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National Championship Domination: 1st Quarter Film Review

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College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

What on earth just happened.

This was the best-case scenario and even I, in my incessant optimism and sometimes even outright homerism, felt I was really reaching in my 34-28 Clemson prediction. I felt Alabama had more pathways to victory, but Clemson’s only obvious path was more likely to occur. Or so I tried to convince myself.

That pathway became a freeway after halftime I left all nerves and even dignity behind. Clemson’s gameplan was near perfect on both sides of the ball and the offensive line delivered an all-time performance. And so I will happily eat this crow:

Clemson’s interior line is a huge disadvantage — likely the single biggest mismatch — in this contest and has been underwhelming against the few merely above average run defenses Clemson faced.

Sure, Clemson didn’t find much success running the ball, but dominated on the goal line, on the perimeter, and Alabama got next to no pressure on Trevor Lawrence. Oh and CLEMSON RAN OUT THE LAST 10 MINUTES OF THE GAME JUST FOR KICKS AND GIGGLES. BEST OFFENSIVE LINE PERFORMANCE IN CLEMSON HISTORY. BEST COACHING JOB OF THIS STAFF’S COLLECTIVE CAREER. BEST TEAM IN CLEMSON HISTORY. MOST SATISFYING WIN OF ALL TIME.

Obligatory:


FILM REVIEW Y’ALL

Clemson ball, 15:00, Clemson 25

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel RB flare screen vs man cover 2, pass tipped at the line incomplete. Anchrum never engaged Jennings, letting him get his hands up to tip the pass.
2nd & 10 10 shotgun vs dime Power option pitch to Etienne gains 3. Curious play design; Hyatt and the pulling Cervenka each climb away from the play, blocking nobody, while the lone LB is free to flow to Etienne untouched.
3rd & 7 10 shotgun vs dime Dropback vs 2 man under, curl out to Renfrow is smothered by Surtain, incomplete. Surtain definitely held Renfrow out of his cut but I'm fine with the no call. Shoutout Spiers for his best punt ever?

Bama ball, 14:20, Bama 21

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA flare to Smith gains 8. Clemson ran double LB bullets, intent on pressure from the start. Bama anticipated it.
2nd & 2 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 3 fire zone, deep out complete in front of Mullen. As we've seen from Clemson's offense, there's little defense against a well thrown out even with tight coverage.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs Sam fire, cover 2 blend, (strong side cloud, boundary side inverted cover2), Terrell baits Tua from flat coverage and it's a pick 6. Tua sees Simmons bltiz and Wallace rotate to the vacated area, and immediately processes man coverage. In actually Terrell has flat coverage with Muse over the top in deep half. Mullen had the other did half (inverted) but Muse played over top of Terrell which allowed Terrell to stay in the falt. Tua thought it was man with a single high safety and Venables fooled him. Genius.

Bama ball, 13:20, Bama 25, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone gains 3. Wilkins was doubled and sealed out but Lamar split a block and filled well.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone gains another 10. Wilkins penetrated but was sealed in the backfield, Pinckney stunted out of the hole, Simmons misses a tackle.
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep go to Juedy in the slot against cover 4, Muse is beaten 1 on 1, huge mismatch, touchdown. Muse isn't going to hold up in deep isolation against any of these receivers but he recovers extremely well. Just misses the PBU.

Clemson ball, 12:05, Clemson 25, 7-7 tie

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun double stacked vs dime RPO tunnel screen to Ross overthrown incomplete. McKinney was flying the alley anyway.
Tripping, 2nd & 22 10 shotgun vs dime Curl to Thompson gains 8 vs cover 3. Toughness after the catch gains 5 more yards than it should've.
3rd & 14 10 shotgun double stacked vs dime Go route to Higgins vs cover 4 bust, FS hones in on Ross and lets Higgins run right by, gain of 62. The first sign of what was to come. Clemson's safeties were spectacular aside from a few 1 on 1 mismatches, which we expected. Bama's were a dumpster fire.
Thompson wyd?

Etienne gets to the edge on the next play and does what he always does when he gets to the edge: runs through defensive backs.

