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Film Review is Back: Georgia Tech at Clemson Q1 Film Review

1st quarter 2019

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Clemson Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot to unpack from week 1 in college football, even here at STS where #1 Clemson blisters opposition even with its C or B- game. It was a slow start for the Clemson offense but offered plenty of learning opportunities; the defense on the other hand fed on a Georgia Tech offense effectively running the single wing with no passing game to speak of until they had finally had enough of Tobias Oliver.

It’s tough to complain when you turn the ball over 3 times but still win by almost 40. There was no film on Georgia Tech, and the single high, press man defense everyone expected them to run was shelved in favor of tight zone coverage in front of two high safeties; this fooled everyone, even the Clemson staff. Clemson could’ve countered the two high safeties by attacking the middle of the field, but chose to keep the aerial onslaught off of film, opting instead to let Etienne and Dixon do their thing.

Yet we must nitpick when there are 3 turnovers and the toughest game on the schedule is in week 2. Lawrence threw those 2 picks. The offensive line had a bevy of penalties. Etienne had a rare fumble. Chalk had an awful whiff on Etienne’s second carry (but he rebounded!). Overall there was sloppy play but nothing alarming given the clamps on the playbook in week 1.

This rusty performance —without showing hardly anything on film, mind you — was exactly what the doctor ordered for this offense, and this easy breaking in was exactly what a retooling defense needed. Trevor Lawrence will rectify his few mistakes. Justyn Ross will be more a feature throughout the year. Amari Rodgers may return this week. Chad Smith flashed in his first starting action (he was excellent!). James Skalski proved a massive upgrade in quickness at middle linebacker, though missed a handful of tackles. Tyler Davis was Clemson’s best defensive lineman in his first game.

It was a satisfying week 1 for a variety of reasons and there are only nitpicks to make regarding the 2 deep. Bottom line is it was a big win with plenty of teaching points, against an opponent with absolutely zero relevant film. There were no injuries, and there was no chance of a surprising upset against a brand new staff...compared to what happened over in Charlotte this Saturday.

This was indeed a strange and oddly long quarter. There are only coaching nitpicks for true football nerds until about halfway through, so film review proceeds as normal for you nerds who actually read or follow along, until Travis Etienne’s long touchdown run. There I switch formats and illustrate the few plays which require a closer look before the quarter ends. (Sorry y’all it’s late night on Labor Day and Texas A&M beckons with this being a short work week).

Clemson receives opening kick

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Stretch OZ to Etienne vs nickel fire, loss of 2. Chalk had to pick up the nickel while Overton ran upfield to block no one, the Mike was free to slide outside and force the stop behind the line.
2nd & 11 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick out to Higgins vs inverted cover 3 (corners flat, safeties and nickel in deep thirds) behind the flat coverage gains 8. Ross would've scored had Lawrence looked his way at the snap instead of Higgins'. The corner gave a free release to sit in the flat and the nickel didn't make much effort to get outside in his deep third where Ross was wide open for easy points.
3rd & 3 11 shotgun (Ross slot) vs nickel Quick slant to Higgins broken up in tight man, incomplete. Boundary corner blitz from the opposite side gave Overton a free release on a drag. GT puffs the punt and the drive reboots at the GT 16.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Counter to Etienne stopped for a loss of 1. Pollard tripped while pulling but Chalk whiffed, absolutely whiffed horribly. Etienne would've only had to beat a safety in alley to the endzone.
2nd & 11 11 shotgun vs nickel Screen to Ross in trips gains 6. Chalk jogging around looking for someone to block.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs nickel Comeback route to Higgins vs man cover 1 robber gains 6. First time Tech has shown the expected press man, single high, safety in the box look we expected in our previews.
1st & 6 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick fade to Higgins incomplete. Corner grabbed Ross' facemask but the ref was behind the play and couldn't see it.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR keeper, correct read, Lawrence untouched. Chalk made the key block this time, good bit of redemption.

GT first drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun (WHAT) vs 4-3 (Rudolph split in the boundary agaisnt stacked receivers). QB sweep gains 3. Tyler Davis. Oh my. Pushed the GT LT and LG back, Smith blew up the lead back, Davis made first contact.
2nd & 7 10 shotgun vs 4-3 (Rudolph still in boundary) ZR keeper, Simmons makes the diving tackle for a gain of 1. Only Simmons can make this play at Sam. When this is drawn up you count on your runner to beat a linebacker in space. Simmons ruins all X's and O's.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Rollout vs cover 3, Oliver finds the comeback route in front of Simmons when he threatened to run. Similarly, a fast QB can ruin X's and O's. Simmons kept retreating into the deep flat to support the corner, unaware the receiver had slipped in front of him.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ vs Will fire gains 9. GT sealed out the DTs and the blitz away from the run, needing only to beat Foster, who was barely clipped by the TE. Here's your first sign of the DL regression.
2nd & 1 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs 3 man rush cover 4, Oliver tucks and beat Skalski to the edge for the 1st. Simmons promptly punishes Oliver with help from Skalski, who recovered from Oliver's subtle juke and flew to the sideline well.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Busted ZR vs cover 3 Sam fire, Thomas flies into the backfield for the sack, loss of 11. Not surprised to see Thomas in the game after Foster had a few bad snaps. Immediate impact blowing up an already botched mesh. Hate to say he must not practice as well as he should if he's not earned the starting nod, but his obvious impact in games makes me wonder.
2nd & 21 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Quick flanker screen against fire zone incomplete. Hello again, obvious passing situation and Venables stacks the line and drops DTs in coverage.
3rd & 21 11 shotgun vs 4-3 QB sweep (GT IS STILL CUT BLOCKING, WTF) gains 3.

Clemson ball, 7:59. Clemson 15, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Power to Etienne gains 5. Simpson and Cervenka pulling and bulldozing, a graceful and beautiful sight.
2nd & 5 11 shotgun vs nickel ZR dive to Etienne gains 6. Another zone read call thanks to Lawrence's added muscle and defenses not yet expecting to see it.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Double LB bullets, Lawrence flushed left and overthrows the deep cross to Higgins. Fortunate incompletion, the ball sailed inside just over the corner's head.
2nd & 10 11 pistol vs nickel RPO IZ handoff to Etienne gains 15 before squirting out as Etienne fell, recovered by GT. Clear fumble on review.

GT ball, 6:31, Clemson 41, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 PA bootleg, TE flare overthrown incomplete. My dude just tried to chest pass a football over Xavier Thomas.
2nd & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR TO keeper gains 5. There's the expected triple option concepts from the spread. GT had alarmingly good push up front...
3rd & 5 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick slot out vs delayed Sam fire, man cover 1, bad throw incomplete. Wallace is in soft coverage from safety depth against the slot out, should've been an easy throw and catch.

Lawrence has a 24 yard ZR keeper called back by holding, then Etienne does this on the sprint out draw:


Oliver follows with a 40 yard scamper of his own, this time keeping a midline option which fooled Tyler Davis:

The midline option is sneaky; it reads a DT (hence the term midline) instead of an end of line player like the DE or OLB. Generally unschooled in being read — especially a freshman — the big boi will most often chase upfield and leave a wide open interior gap. Davis has to stay home here, and now he will.

The rest of the quarter proceeds much like a scrimmage, with Clemson calling only its staples, aside from a 14 yard scramble from Lawrence to close the quarter. This is the new element in this season’s offense, and it’ll be interesting to see how long defenses aren’t prepared for it. Let’s hope Mike Elko isn’t.