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Clemson vs. Georgia Tech Film Review: 1st Quarter

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Trevor 4 Heisman

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 03 Virginia at Clemson Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s nice to know that some things are constants in these turbulent times. At this point, especially in sports writing circles, that phrase has become Doeren-level hack in 2020, but I think it bears repeating. In an exceedingly chaotic world, I find small comforts when the sports world exhibits unbreakable sameness: Lebron appearing in the NBA Finals, the Jets being atrocious, Atlanta sports letting their various fan bases down, the Clemson Tigers going scorched earth through our conference slate.

Some will be quick to point out that the latter hasn’t been nearly as much of a historical constant as the other things I’ve included as examples. For one, it’s true that as recently as 2014, the very opponent I’m writing of beat us by a whopping triple-TD margin (the worst kind of Triple T’s IMO). But we don’t talk about that anymore because for the last half-decade we’ve been dominant against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Whether pandemic or no-pandemic, flexbone or power spread, Clemson has not allowed Georgia Tech to get closer than two scores, and this weekend’s game was the biggest, most violent blowout of them all: a 73-7 thrashing in which a PUNTER played QUARTERBACK for significant snaps (I will not be reviewing that drive, and to be fair it’s unlikely I could hold it together enough to even begin to review that moment of the game).

Another constant I’m grateful for is this Clemson Film Review section itself. I’ve been keeping up with it for the past 4 years or so, and truth be told, this series (along with the other great schematic breakdown articles from Alex Craft, DBBM, and Dr. B) was the catalyst for starting my path of studying the meta-chess-game that occurs inside every football game. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint the moment that it all was set in motion: one of Alex’s reviews contained the word “constraint play”, which I later googled only to stumble onto Chris Brown’s great (but now defunct) Smart Football blog, which in turn led me to follow a bunch of great writers and football minds on Twitter. Five years ago I had no clue what 11 personnel signified. Now I’m in a Discord server with 50 high school coaches. What a journey it’s been!

Now, after a summer of great cultural/political/social turbulence that I feel I’ve done my due diligence grappling with in an inquisitive and thoughtful manner, I admit that it was nice when September came and I was once again able to distract myself by going through the film with my friends Alex and DBBM during the week. So, when an opportunity arose to join them in breaking down the replay of each of the individual quarters of the most recent Clemson game, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve still got plenty of work to do to attain a clear understanding of the moving parts that take place in a given play that those guys possess, especially the specifics of each opponent’s scheme, but I hope that my deep dive into the Morris and Venables playbook this off-season will afford me a decent enough understanding of what we’re doing, so as to provide an adequately faithful interpretation of what’s actually occurring during the run of a play. If anyone wants to offer their own perspective, correct a faux pas I will inevitably commit, or just talk football, I encourage you to do so in the comments.

1st Quarter 14:55 Remaining 0-0

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel vs. 4-3 Bench HB Dive, bounced outside for 6 Of course my debut film review play is this chaotic. The first play from scrimmage of this game is in danger of being blown up immediately by a blitzing Mike Jones, who whiffs on the tackle in the backfield. Both the Center and Left Tackle fall down shortly after the ball is snapped, and not in the violent way we're used to Georgia Tech linemen falling down. Not easy to ID what's going on in a play that unfolds so wildly, but it looks like an inside run with a screen attached to the boundary slot in motion. Either way, it should have been stopped in the backfield, and it's funny that one of the most successful plays of the day for Tech typically would have been a 4yd loss.
2nd & 4 12 personnel vs. 4-3 Bench Wide zone, stopped in the backfield for a loss Incredible play from Tyler Davis here. Immediately penetrates past the center into the backfield, crossing the face of the backside guard, and manages to trip up the ballcarrier before he gets to the line of scrimmage
3rd & 5 11 personnel 2x2 vs 4-3 Field Quick In route to the sticks against press coverage, incomplete Perhaps a bit of a hook by Jones on the receiver, but I'm certainly not complaining. 3 and out.

For the first time all year Clemson starts on defense and forces the 3 and out.

