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Clemson vs Miami Film Review: 1st Half

NCAA Football: Miami at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

This was an obliteration. The scoreboard drastically understates the story told Saturday night. I won’t get bogged down with a lede here since this is already a bit late to publish, but basically Clemson owned the perimeter on both sides (as expected), the front six had its best game yet with Tyler Davis back in the lineup, and Tony Elliott abused Miami’s linebackers all night with probably his most creative offensive gameplan in recent memory.

I’m nearing the point where I’m ready to call Travis Etienne the best player in school history. Forget simply just the best running back. He is unlike any weapon Clemson has ever had — and we’ve seen plenty scary ones this past decade in particular. He’s being utilized to his full potential (while still not piling up a bunch of higher risk inside carries) and making everyone pay in the perimeter passing game when linebackers jump any sort of run action.

This was one of the most satisfying Clemson performances in some time when we consider the overall game plan and how well the perceived question marks stepped up and won matchup after matchup.

This game is worth a re-watch for each of you. Feel free to reference this for full and proper appreciation. At least an “A minus” in both preparation and performance by the offense and defense overall.

Clemson’s Opening Drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA power, rollout underneath crosser complete to Rodgers, slips for no gain. Plenty of moving parts on the first snap to victimize overreactive linebackers from the start: A fake jet, a fake power handoff, and a rollout back to the jet.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ pull, bubble to Rodgers gains 7. Good alert pass, 2 receivers on 1 defender at the line, with the Sam crashing hard at the snap.
3rd & 3 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Delayed out to Rodgers against cover 4 gains 10. Probing Miami's and cover 4's weaknesses in turn, linebackers can't cover Rodgers outside especially with Etienne back there.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA quick curl to Spector gains 9. I'm going to start sounding like a broken record but there's no way to cover the slots underneath with the linebackers so honed in on Etienne. With Miami's good safety play you'd think the linebackers would drop into the flat with more urgency and lean on safety help, but those safeties need to stay back to help the corners.
2nd & 9 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake jet, throwback screen to Etienne gains 7. The probe continues. No quickness at linebacker, it's safeties flying in to clean up.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Power to Etienne stopped for a loss of 1. The strong safety came in unblocked off the edge. Good pull by Putnam in the hole, wasted.
2nd & 11 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 PA sweep, tunnel screen to Powell gains 5. Could've been a big gain, Bockhorst was upfield to free Powell to the corner, but he cut back inside into traffic.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Lawrence is flushed against man cover 1 with a spy, hit hard after 3 yards. Not oftne we see Miami play man coverage in front of only 1 deep safety, but they know the tendency: quick routes, checkdown to Etienne, or a scramble are where Clemson converts 3rd and mediums.
Offside, 1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Power option pitch to Travis gains 8. Easy yardage, Etienne on the edge. Powell with the key block outside, it's why he's on the field.
2nd & 2 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Offside freeze, delayed throwback TE screen to Galloway, easy stroll to the endzone behind a convoy. Exact same play which opened the 2015 Miami bloodbath, petty Dabo is in midseason form. Can't help but think he really just dislikes Miami. Carman with a monster open field block just for fun.

Miami ball, 9:50, Miami 25, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 3-3-5 (Phillips is your box safety, called it in the safety season preview!) ZR keeper blown up by Spector (from an end alignment) knifed inside the world's greatest tight end like a blur for an easy sack. We see Venables' take on how to defend against King from the start: ATTACK.
2nd & 15 12 shotgun vs 3-3-5 TE out against man cover 1 behind a double LB blitz gains 8. Man blitz against a program with Miami's ego is pure disrespect.
False start, 3rd & 12 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Deep curl complete to the TE for 15 against a cover 4 fire zone. I don't like delayed safety blitzes. Takes too long to get home and it took the middle safety out of coverage. With 5 rushers that only left two underneath defenders in hook zones. The curl was open outside the hook zone and beneath deep quarters.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Trick play, TE throws a go route, PI on Zanders. This was what we call a good interference penalty; better to give up 15 yards than a touchdown.
1st & 10 Empty shotgun vs 3-3-5 Bubble screen overthrown, incomplete. Turner could've had a pick while fighting through a block, lol.
2nd & 10 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Tunnel screen broken up by DK. What a night for the Clemson corners. We saw some of the hype Dabo played up this preseason.
3rd & 10 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 JAILBREAK gets home, Murphy with the sack. Obliteration. Every rusher won his matchup and collapsed the entire pocket, Murphy used his hands extremely well to swat away the block.