Perimeter blocking is sublime. Renfrow gets an effective crack block, Ross bodies up, Rodgers barely has to do a thing to Surtain who wants absolutely none of it.

Bama ball, 10:35, Bama 25, 14-7 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone to Jacobs, Ferrell is walled off and Jacobs gains 8. This is the best running back Saban has had in years. Yes I said it. Better than his two Heisman winners or any of the other recent ones.
2nd & 2 12 shotgun vs 4-3 PA flare to the TE, high and slow pass gives Wallace time to undercut the receiver, loss of 2. Wallace had himself a game. Slipped a potential pick in man coverage and flew in low on the bigger receiver.
3rd & 4 11 shotgun vs nickel (Wallace NB, Turner SS) Dig vs man cover 1 complete for 17. Smith got an inside relase against man and it was over with out underneath zone help.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 (Skalski under Sam) RPO slant to Smith gets inside Wallace in man cover 1, gain of 11. Again we see a safety beat in man coverage but it's all Wallace gave up; nothing after the catch.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 PA deep cross to the tight end against man cover 1, again Wallace was beaten but again immediately makes the stop. Gain of 20. I'm surprised with the amount of man coverage thus far with these safeties but at least the tackling is sound.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Immediate penetration by Wilkins forces Tua into Ferrell, Tua throws it at Jacobs' feet. There's the pressure. FERRELL PUT JONAH WILLIAMS ON HIS ASS AND WILKINS RIPPED AN UNFAIR SWIM MOVE. I'M A FORMER SWIMMER AND CAN ACTUALLY MAKE THIS COMMENT, THE TECHNIQUE IS OLYMPIC LEVEL.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone to Harris, Bryant gets absolutely blown up (though possibly held) and Harris gets to the edge for 10. Holding or not we've never seen Bryant thrown like that.
3rd & 1 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Split zone to Harris gains 3. Wilkins had excellent backside penetration but Harris was lost in the scrum.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Outside zone to Harris, no one sets the edge and Harris knifes through to the 1. Bama scores on play action a play later. This is the worst rush defense we've seen all year. Mullen rotated to deep coverage with the jet motion away from the play but Muse was on the line and had edge responsibility. Bama had too many blockers on the edge for him.

Clemson ball, 6:23, Clemson 25, 14-13 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel PA comeback to Renfrow broken up by McKinney in man.. Lawrence was late to pull the trigger, had to get rid of it earlier or tuck it on the bootleg. McKinney broke quickly and could've had a pick.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Outside zone to Etienne never has a chance, loss of 2. Simpson sprung past Williams at the snap and blocked nobody, Hyatt had to scrape in on Williams in his stead and it was too late, already in the backfield.
3rd & 12 10 shotgun vs dime Deep comeback to Renfrow vs man cover 2, McKinney tackles Renfrow as Lawrence releases, no flag. How this isn't a flag is beyond me.

Bama ball, 5:25, Bama 48, 14-13 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep curl to Juedy Mullen in cover 3, gain of 12. Mullen was beaten on a stutter upfield, ran himself into giving a 5 yard cushion.
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone to Harris vs cover 1 double LB fire, gain of 14. Ferrell stunted into the hole but couldn't make the arm tackle, blitzing LBs were picked up.
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Slant complete for 12 more against man cover 1 double LB bullets. Tua stood in the pocket well as it began to collapse and found the opening, slant always beats man coverage without underneath help.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone gains 6. Wilkins had penetration but Bama ran through the gap he vacated, Bryant tried to fill it but was sealed inside.
2nd & 4 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inside zone, Lamar's bullet redirects it into a wall, gain of 1. The DL finally showed up here, both attempted running lanes were walled off.

Bama converts a 4th & 1 before being pushed back and ultimately kicks a field goal to open the 2nd quarter. Despite being largely dominated outside of 3 plays (pick 6, deep ball to Higgins, Etienne touchdown) Clemson withstood Bama’s opening onslaught with a lead at the end of the 1st. Safe to say Clemson’s usual 2nd and 3rd quarter dominance was set up nicely by the 1st.