgh Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The committee got it right and we’re headed to Dallas to face Notre Dame. This was the matchup I wanted all along and you’ll understand why when you notice Clemson is already favored by nearly 2 touchdowns. I don’t understand why this is in Dallas and not Miami though. The committee cites a potential home field advantage for #4 Oklahoma over #1 Alabama in Dallas (I find this unlikely since you know Bama will travel just as well as Oklahoma), so they moved them to Miami and shipped us to Dallas at everyone’s expense (based on distance) except Notre Dame’s.

Why was this not a factor a year ago when #4 Alabama had a home field advantage over #1 Clemson in New Orleans? They could’ve sent us to the Rose Bowl and made us both fly out instead of giving Bama fans the easy drive. But I digress, Notre Dame is what we wanted, and though I haven’t looked closely at their film yet, I expect you should book your Santa Clara travel accommodations now folks.

Pittsburgh was the mere speedbump we all envisioned, far less imposing and successful against the run than I expected from a strict cover 4 team which usually crashes the run with its entire unit. I expected Clemson would have to move the ball on fades and back shoulders, where cover 4 is weak, but the Clemson offensive line was dominant and allowed for easy running throughout the night. Which was fortunate since Pitt’s corners were shockingly outstanding in coverage; they were in position on the back shoulder throws and forced many of the incompletions (though a few were dropped likely due to weather). Props to the offensive line for keeping this from getting frustrating.

Clemson took the opening kickoff for a touchback and went straight to script, a simple zone read handoff to Travis Etienne, ho-hum, yawn, scripted plays are a waste, blah, just dictate your approach already.


Lawrence freezes the backside end, giving Clemson a numbers advantage on the playside. Falcinelli washes the 1 tech outside and Cervenka climbs free to the Mike; everyone else simply does his job and Etienne is free.

Pitt ball, 14:47, Pitt 25, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA bubble screen dropped. Wallace flew the alley and would've had a TFL had the receiver held on.
2nd & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 IZ loses a yard. Lawrence threw his blocker aside and made first contact with Simmons on a bullet.
3rd & 11 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Man cover 1 double LB bullets, Lawrence breaks free for the sack, loss of 8. Clemson had 3 linemen on the weak side and Bryant spread out at a wide 5 on the strong side; Lamar and Joseph split the two gaps between. Joseph was free to the running back within a second and from there Pickett was toast; simply a matter of who would reach him first.

Clemson ball, 13:14, Clemson 42, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 pistol vs 4-3 Power handoff to Feaster gains 3. Well blocked initially, Anchrum didn't maintain his block on the Mike quite long enough and broke free as Feaster arrived.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA deep fade agaisnt cover 4, dropped by Higgins. Pitt had solid coverage outside all night but this is a perfect throw and has to be caught. Wet ball.
3rd & 7 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Lawrence is flushed early against cover 4 (perceived pressure), throws underneath to Thompson for a gain of 1. Pitt showed a pressure look and dropped out; Clemson picked up the pressure well but Lawrence rolled right; Renfrow was breaking past the marker on an out to the left.

Pitt ball, 11:38, Pitt 39, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 RB flare screen vs cover 4, Lamar reads it and is free to make the TFL, loss of 4. We missed Lamar last week, forget his struggles in zone drops, we still missed him.
2nd & 29 (false start, delay of game, false start) 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ stopped by Lawrence for no gain. Lawrence didn't even have to try to shed his block, the guard wanted none of him and climbed way too soon.
3rd & 29 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 3 Mike/Sam fire, Ferrell forces the flush and Simmons gets a strip sack, recovered and almost returned for a Wilkins TD, heaven help me had he scored. It is beautiful to see Wilkins get to carry the ball more than a few yards at a time and I've never wanted anything more than I wanted this touchdown.

Etienne scores from 2 yards out on the ensuing snap.

