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Clemson vs Boston College Film Review: 1st Half

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Why did you sickos click this

NCAA Football: Boston College at Clemson Josh Morgan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome heathens. Welcome to the Death Half, you doomscrolling sickos.

I won’t get bogged down in the lede here since we all know what Clemson lacked Saturday. DJ was good. The OL was not. DBs were beaten on contested passes early and often but were at least in position, and when BC came back down to earth Clemson ultimately stifled them. BC certainly turtled their way into a loss, but this speaks more to what Clemson was able to overcome without so many of their top players. The warts are what they are at this point, and Clemson’s still overcoming them with many of its superstars sidelined.

I’m much more confident in DJ’s ability to win at Notre Dame now. I am less confident in a defense without Tyler Davis. Notre Dame has the best offensive line Clemson will face and could have their way on the ground if Davis is still out. They’ll certainly want to lean on the run game and a great defense to do enough against Clemson without Trevor Lawrence, though Clemson hasn’t been good on the perimeter across either side of the ball themselves. Davis is the key returnee Clemson needs most to keep the Irish at arm’s length, given how well DJ played in Lawrence’s stead. But that’s for later this week. For now, get this first half out of your system and move on.

BC opening drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs base 4-3 Man cover 1 with a Mike fire, deep slot fade covered by Turner but he never sees the back shoulder ball, gain of 35. You'll get used to hearing this throughout the day, especially this half, but the coverage wasn't bad. Turner was with the receiver the whole way, rather tightly. Back shoulder throws just beat man coverage.
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 PA counter deep slant complete where a busted hook zone should've been, gain of 13. Maguire was sucked in on play action, never got back to depth.
1st & 10 21 shotgun vs 4-3 Jurkovec steps up and tucks for 15. Bresee, Mascoll, and Murphy all over-rush and there's no one but a blocked Pinckney to prevent easy yards.
1st & 10 11 ace vs 4-3 Corner route vs fire zone (pattern match outside has DK in man), Jurkovec gets the throw off under pressure and BC beats DK for the ball, touchdown. Decent coverage, 50/50 ball which Clemson just lost. DK got his head around a moment too late and the ball stuck inside him.

Clemson opening drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter to Etienne overwhelmed on the edge, gain of 2. Think we've seen defenses key on Etienne before? This is another level. Fortunate to squeeze inside for 2 yards here.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out to Rodgers vs soft cover 3 gains 7. Easy warm up throw against a 10 yard cushion.
3rd & 1 12 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne gains 4. Good hole in the B gap between Bock and Carman, BC filled it quickly but it was enough for Etienne to muscle through it.
1st & 10 11 shotgun (tight bunch to field) vs 4-3 IZ gains 2. There was a lane outside but Etienne pinched Galloway's block rather than get to the corner.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Rollout left, underneath curl to Powell gains 8. More soft cover 3.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO pull, slant to Spector, PI. The man coverage was too tight, easy call. Correct read by DJ as well.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Double OLB fire in front of man cover 0, free rush off the edge and DJ hits the swing to Etienne right past it, easy walk in 35 yard TD. The Mike busted but wouldn't have had a chance anyway. No hesitation by DJ hitting the hot receiver against the blitz. The kid is ready.

I want to take a closer look at the opening play on BC’s ensuing drive, since they manipulated Clemson into revealing the coverage and taking advantage of it here.

The key here is both corners are on the near side of the field, matched on the two receivers in man cover 1. Motion pulls Sheridan Jones back into a deep middle coverage, which would be fine if he were a safety, and in turn shifts Turner out of the deep zone responsibility and into man coverage against the in-line tight end, while Zanders has to pick up the receiver motioning to the far side.

Jones chased the underneath crosser instead of maintaining deep middle responsibility, and DK never recovered after the receiver’s clever use of the umpire screen. This is technically on Jones busting deep coverage, but the call put him in a bad position; Brent Venables was beaten here.

Moving ahead after a 3rd & long tackle-breaking scramble, Jones whiffing on a double move for a PI in the end zone, and subsequent goal line TD run...

Clemson ball, 8:35, Clemson 22, 14-7 BC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter to Etienne gains 2. Bockhorst got enough of a block on his pull and Allen had a great lead block on his pull, but Stewart failed to maintain his block on the nose tackle and Etienne couldn't get clean through the hole. Stewart is of course our primary culprit in most failed/underwhelming inside runs this year...
2nd & 8 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Swing pass to Etienne gains 8. This is essentially a toss sweep with a lead block from Allen, it might just barely be a lateral but I believe it was scored a completion. Allen had two blocks, one to get Etienne to the corner and another pancake on the edge to get him to the marker. MOAR DAVIS ALLEN (am I doing this right QT)?
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet pop pass to Spector run into the boundary, edge set and turned inside for no gain. This is one of those moments where I wonder what Tony Elliott is doing. It's like he tries to do the bare minimum to win, whether to save better plays for later in the season or later in the game if it's close? A jet into the boundary, giving a lateral speed-challenged defense a break? SMH. Jets to Rodgers with Allen and/or Powell blocking should've been coming at a steady dose against this defense. May have opened up the inside for Etienne too.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out to Rodgers (your boundary receiver, lol) gains 7. It isn't great for WRU when your 5'10" slot/running back hybrid is your alpha, yet here he is in the boundary.
3rd & 3 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out to Allen against cover 3 fire zone, BC never got back into correct zones from disguising and it's an easy 7 yards. Finally seeing BC try to confuse the young QB with fire zones, he was ready. 2 for 2 agaisnt the bliz so far on the day.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter to Dixon stuffed, gain of 2. Speed rush off the edge beat Putnam's pull, Allen's pull had to make up for that and there was no lead block.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Sprint out vs tight man, curl to Powell gains 2. Powell had a big day, I still don't think he offers much beyond underneath/intermediate possession catches but that's in the wheelhouse for a suddenly vertically challenged outside passing game and new QB.
3rd & 6 Empty shotgun vs 4-3 Man cover 2, coverage sack, punt. Carman got whipped. Receivers should've broken open but it would been a pressured throw.