Clemson ball, 7:21, Clemson 11, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Delayed draw to Etienne gains 5. Love the little wrinkle where Trevor almost pump fakes before giving. Miami's linebackers crash everything so it didn't have quite the effect on them.
False start, 2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Flare to Etienne against man coverage gains 1 yard. Clemson tried to sneak Travis out to the boundary, with all the receivers to field. Could've worked against zone.
3rd & 9 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake tunnel, backside flare screen to Etienne gains 18. Really love how creatively Clemson gets the ball to Etienne now. Gotta find every possible way to flow the offense through him, and they've schemed up endless ways.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Dixon bounces outside for 10. McFadden did enough to protect the edge from Phillips at DE, won the matchup.
1st & 10 11 shotgun (DJ AT QB, TREVOR IN THE SLOT HAHA) vs 4-3 QB counter gains 14. DJ is way quicker than he should be at 250, levelled the poor tackler at the end too.
1st & 10 Same DJ/Trevor slot alignment vs 4-3 Bad snap busts a throwback to Trevor, DJ scrambles and launches a bomb, Ladson couldn't grab it. Ladson had the corner beat, could've been an easy TD if not for the underthrow, which was more than understandable. Few can just flick a wrist on the run and launch it 50 yards.
2nd & 10 Back to normal IZ to Dixon stuffed for no gain. The Mike filled with ease.
3rd & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Scramble ends in a late hit. Offsetting penalties net 5 yards and a first down. Fortunate this offsetting situation didn't result in a replay of down. Automatic 1st since Miami's flag was a personal foul.
1st & 10 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 (showing cover 3) Go route to Etienne against cover 3, good lord, broken up incomplete. If Travis ever wins a jump ball downfield, that's the day every else gives up.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Orbit motion, fake swing to Rodgers, FAKE THROWBACK FLARE SCREEN, TURNAROUND FLARE TO RODGERS GAINS 12. Have we seen this much creativity so early in a season before? That was a whirlwind of fun.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Power to Etienne gets 4 tough yards. Miami's linebackers have begun to slow down, Clemson's playcalling begins to affect them.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Spacing concept (everyone runs quick curls) to Spector gains 4 against cover 4. Those linebackers are spreading out into hook zones now.
3rd & 1 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR dive to Dixon gains 6. Great seal block by Carman and a sneaky one by Lawrence, who squeezed between the unblocked defender and Dixon on the edge to prevent an arm tackle attempt.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter pull out, tunnel to Powell blown up. Hate to see Trevor pull out of the handoff, counter to the edge is where Etienne is scariest.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Stretch handoff to Etienne stuffed for a 4 yard loss. OL get owned on this, Stewart was manhandled and McFadden let Phillips get around him.
3rd & 14 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake jet, backside flare screen to Etienne gains 23, becuase of course it does. Carman with another key block on an Etienne screen, amazing that teams have to scheme against a running back scheme and still can't stop it. That'll open up so much downfield eventually.

Travis opens the 2nd quarter punching it in from 2 yards out, but didn’t take the easy way there, because why would he.

Miami ball, 15:00, Miami 25, 14-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 20 shotgun vs 3-3-5 ZR dive stuffed for a 1 yard loss. Tyler Davis! Sent the center 2 yards backward and right into the running back.
2nd & 11 20 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Dropback against cover 4, Mascoll wins on the edge and gets the sack. Good leg drive to work around the RT while engaged. Would like to see more quickness and violence from the ends but Mascoll has made a couple of really good plays this month.
False start, 3rd & 19 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 PA, deep go route against Booth isolated in cover 4, amazing breakup. This was more impressive than his similarly one handed interception last week. To turn, leap and make the same spinning contact is the most athletic individual play I've seen from a corner in years.

Each team trades 3 & outs, moving ahead since I’m a bit behind schedule already this week...

