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Clemson vs. Pitt: 4th Quarter Film Review

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ACC Championship - Clemson v Pittsburgh Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Four straight ACC Championships. It has a nice ring to it.

Dabo Swinney and company became the first program in conference history to claim the feat on Saturday night with a 42-10 drubbing of the Pitt Panthers in primetime at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Tigers not only won their four straight title, but in the process claimed their fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

Clemson now heads to Dallas to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl.

After a near-perfect offensive performance vs. South Carolina, the Tigers found themselves off to the races from the start as running back Travis Etienne broke free for 75 yards on the opening drive to put Clemson up 7-0 early. Following a Christian Wilkins fumble recovery that was returned to the three-yard line, Etienne punched it into the endzone again, and the Tigers were threatening to put this game away early.

After a few offensive drives stalled and Pitt added 10 points of their own, Trevor Lawrence found Tee Higgins from five yards out to put Clemson up 21-10. The Tigers would add to their lead after an A.J. Terrell interception led to Lawrence’s second touchdown pass of the evening to Higgins. Clemson led 28-10 at the break.

The Tigers would add 14 more points in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good, which is where I will pick us up in our film review. The offense had been efficient, but the weather certainly played its role. Clemson relied heavily on the run game of Etienne, Tavien Feaster, and Adam Choice. What the Tigers really needed though was a strong defensive performance, and that’s exactly what they turned out. Clemson held Pitt to just 200 yards, including just 48 yards in the fourth quarter.

This review is a lot different from last week. I really don’t have any complaints about this one. This was fun.

28-10 Clemson, 15:00, Pitt 2

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & Goal Shotgun vs. Goal-line Inside zone vs. Man coverage, Choice gains 1 Simple zone read here where Lawrence gives to Choice and let's him use his physicality to get into the endzone, only he doesn't. Replay marks him short. Do it again.
2nd & Goal Shotgun vs. Goal-line Inside zone vs. Man coverage, Choice punches it in this time Same play and Choice gets in. Easy play call. Tigers go up 35-10.

35-10 Clemson, 14:27, Pitt 25

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Rollout slant vs. Cover 1 man SAM blitz, gain of 3 but penalty on Pitt A simple rollout to the slot receiver that Pickett throws to a tad bit late, although he did have to avoid Simmons crashing on the RB. Good call given that Denzel Johnson is giving the receiver an 8-yard cushion, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty takes away the yards. Silly Pitt.
2nd & 21 Shotgun vs. Nickel Jet sweep vs. Cover 1 man, loss of 5 The jet sweep was the new shovel pass that Pitt tried to use to beat Clemson. It worked in the first half, but Venables made the halftime adjustment and the Tigers were ready in the second half. Simmons, Lamar, and Johnson were ready for it. Big stop.
3rd & 26 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone vs. Cover 1 man, gain of 1 Pitt does the wise thing and accepts their defeat on this drive. Clemson's pass protection was great all game, so no way they could throw the ball. Running was their only real option and they weren't getting 26 yards. Good defense Tigers.

35-10 Clemson, 12:39, Pitt 43

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 RB Wheel vs. Cover 1 Man Under, pass incomplete This looked like a design throw to the RB the whole way, and Lawrence never takes his eyes off Feaster. Lawrence's throw sails out of bounds. Would like to see him look off the downfield coverage on this play.
2nd & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone with Dixon vs. Cover 2 man, gain of 4 Lyn-J Dixon checks in and shows us some power on his first run of the game. He gets hit around the LOS and pushes his way forward another three or four yards. He may be a big undercover weapon in the playoff, and I'm stoked to see his development over the offseason.
3rd & 6 Shotgun vs. Nickel Snap infraction on Falcinelli Falcinelli gets called for the snap infraction. Looked like a lazy snap to me. He's had a couple of those called recently.
3rd & 11 Shotgun vs. Nickel Counter to Dixon vs. Cover 1 man DB blitz, loss of 1 The offense completely misses the DB on their pre-snap reads, and he comes straight through the line to stop Dixon in the backfield. If he's not there, Dixon is probably headed to the end zone. Clemson punts.

