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ACC Championship 1st Quarter Film Review

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

13-0. Any further wins from here are a bonus and we need to celebrate and appreciate this run no matter what happens in the playoff. I’ll be out of the country and hopefully off the grid during the semifinal and fully intend to publish something on Ohio State before I leave, but this semi is essentially the national championship game. Even with LSU’s finally improving defense, Clemson and Ohio State are obviously the two best teams despite Joe Burrow’s brilliance. OSU is easily better on both lines of scrimmage but Clemson has a slight edge on the perimeter. I think this OSU team is the best opponent I’ve ever seen since I became a football intellectual and have no idea how either side wins in a blowout unless it’s OSU running through the Clemson front. More on this in a couple weeks...

UVA is a lot better than a 45 point margin indicates; Clemson is just that insanely good offensively. With injuries in the secondary, the back of the UVA defense is no longer a strength and Clemson exposed them. Bryce Perkins and the UVA offense had more success than any team found on the Clemson defense this year and only lacked the skill talent to turn this into a shootout — Perkins and the UVA offensive line were fantastic.

If there’s one concern I’ll take from the night’s defensive performance, it’s generating a pass rush against Justin Fields and Joe Burrow (make no mistake, Clemson must face both of them to win it all because Oklahoma is the worst playoff team in CFP history not named 2015 Michigan State). I was surprised to see Clemson in base 4-3 more often than not against a 1 man show at QB with no inside run threat. Keeping a few dime wrinkles off film for Fields and Burrow? Perhaps, but I don’t see how the dime front will have a chance against the OSU run game. More likely Venables simply knew base defense would suit well enough against a slow and methodical offense.

UVA opening drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Motion to empty, cover 3 BCB blitz, quick curl complete for 4 yards Solid underneath coverage, Skalski almost jumped the rout and Wallace flew in to prevent any YAC.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Man cover 1 with LB spy, Perkins steps up and tucks when Skalski comes on a green dog and Smith (spying) gets stuck in the wash, gain of 12 Clemson was in the right defense but Perkins is slippery, Smith came a step upfield and was out of position to effectively spy.
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep post completed against cover 2, gain of 45 Muse was burned on an outside fake and gave up the post.
1st & 10 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Double LB bullet blitz in front of man cover 0 (XT spying!) thrown away UVA offensive line held up well here again, identifying and stymying each rusher. Coverage was better though and forced the throwaway.
2nd & 10 11 pistol vs 4-3 ZR dive blown up for no gain Great play by Smith to fill and collapse with the entire line.
3rd & 10 10 shotgun vs dime (Simmons playing Jack LB, Wallace playing NB) Dropback vs Tampa 2, Perkins overthrows and Turner makes the diving pick in the back of the endzone Not a good throw, must be noted Skalski was in position and defended very well in the deep middle responsibility. Turner made the play over the top to keep 3 points off the board.

Clemson opening drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 nickel Fake power option, seam complete to Ross behind the crashing linebackers for 15 Indefensible when run properly, linebackers have to crash the run action. Lawrence had Rodgers free up the opposite seam as well.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs nickel Counter to Etienne, facemask Good movement up front.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 3-4 RPO out to Higgins gains 10 against soft cover 3 Late safety movement doesn't matter when Clemson throws outside as they are wont to do.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Counter ZR keeper gains 20 Lawrence is actually fast and a more than effective runner.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-4 Deep out to Higgins against soft cover 3, breaks a tackle and sprints in for a touchdown Taking what's given and then taking more. Clemson is in its final form.

UVA ball, 11:06, UVA 22, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Delayed slant vs tight cover 4 gains 5 DK gave up the inside but fought back to the ball well.
2nd & 5 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 QB draw gains 3 UVA is trying to confuse and spread Clemson's playmakers with Venables intent on keeping Simmons at Sam on the slot. Entire formation strength to field here save one in line TE.
3rd & 2 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Spot concept from bunch, quick curl complete in front of Simmons for 5 yards Clemson's underneath coverage isn't fine, this is just UVA's game.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Tunnel screen gains 15 Muse was unblocked and missed the tackle, rough start for him.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Lateral, QB wheel route back to Perkins incomplete DK stayed home in zone defense.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Man cover 1 green dog vs QB rollout, passed tipped at the line incomplete Clemson is mixing in a lot of man underneath but always has at least 1 spy on Perkins.
3rd & 10 20 shotgun vs dime Cover 1 jailbreak blitz, Perkins hits the deep slant in front of Turner for 11 yards Again UVA's blitz pickup and pass pro is great and Perkins hits the opening in the defense before any rush arrives.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs 3 man rush cover 3, Perkins eludes pressure and finds 4 yards Davis had good penetration from the nose but ultimately is where Perkins found a lane.
2nd & 5 02 shotgun vs 4-3 MLB bullet blitz picked up, Perkins tucks and finds 5 yards on the left side No pressure is getting home at all, DK couldn't hold the edge to prevent the 1st down.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Man under cover 1, delayed curl broken up incomplete Davis was able to collapse the pocket, first time we've seen a throw affected.
Offside, 2nd & 5 11 shotgun vs 4-3 QB draw gains 3 Skalski played this well, filled and redirected Perkins outside, fought off a block and wrestled him down after bouncing.
3rd & 3 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs man cover 0 with 4 spies, Muse burned 1 on 1 again for a 20 yard post TD Flat footed and rigid, Ohio State will isolate Muse however and wherever they can. A slot receiver to the boundary (or 2x2 sets) should accomplish this like we saw here.

Clemson ball, 6:22, Clemson 25, 7-7 tie

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-4 Stretch zone to Etienne strung out for no gain Sam fire off the edge redirected Etienne and gave UVA a head start on the edge.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-4 ZR keeper into a FS blitz gains 9 Lawrence beat a safety around the edge, take note DCs.
3rd & 1 12 shotgun vs 3-4 Split zone to Etienne gains 7 Barely a hole at all but before we knew it Etienne pin-balled through 3 dudes.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 3-4 PA deep post to Ross vs busted pattern match cover 4, easy walk in touchdown This is not a man coverage call despite what your ESPN "analyst" says. Nobody would run straight man with a safety on Ross. This is busted cover 4, backside safety didn't know what to do with Clemson in max protect, no coverage downfield on the backside at all with on a TE to account for before Ross streaks down the post. We'll miss you Jeff Scott.

UVA ball, 4:46, UVA 25, 14-7 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR keeper gains 10 against a Mike bullet Skalski flew in unblocked and would've blown up the mesh but Perkins pulled and evaded, found 10 hard yards.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Stick route vs soft zone gains 3 6 zone defenders underneath and Perkins still finds a window.
2nd & 7 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Slant complete against soft cover 3 Will bullet (leaving only 3 underneath defenders) for 6 yards Simmons gave up the slant the whole way, with only one hook zone defender it's too easy.
3rd & 1 11 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO slot out vs cover 0 overload blitz, gain of 5 Soft coverage again letting UVA play the game it wants.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Double LB bullets force a quick throwaway You can tell when Venables makes an "enough of this crap" call.
2nd & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 RPO flare gains 6 Great stalk blocks gave UVA the edge and if it were anyone but a slow TE this would've been an easy 1st down.
3rd & 4 11 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO drag route wide open but incomplete, punt Simmons busted flat coverage, caught up in the hook zone with Turner.

Etienne powers through the middle for 15, then blows pass protection getting Lawrence sacked, before Higgins closes the quarter showing just what kind of night he would soon deliver: