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First quarter film review

Clemson v North Carolina
I chose this picture because I am one of those pixelated orange blobs in the background
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Saturday was as close to disastrous offensively as we’ve seen in some time, and even defensively out of character on the bookend drives with which UNC opened and closed the game. UNC all but beat Clemson on the field and especially on the sidelines and in the booth; Clemson hardly adjusted and barely answered. The few issues simmering under the surface came to a boil in Chapel Hill and we’re left with 2 weeks to figure out how self-scout properly before an improving FSU comes to town.

I could rant and rave here about Tony Elliott’s play-calling, but Jay Bateman deserves all the credit in the world for playing to Clemson’s tendencies and baiting Elliott/Lawrence into checking into the “correct” read based on what his defense showed, and made them plenty uncomfortable to boot. UNC also tackled extremely well, never letting Travis Etienne or Amari Rodgers — Clemson’s two strongest ball-carriers — get to the edge and run through similarly sized defenders like they are wont to do.

It’s on Elliott to break those tendencies, with which more and more defenses are becoming increasingly familiar, and to be far more self-aware in terms of self scouting — since every opponent is breaking down Clemson’s film with the utmost scrutiny — and I expect that will be a heavy focus with the bye week mercifully at hand. Not much else to say other than what the staff said postgame: Bateman and UNC put the offensive staff to shame, and their players played above themselves. Tip the cap, exhale, and be thankful Lawrence and Tee Higgins bailed out the rest of the offense.

All hail Brent Venables for more new formations: 3-3-5 with Simmons playing Jack (pass rushing edge LB). We even saw Simmons playing Mike in a 4-2-5 with Skalski sliding over to Will and Wallace playing nickel. While Lawrence and Higgins bailed out the offense with clutch plays only they could make, Venables’ unit kept Clemson from getting run completely off the field. Phil Longo had a great script to open the game and his freshman QB played above himself all day by simply not being overwhelmed by even more looks than Venables has yet to show, yet Venables still won most of the day and especially the final conversion.

Survive and advance.


UNC opening drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Power handoff gains 8 Davis was doubled and sealed out, UNC moved the pile.
2nd & 2 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Inverted veer give gains 1 Rudolph burst from the backside and Foster set the edge to keep the play inside.
3rd & 1 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Swing pass vs cover 0 overload gains 26 Skalski either incorrectly came on a green dog blitz, thinking the back was blocking, or the back was uncovered by nature of the call. Either way UNC got the look and call they wanted, the first of many coaching wins for them.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep go vs cover 3 Mike fire, stutter step burns Terrell for a touchdown Terrell was watching the QB and kept the recevier on his hip like in proper zone but he let himself bite on the slightest of stutters, then was straight up burned. Remember when I said UNC didn't have the personnel to challenge Clemson even though their schemes would? I'll take my L here. Most surprising part is Terrell, of all people, was beaten.

Clemson opening drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 20 shotgun (Rodgers, ETN in backfield) vs nickel Etienne in motion to field, flare screen to Rodgers in boundary gains 2 Corner was unblocked, Higgins moved to stalk block inside when corner bailed. Wrapped up Rodgers' feet, solid tackle.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne gains 6 Good violent run, speed through the sizable hole and spinning through a tackle attempt.
3rd & 2 12 shotgun vs 3-4 ZR keeper gains 10 The DE crashed Etienne and Clemson had 3 linemen sealing out the linebackers who were already out of position.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel Jet motion PA vs cover 4, deep go to Higgins doubled so Lawrence checks to Ross on the deep cross, gain of 14 Deep crossers are always the bane to cover 4 without NFL linebacker play, credit to the OL for enough protection and Lawrence for the patience to check down to Ross.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel RPO bubble screen to Ross gains 2 UNC is staying in 2 high even when adjusting to Clemson's checks and flying to the perimeter. Run the ball.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs nickel ZR bucksweep keeper gains 6 Correct read, Lawrence beat the DE to the edge, but a safety on each half is again free to fly the alley.
3rd & 2 11 shotgun vs nickel RPO bubble screen (vs ETN power) to Rodgers blown up for no gain, field goal missed Credit UNC here, they knew Lawrence would likely check to Rodgers with such a cushion, yet 3 DBs converged on him anyway. This wasn't necessarily the wrong read either, UNC shot the run gap, Rodgers had to adjust to receive the pass and that brought him inside where the nickel and safety had the alley. Only chance for success was on the edge but Lawrence didn't throw him there.

UNC ball, 9:16, UNC 25, 7-0 UNC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 (Simmons Jack LB, Wallace NB) Orbit ZR keeper gains 4 Skalski slipped and whiffed in the hole.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 PA bootleg, TE flare thrown away vs man cover 1 blitz. Perfectly defended on the edge and underneath.
3rd & 6 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Quick swing against man cover 2 blown up for a loss. Great recognition by Turner and Skalski, poor throw left the back out to dry.

Clemson ball, 8:03, Clemson 33, 7-0 UNC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
11 shotgun vs nickel IZ to Etienne gains 2 There was a slight hole but Cervenka couldn't hold his block.
2nd & 8 Empty shotgun vs nickel Smash concept Etienne out wide going deep and Ross in slot running a quick out) vs man cover 2, incomplete. Etienne's "go route" was basically a lead block for Ross, who should've been open against man coverage. Tight coverage though so even a completion would've gone nowhere.
3rd & 8 11 shotgun vs nickel Quick out to Chalk (????) vs cover 4 fire zone (Mike bullet, DE drop into middle zone), incomplete. Pressure made Lawrence throw under early. Chalk is nowhere near the marker and is mismatched against anyone who isn't a defensive tackle. Higgins was breaking open on a dig behind the DE dropping...another win for the UNC staff.

UNC ball, 7:14, UNC 24, 7-0 UNC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Counter handoff gains 4 XT did a great job thumping the pulling guard and getting in the hole, just a step behind the back though.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Deep in vs man cover 1 NB fire incomplete. DK was beaten at the top of the route, receiver nearly tripped but still got open.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-2-5 (Wallace NB, SIMMONS MIKE, Skalski Will) RB screen vs man cover 1 robber gains 8 Simmons and Muse both overran it and slipped on the cutback, Skalski brought him down from behind but was dragged past the marker.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 under PA comeback vs man gains 12 Terrell beaten again.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 IZ gains 3 Skalski shot the gap but was tackled from behind by the OL, missed flag.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs nickel RPO slot bubble screen gains 6 Muse was sealed out but it gave Simmons a free alley to fill.
3rd & 1 12 shotgun vs 4-3 under IZ vs BCB blitz, gain of 1. Terrell had a free rush and made first contact in the backfield but UNC moved the pile again.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel RPO slant vs man cover 1 robber, tipped incomplete. Simmons playing robber, a pterodactyl in the throwing lane.
2nd & 10 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Orbit PA, rollout RB screen vs cover 3, Simmons reads it the whole way and makes the stop, loss of 4. Leaving Simmons unblocked is unwise tbh.
3rd & 14 11 shotgun vs nickel Deep post vs 3 man rush cover 4, Muse has the pick knocked out by Simmons, punt. Props to Simmons running up the seam with a TE from his Mike position, making what should be the right read a dumb throw, but unfortunately his athleticism put him in position to knock an easy interception from Muse.

Clemson ball, 1:59, Clemson 6, 7-0 UNC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 15 11 shotgun vs nickel Counter to Etienne stopped for no gain
2nd & 15 11 shotgun vs nickel Corner to Higgins (slot) vs cover 2 gains 16. Elliott and Scott won this one, creating the mismatch and putting their best receiver in position to beat cover 2.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel ZR to Dixon gains 4 UNC's maligned run defense is having its way with Clemson's veteran OL thus far. Every hole is filled and linemen are beating blocks.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs nickel RPO IZ to Dixon gains 2 Miscommunication up front; Cervenka blocks the 3 tech then tries to climb to the Mike bullet, Anchrum and Chalk each try and sell a pass block, letting the 3 tech meet Dixon in the hole.

Flush this quarter from memory...