Clemson beat a clearly over matched Pitt team to win the ACC championship game for the fourth consecutive year. While neither team was able to pass particularly well on a rainy Charlotte night the Tigers ability to run the ball made the difference. Pitt’s corners held up well on the outside, which isn’t the most surprising thing to anyone familiar with Narduzzi’s old MSU defenses. When they were really shutting teams down Narduzzi was able to take two and three star corners and get them playing like four and five stars. Having corners who can, for the most part, handle the outside receivers on their own frees up the safeties and linebackers to aggressively play the run. This works fantastically until you run into an NFL caliber passing game. The Tigers have the talent and ability to pass like that but they didn’t look like it Saturday. Instead the offensive line was able to push around the Panthers front as the Clemson averaged 8.6 YPC. On the other side of the ball a one-dimensional Pitt offense was able to create some big plays due to secondary busts but wasn’t able to keep fooling Clemson thanks to no show from the passing game. Kenny Pickett, it’s all uphill from here.
Clemson began the 2nd quarter up 14-3, with the Pitt Panthers having 1st & 10 near the 50 yard line.
12 trips vs. 4-3 over, jet sweep hand off to Carter finds the edge, tackled by Mullen after a gain of nine. Nolan Turner doesn’t have to make the tackle here, but he has to keep Carter from getting outside of him.
False start. 12 trips vs. 4-3 over, sprint out/shovel RPO, out to Carter complete for a short gain. 3r d& 4, 10 trips vs. 4-2, both ILB’s showing blitz, ends drop to spy, cover 0, Pickett flushed out of the pocket and tackled by Ferrell. Venables, feeling he doesn’t need a deep safety against the Panthers passing game, commits three defenders to ensuring Pickett doesn’t scramble for another first down.
Clemson gets the ball on their 1 yard line. 12 unbalanced vs. 4-3 over, Etienne takes the inside zone handoff and fights forward for a few yards. 12 unbalanced vs. 4-3 over, offensive line can’t clear a hole on the power handoff, Etienne tackled at the line. 3rd & 5 10 vs. 4-2, cover one, play-action fade to Ross incomplete after some physical press coverage. Punt snapped off the dirt, Spiers makes a nice play to avoid the safety but following up a pair of three and out’s with a 33 yard punt is never that great.
10 vs. 4-2, jet motion, power read handoff to Carter, tracked down at the sideline by Lamar. 21 vs. 4-3 over, Clemson has nine in the box, outside zone handoff to Ollison, tries to cut it back but Joseph beats a block and meets him at the line. 3rd & 6, 10 vs.4-2, ILB blitz, cover 0, play-action, bracket coverage on Ffrench, out to possession receiver Araujo-Lopes complete against Muse. Of the 16 passes Pitt would throw, they have already attempted 8 early in the 2nd quarter.
Look at #2, the slot to the top of the screen. Because Venables doesn’t feel the need to play with a deep safety he can afford to use a safety to double team Pitt’s best receiver. In addition, Pitt almost never throws to the running back, meaning Venables can send pressure without being worried about an open outlet pass. It doesn’t work for the Tigers defense, but it’s something to watch for against teams #1 receivers.
20 vs. 4-3 over, power read handoff to Ollison, met in the backfield by Simmons, Ollison bounces off the tackle and nearly has a touchdown on a big carry. 32 vs. goal line, g-lead handoff met before the goal line. 23 vs. goal line, g-lead handoff to Ollison good for a touchdown. Clemson 14-Pitt 10
Good field position, repeated poor secondary run fits and Pitt managing to complete a pass were enough for the Panthers to capitalize and score their only touchdown.
11 vs. 4-2, inside zone read, Etienne slips a couple blocks at the line, cuts it back and gets chased down after a 45 yard gain. 11 vs. 4-3 over, power handoff to Feaster and he almost churns for a first down. 11 vs. 4-2, power handoff to Etienne easily gets the first down. 11 vs. 4-2, Pitt’s corners have been living (and doing well) in press coverage on the outside, draw to Etienne good for a few yards. 11 stacked receivers vs. 4-2, outside zone handoff to Feaster from the pistol. Clemson has been using that pistol formation to run outside zone (and setup bootlegs off it) more as the season closed.
3rd & 3, Clemson has yet to pass this drive, 11 vs. 4-2, inside zone handoff to Feaster easily gets a first down. 1st & goal, 11 vs.4-3 under, RPO fade finds Higgins in man coverage, perfect throw and catch for a Clemson touchdown!
20 vs. 4-2, power read keeper tackled after a short gain. 20 vs. 4-3 over, power read keeper tackled in the backfield by Ferrell. He’s athletic enough to slow play the option, give Pickett a “keep” read and recover.3rd & 8, 20 vs. 4-2, six man rush, sprint out pass thrown incomplete under pressure.
11 vs. 4-3 under, power handoff to Choice almost good for a first down. 11 trips vs. 4-2, Choice cuts back but gets tackled at the line on the inside zone handoff. 3rd & 2, 11 vs .4-2, inside zone handoff to Etienne easily gets a first down. 11 trips vs. 4-2, zone read to Etienne tackled at the line. 10 vs. 4-1, cover 1, hitch to Higgins broken up. 10 trips vs. 3-3, ILB’s showing pressure, 3 man rush, quarters, Lawrence gets flushed out and completes a comeback to Thompson short of the first down.
10 vs. 4-2, quarters, Pickett sees nothing open, scrambles, brought down by Turner. 10 vs. 4-2, cover one, pass batted up and falls incomplete. 10 trips vs. DOD, five man rush, cover one, miscommunication between the QB and WR as to whether it was a fade or hitch, pass falls incomplete. 10 trips vs. DOD, six man rush, cover one, Pickett steps up in the pocket and throws a ball that lands in Terrell’s hands. Terrell manages to return it to the 10 yard line and the normally turnover averse Panthers give Clemson the ball for the second time.
11 trips vs. 4-3 under, inside zone + skinny post RPO complete to Ross for a touchdown.
Clemson 28, Pitt 10
The Panthers ran a dive play to close things out and that takes us to halftime.