Clemson ball, 11:07, Clemson 30, 14-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Power to Etienne gains 2. Putnam pulled well but missed the key block in the hole.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA rollout, deep comeback to Rodgers incomplete. Miami had tight coverage all the way downfield, linebackers on green dogs kept Lawrence running for his life.
3rd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Go route to Ladson against man cover 1, all LBs fire or green dog, Ladson got open and hauls it in for 30. Miami does not often blitz with only a single high safety and this is why. I said in the preview they'd only do this if they smelled blood in the water, and it's their own already.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA wheel route to Rodgers vs tight man, caught out of bounds, defensive holding flag. Great throw and even better adjustment to make a spinning catch, but was just out of bounds.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter to Etienne gains 1. This could've been a touchdown if not for a great backside fill by the Sam. Etienne burst through the line clean, ready to attack the safeties, but the hard hit from the backside took him down hard.
2nd & 9 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake QB counter, angle pass to Etienne tipped away. Yes, this is the very same Ohio State killer. Another good play by the Sam to undercut the throw.
3rd & 9 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep out to Rodgers vs man cover 2, gain of 14. Easy read and throw against a linebacker with inside leverage.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne gains 1. Sam ignored the Rodgers jet and pinched the line, hit Etienne before he could clear the hole.
2nd & 9 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA jet, throwback flare to Etienne gets inside the 2, but Stewart flagged for holding. Unnecessary hold, would've been clean if not for Stewart doing a one armed hug.
2nd & 20 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Swing pass to Etienne gains 3. Miami was ready, the Sam sniffed it out and beat Allen's block on the edge.
3rd & 17 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA rollout vs man cover 2, nobody open and Lawrence throws it away. Here's the first blocked FG, Miami split a block on the right side...

Miami ball, 7:00, Miami 15, 14-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Falst start, 1st & 15 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 IZ dive stopped for no gain. Pinckney and Henry held the line, created a scrum. Pinckney with first contact despite the double team to boot.
2nd & 15 01 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Jet pass cuts inside for 6. DL set the edge but was too far upfield to prevent a lane up the middle, Zanders filled well and made a hard tackle.
3rd & 9 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 6 man rush in front of man cover 1, King scrambles and breaks tackles for like 60 yards. Was bound to happen eventually. The pressure worked, just couldn't quite wrap him up in the backfield.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 ZR dive blown up by Spector off the edge, loss of 3. Who saw Spector being better than Skalski so far this year? He's been a tremendous upgrade at Will.
2nd & 13 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 ZR dive stuffed for no gain against a cover 3 Mike/Sam blitz. Davis stoned the double team and Murphy pinched after being read, beautiful.
3rd & 13 10 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Deep fade vs cover 4 fire zone, broken up by Sheridan Jones in the endzone. Field goal is good. Would've been a pick but there was actually offensive PI. Receiver tugged Jones away from the underthrown ball so he fell upfield while the ball landed on Jones' knees.

Clemson ball, 3:53, Clemson 30, 14-3 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun (TE flex) vs 4-3 Fake power toss, wide open seam to Galloway gains 21. Clemson could've run this all night, linebackers crash everything and there's no other underneath defenders in cover 4.
1st & 10 11 shotgun (double stacked 2x2) vs 4-3 ZR dive to Dixon stopped for a loss of 1. The Mike knifed through the scrum to fill the hole.
Silly late hit on Miami (shouldn't have been flagged), 1st & 10 11 pistol vs 4-3 Fake sweep, jet shovel to Rodgers gains 10, but holding. Love the play design and Carman blocking in space, but he definitely held what was probably an unnecesarry block.
1st & 20 11 pistol (Parks replaces Carman) RPO keep, checkdown to Rodgers against cover 4 gains 12. Easy yards underneath again with every linebacker crashing to the run and then essentially spying at the line of scrimmage. So scared of Etienne.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne gains an easy 12. Miami dropped a DE and sent everyone else upfield, easy seal blocks were all Etienne needed. A couple of broken tackles in the secondary just for fun.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Underneath crosser to Ladson gains 11. I love underneath crossers against both man and zone. Both outside receivers crossing against each other creates a rub particularly effective against man, but it had the same effect in zone. Ladson was wide open a mere 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.
1st & 10 11 pistol vs 4-3 PA bootleg, flare to Galloway, walk in touchdown. Play action has killed Miami. They jump every run action and then stay near the line to try and protect against Etienne out of the backfield (this is why most throws to Etienne have a different fake screen elsewhere before turning it around to Travis). Too easy.

Concluding this here despite good 2 minute defense and then offense by Clemson before the blocked field goal return. That’ll get corrected in a hurry thanks to the disaster(s).