1st Quarter 13:57 Remaining 0 - 0

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel 2x2 vs. 4-2-5 PA Post vs. Cover 2 Man, dropped by Ladson Right out the gate Elliott forces Tech's defense into the conundrum of "Etienne's legs vs. Trevor's arm." The safety bites on the PA and it leaves Ladson one-on-one against the boundary corner. I really liked the aggressiveness out the gate here, unfortunate that it didn't work it
2nd & 10 11 personnel 2x2 vs. 4-2-5 Duo, gain of 6 Etienne presses the A gap to get backers to flow inside then bounces outside for a 6yd gain
3rd & 4 11 personnel 2x2 vs. 4-2-5 Outside go route to Powell vs. Cover 3, gain of 24 CB stays on top of Powell in inside leverage, setting up the backshoulder throw. Good communication and execution between Powell and Lawrence
1st & 10 11 personnel Slant Left vs. 4-2-5 Outside Zone read keeper, gain of 5 Backside end crashed down and Lawrence gets halfway there
2nd & 5 11 personnel vs. 4-2-5 Tunnel screen to Rodgers, gain of 2 Slot corner diagnoses the play before Galloway can reach him and tackles Rodgers for minimal gain
3rd & 3 12 personnel vs 4-2-5 IZ to Etienne, FUMBLE Good seal block on the edge from Davis Allen allows Etienne to bounce it outside. Unfotrtunately, Etienne gets stripped

A rare fumble from Etienne kills what could have been a promising drive.

1st Quarter 11:31 Remaining 0 - 0

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 Over, Mike Fire Blitz PA Dropback, strip sack by Murphy. Loss of 8 Murphy bursts into the backfield with a powerful rip move and strips Simms on his windup, Tech recovers
2nd & 18 11 personnel vs 3-4 Power, gain of 2 Another excellent play from Murphy. Fights off the pulling tackle to meet the HB at the line.
3rd & 16 10 personnel vs Dime Flat route immediately blown up by Mike Jones Think Mike Jones might have been manned up on the HB from a deep alignment because he immediately flies down to sniff ou the HB leaking out of the backfield. 3 & O

The Clemson defense comes to the rescue and forces the 3 and out. Once again, Venables is a master of preventing damage when Clemson turns the ball over.

1st Quarter 9:34 Remaining 0 - 0

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 Personnel Trips Field vs. 4-2-5 RPO Bubble screen underthrown Poor throw from Trevor here and he knows it (seemed like he was leaning too much to his right as he squared his shoulders)
2nd & 10 11 Personnel vs. 4-2-5 PA Out to Williams on the sideline, gain of 16 Good throw from Trevor and good body control by Williams to get tap his feet before stepping out
1st & 10 12 Personnel vs. 3-4 Counter to Etienne, gain of 1 Galloway whiffs on his block and Etienne gets tackled close to the line
2nd & 9 Empty Trips Field vs. 4-2-5 Slant HOT from Rodgers, gain of 19 The backer to the field is clearly showing blitz which tells Trevor to throw hot to Amari, leaving the MOF being WIDE open. This was a layup for TL
1st & Goal 11 Personnel vs. 4-2-5 Backshoulder Fade to Powell, TOUCHDOWN Lawrence sees Powell manned up on the outside in a matchup he likes and lasers a backshoulder high and outside for a touchdown. Just Heisman stuff

Clemson puts together a nice and efficient drive. Powell gets a chance to show off his skill and Lawrence drops in a great throw.

1st Quarter 7:55 Remaining 7-0 Clemson

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 Personnel Pistol vs. 4-3 QB Draw (presumably) gets stopped at the line of scrimmage Ummm, probably not recommended to run this against our defense
2nd & 10 10 Personnel Trips Boundary vs. 3-4 Inside Zone, tackle by Jones for 2yd gain Jones does a good job of sitting on the backside to prevent the HB from bouncing it back
3rd & 8 20 Personnel vs. Mug look Shotgun dropback, Simms hits the HB leaking out the backfield to pick up the 1st down Credit to Simms for hanging in there and throwing the underneath route with a safety about to annihilate him with a full head of steam, couldn't be me
1st & 10 11 Personnel, jet sweep vs. 3-3 PA Drive Concept to Post, TOUCHDOWN Great use of the Drive Concept against our 2-man look. Zanders comes down to cutoff the crosser, leaving Goodrich one-on-one with outside receiver. Goodrich bites hard on the outside stem at the top of the route, tries to make up for it by baseball turning, but it's too late

And, of course, Georgia Tech shows a smidge of life and strikes back immediately. A nice call here coupled with Goodrich not getting in position led to the quick touchdown.