Pitt ball, 9:24, Pitt 15, 14-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Power handoff gains 1. Ferrell literally tackled the fullback, Simmons cleans up with another hard tackle, very strong 1st quarter thus far.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA, man cover 1 (Joseph green dog), Pickett throws a deep fade out of bounds. Miscommunication on the route made this effectively a throwaway.
3rd & 9 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Dropback vs man under cover 1, deep comeback underthrown incomplete. Finally drew a holding call! Pressure was immediate and Pickett had no hope but to fire off an incompletion.

Clemson ball, 8:28, Clemson 43, 14-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Feaster motion, quick pitch back to him (backward pass), read immediately and stopped for no gain. Feaster did well to simply fight for no gain; Thompson blocked nobody .
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA vs cover 4, deep fade to Ross complete for 32. The run action pulled in all the LBs and safeties, perfect throw and great catch in wet weather.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet pop pass to Kendrick loses 2. The Will was unblocked and beat Kendrick to the corner.
2nd & 12 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Back shoulder fade to Ross vs cover 4 dropped. Lawrence hesitated and gave the safety time to recover, Ross pushed off a bit but still couldn't come down with the wet ball.
3rd & 12 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Delayed counter to Feaster gains 9. Good play call and well blocked by the line, if Richard had prevented the Will from flying in to trip Feaster up he could've had the 1st.
4th & 3 11 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO slant to Kendrick vs cover 0, thrown behind, incomplete. Pulling was the right read, Lawrence probably pulled the trigger a bit too soon when Kendrick could've cleared in another half second. With RPOs though the ball has to come out quickly to prevent an illegal man downfield penalty, so the quick trigger on a slant is understandable.

Pitt ball, 6:08, Pitt 19, 14-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 ace vs 4-3 Jet sweep gets to the edge and gains 16. The linebackers were caught inside on the run motion and nobody was there to set the edge but Wallace, and his inside help was late.
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Inside zone up the middle gains another 20. Huggins shot the playside B gap but inside help was sealed off, lane through the A gap.
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Outside zone cleaned up from the backside, gain of 2. Ferrell came clean off the edge and Wilkins split his gap (despite being held) to stop this in its tracks.
2nd & 8 12 ace vs 4-3 Outside zone cutback gains 3. Clemson's getting immediate pressure but allowing these cutback lanes. Only Lamar's desperate arm tackle prevented a big gain.
3rd & 5 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone gains 21. Lawrence worked outside instead of in and allowed the center to climb to Joseph, huge hole once Joseph is blocked.
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Jet sweep strung out by Muse for no gain. This time we had leverage; Muse carried his blocker with the runner before fighting him off and running the runner out of bounds.
2nd & 10 12 ace (bunch) vs 4-3 Stretch handoff stopped for no gain. Terrell fought through a block to set the edge and Lawrence worked all the way down the line to make the stop.
3rd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA, man cover 1 Will fire, deep corner route overthrown out of bounds. Simmons was beaten but all of Pitt's passes have been prayers.

Clemson ball, 1:46, Clemson 25, 14-3 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone to Choice gains 2. Choice lowered his head and ran right into the linebacker Simpson was climbing toward...
2nd & 8 11 pistol vs 4-3 PA bootleg left, Williams chips the end but then gets a free rush, tips the pass intended for Williams. I don't see why we're sending Lawrence on a naked boot to his left.
3rd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs BCB blitz in front of cover 4, deep comeback to Rodgers broken up. Would've preferred to see Lawrence throw into the blitz here and find a wide open Williams, but he never saw the corner blitz and I'm satisfied with his internal clock. But what a risky pass that could've been picked.

Pitt ball, 1:03, Pitt 36, 14-3 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 PA bootleg, thrown away. I don't understand this rollout to the left either.
2nd & 10 11 ace vs 4-3 Fake jet, inside zone stopped for no gain. Nyles Pinckney! Worked down the line with his hands and made first contact behind the line.
3rd & 10 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 LB fire in front of cover 4, Lamar bursts through but Pickett escapes down the sideline for the 1st. Overrunning our rush lanes. This should've been a sack for Lamar or Joseph if the latter had a bit more lateral quickness.

End of quarter.