35-10 Clemson, 10:56, Pitt 26

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Ace vs. 4-3 Inside zone vs. Man WILL blitz, gain of 29 Some bad angles by the defense, specifically Denzel Johnson, along with some big holes created by the Pitt O-line allows the RB to pick up big yards. Although Johnson takes a bad angle, the cutback by the RB allowed this play to pick up 29. Good field vision.
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone vs. Man coverage, gain of 2 Much better rush defense by the Tigers. XT pushes the RB back into the teeth of the defensive line. Linebackers do a great job of shaking their blocks as well.
2nd & 8 Ace vs. 4-3 Jet sweep vs. Cover 1 man, gain of 7 The jet sweep comes back and this is well defended by the defense even though it goes for 7 yards. Carter is a fast kid. Could've picked up a lot more on this play.
3rd & 1 Ace vs. 4-3 HB dive vs. Cover 1 man fire, no gain Great stop by the second stringers on 3rd & short. Defensive line got sealed mostly but JD Davis and Chad Smith do a brilliant job on coming down from their LB positions to make the stop.
4th & 1 Ace weak vs. 4-3 HB dive vs. Cover 1 man fire, gain of 1 Defensive line gets great penetration and appears to make the stop, but the RB may have just gotten enough for the first. I like what I saw from the defense though. They were all over it.
1st & 10 Ace vs. 4-3 HB power vs. Cover 1 man, gain of 3 A simple power to the weak side. Unfortunately for Pitt, XT was left unblocked, and he pounces as soon as he sees the handoff. Kid is special.
2nd & 7 Ace vs. 4-3 HB power vs. Cover 1 man, gain of 2 Same play as before, just to the opposite side. Same result though. Good stop for the defense.
3rd & 5 Shotgun Trips vs. Nickel Outside zone vs. Cover 1 man, no gain Oh boy, Logan Rudolph doing his best AB or XT impression. Comes off the line unblocked and chases the RB down for the stop. Really impressed with him.
4th & 5 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Dropback vs. Man zone under, fumbled by Pickett, turnover on downs We'll never know what could've been on this play because Pickett fumbles the snap and the Tigers takeover. That kind of night for Pitt.

35-10 Clemson, 6:02, Clemson 35

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Counter to Dixon vs. Cover 1 man, loss of 1 Backups are in now and a missed block by Matt Bockhurst allows the DE to stuff Dixon for a loss. Love Bockhurst's potential, he just didn't get the pull block in time.
2nd & 11 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone to Choice vs. Cover 1 man, gain of 31 We know Choice is a physical back, but he cuts on the burners after he gets to the secondary on this play. He doesn't have the breakaway speed of Etienne or Dixon, but he's still fast. Great blocking by the o-line to get to the LBs as well. Also, RIP to that corner Choice carried for 10 yards.
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Read option vs. Cover 1 man, give to Choice, gain of 8 I like Brice's decision to hold the ball a second later before fully giving to Choice on the read option. Choice shows his speed again. Another great push by the o-line.
2nd & 2 Shotgun vs. Nickel False start by Carman Jackson Carman gets called for the false start. Just got too antsy before the play.
2nd & 7 Shotgun vs. Nickel Read option vs. Man coverage, Brice keeps, gain of 28 Brice has quietly become a weapon in the read option game. The DE is completely fooled when he realizes Dixon doesn't have the ball. Brice doesn't have the wheels to outrun the safety unfortunately, but I love this call. Big Chase Brice fan. Feel comfortable with him being the No. 2 behind Lawrence.
1st & Goal Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone to Dixon vs. Cover 1 man, Dixon runs in for the score Dixon's ability to cut on a dime is phenomenal and he uses that ability to cut outside and shake the safety to run into the end zone. I agree with Chris and Kirk; the 1-2 combination of Etienne and Dixon is going to be explosive in the future.

42-10 Clemson, 3:11, Pitt 18

Drive & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Drive & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Ace vs. 4-3 Post route vs. Cover 1 man, pass incomplete I guess this is why Pitt doesn't throw the ball much. Pickett just heaves this one as far as he can and nobody is home. Mark Fields saved the day though by picking up the receiver from the other side of the field. Looked like Goodrich missed his assignment.
2nd & 10 Ace vs. 4-3 HB power vs. Man coverage, gain of 2 Nothing doing here. More great rush defense from the Tigers. Pitt was one-dimensional all night and unfortunately for them, Clemson is really good at stopping the dimension they ran.
3rd & 8 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Slant hitch vs. Man zone under, pass incomplete Good coverage by Skalski on Pitt's best receiver. That's a three-and-out and seals your ball game.

Clemson gets the ball and runs out the clock. The Tigers capture their fourth-straight ACC crown. Overall, it was a dominant performance from the defensive unit after being questioned all week whether it was still a top-tier unit. Brent Venables’ game plan was on-point and Clemson got a big time boost of confidence back on the defensive end.

Offensively, the Tigers did what they needed to do on a rainy night: Establish the run and throw when you need to. It wasn’t a perfect night on that side of the ball, but I’m satisfied with the overall performance.

We’ll see y’all in Dallas.