1st Quarter 6:25 Remaining 7 - 7

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 Personnel vs. 4-2-5 PA Deep Post to Rodgers, TOUCHDOWN You put our safety in conflict, we put your safety in conflict. Galloway runs a hook route just deep enough to attract the safety, and Rodgers is off to the races against a corner with outside leverage and no deep safety help. This was exactly what we needed to crush any momentum Tech had from their big play touchdown.
And immediately afterwards on the next play from scrimmage...
1st & 10 11 Personnel vs. Okie Fumbled snap, recovered by KJ Henry Disaster for GT, low snap to Simms fumbled and Henry jumps on it for Clemson ball with good field position. The beginning of the end for a promising start from the Jackets this afternoon

A gorgeous deep ball to Rodgers gives Clemson the lead, and KJ Henry takes advantage of a GT mistake for an easy turnover. It doesn’t get much better for Georgia Tech after this.

1st Quarter 5:33 Remaining 14 - 7 Clemson

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 Personnel Slant Right vs. 4-2-5 Fake Pitch to Etienne, shovel pass to Allen for a yard I like this play design and how it trapped the edge, unfortunately Allen got tripped up by the pulling guard and it slowed him down
2nd & 8 12 Personnel Pistol vs. 4-3 PA dropback blown up by Mike blitzing, loss of 9 I've always said that the best way to stop Play Action is to demolish the mesh point
3rd & 17 11 Personnel vs. 4-2-5 Shotgun dropback turns into a 10yd scramble, FG GOOD Can't tell from the broadcast angle, but Trevor didn't see anything he liked and smartly decided to keep his INT-free streak alive a little longer (more on that later…) while getting the FG unit closer

1st Quarter 4:03 Remaining 17-7 Clemson

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 Personnel vs. 3-4 PA rollout from Outside Zone to TE flat route, incomplete Tech tried to get the linebackers to all flow toward the OZ, but Skalski wasn't buying it
2nd & 10 11 Personnel vs. 3-3 (?) Shotgun dropback to HB wheel route, gain of 6 Booth did a good job of maintaining zone eyes and flying in to to make the stop
3rd & 4 11 Personnel vs. 4-3 Field, Will Blitz Sacked, loss of 3 Henry beats his man and nearly gets the sack, Simms tries to escape but can't. 3 & O

Clemson’s defense continues to pound Simms when possible, and the rest of the time the secondary is doing a great job in coverage.

1st Quarter 2:53 Remaining 17-7 Clemson

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 Personnel Pistol vs. 4-2-5, Sam blitz Counter to Lyn-J Dixon, gain of 4 Camera guy got put in a spin cycle at the handoff. Dixon bounces this one outside for a decent gain
2nd & 6 10 Personnel vs 4-2-5 Spot route to Ladson, incomplete I'm no QB guru by any means but this play felt off to me from a timing perspective. The route from the slot creates a natural rub that affords Ladson's spot route enough space, but that space is only there for a second. Ladson is his first read so I'd assume as soon as you catch the ball you're planting your feet and ripping it if he's in space. Which is why it's odd that Lawrence took that extra mini-hitch. It seemed like that fraction of a delay caused him to rush the throw a little, perhaps explaining why it was a 150mph fastball high and outside instead of an easy completion.
3rd & 6 11 Personnel Tight vs. 4-2-5, overload blitz Lawrence throws to Powell on the Hot route Trevor keys in on the corner blitz with the hard count and calls hot to Powell, getting just deep enough for the first down
1st & 10 11 Personnel Stack right vs. 4-2-5 PA Go Route to Powell, INTERCEPTION I blame Marty Smith waxing lyrical about Trevor Lawrence's ability for keeping TL from breaking Russell Wilson's "Passes without an INT" record that he looked to be on pace to break. Poor decision from Lawrence to throw a fadeway deep shot to a receiver going deep with the corner safely over the top. I can't blame him too much though, curse of the commentator is undefeated.

Stupid commentator. 100% his fault.

1st Quarter 1:39 Remaining 17 - 7 Clemson

Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
Down & Distance Formation Play Notes
1st & 10 11 Personnel vs. ? Inside zone bounced outside for a gain of 8 DK is way too good in space to whiff on this tackle this bad
2nd & 2 10 Personnel Trips right vs. 4-2-5 QB keeper to the outside, no gain Great job by Turner to burst through his block and make the tackle
3rd & 3 11 Personnel vs. 3-4 RPO Rollout pitched ahead for 2yd gain Myles Murphy instantly is in the backfield and forces Simms into a desperation pitch forward that honestly risked being picked by Mike Jones
4th & 1 12 Personnel vs. 4-3 HB Dive, loss of 1 HB had absolutely nowhere to go and Clemson gets the ball back on downs to close out the quarter