BC ball, 4:15, BC 21, 14-7 BC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 ace vs 4-3 Zanders comes free on a fire zone, forces a throwaway, intentional grounding called. Fortunate FORTUNATE throwaway, since nobody took the backside jet motion and Flowers was wide open in the flat. Patterson had to get over there and cover the flat or at least hook zone, but instead ran into Spector and then tried to run upfield in man coverage?
2nd & 22 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Corner route complete against cover 2, gain of 17. Williams sat in flat coverage and the corner route worked down in front of Charleston in deep half coverage. Would like to see Williams slough back to pick off that corner route but he had a receiver running into his flat responsibility, not his fault.
3rd & 5 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Cover 2, boundary corner blitz fire zone, quick curl bounces toward the TE, wasn't open anyway, punt. Can't say I've yet seen a boundary corner blitz with cover 2. Jurkovec was fooled too, a good throw would've been an easy interception.

Clemson ball, 3:12, Clemson 30, 14-7 BC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne gains 2. OL got a little push but Stewart let the nose rip inside him to make contact, story of the year right there.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out to Williams (at field receiver) skipped, incomplete. DJ had a few misses on the day and it seems they were all throwing to his left. This one was short but the remainder were all high.
3rd & 8 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Deep curl to Powell against man cover 1, OLB fire gains 10. Perfect route and possession catch by Powell. Tight coverage, just better placement by DJ.
1st & 25 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Flare screen to Etienne incomplete. BC read it and DJ tried to throw out out toward the sideline past the defender while Etienne wanted to cut upfield for the catch and run.
2nd & 25 11 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO slant to Williams complete for 9. Another correct RPO read, DJ still on the money thus far.
3rd & 16 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Deep dig to Rodgers gains against man cover 1. Perfect QB play. DJ comes off his first read, resets his feet, and drills the ball over the middle to his best receiver in traffic, in a tight window to boot. This is why I'm not worried about him at Notre Dame. It's Tyler Davis we'll miss most if he can't play...
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Tempo, IZ to Etienne gains 5. BC wasn't set after substituting, about time we catch someone on this.
Illegal sub, 1st & 5 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet motion counter to Etienne gains 10. Whaddaya know, jet motion gets BC running the wrong way and Etienne is free to the corner. This should've been the bulk of the offense, no idea how Elliott will rationalize the fruitless inside stuff when we know the center position is what it is. Elliott has to cover the weak link with calls like this right here, next to no creativity in the run game.
1st & 10

I’m ending this drive chart here since that’s the end of the 1st quarter and Clemson is in the red zone, soon to be first and goal at the 2. The offensive line proceeds to get stuffed to the point where we have to put DJ under center in the jumbo package and bobble the exchange to Etienne, scoop and score, 14 point swing. We could nitpick DJ for the high exchange but I put this on the OL failing to move anyone in short yardage on 3 straight plays.

You have the best running back in league history and you can’t pave a yard for him in 3 plays. Abysmal. This is why Dabo chose to punt with 90 seconds left in the game (Spiers gave us the punt of his life before Bresee ended the game to vindicate the decision). But if there’s any confidence in the OL left (like Dabo continually says he has), it must have dried up here.

And this is why I don’t see how the voters continue to keep Clemson ranked number 1. Missing Lawrence, Ross, and our best defenders, sure, I understand the free pass. But this running game is one of many red flags now that we’re in November and there’s been little to no improvement. Elliott will have to be better about creativity in the run game to find space for Etienne. The screens and wheels have been welcome additions to the passing game, and brutal mismatches for every defense. It’s time to alter the straight inside zone, though, unless there’s jet motion or other eye candy to pull defenders out of the box — this interior OL can’t handle the numbers disadvantage as is — and put them in position to perform better.

2nd Quarter

Clemson ball, 12:08, Clemson 21, 21-7 BC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne gains 4. No hole, just Etienne making something out of nothing.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun (TE in line boundary, WR trips to field) vs 4-3 Sprint out to Rodgers gains 3. This is a man coverage beater but BC switched in cover 3, easy tackle for minimal yards.
3rd & 3 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Wheel route to Etienne against man cover 1, linebacker doesn't stand a chance, gain of 30. This is more like it. Simple mismatch against BC's overwhelmingly common base defense.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 PA deep cross to Powell against cover 3, wide open behind the linebackers underneath zones and DBs deep zones. Despite how open Powell was, it's not an easy throw to fit that ball between zone layers. Rodgers was wide open up the seam himself. BC has to do more to make it harder on a freshman QB and they aren't doing that. Notre Dame will.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet motion IZ to Dixon stuffed for no gain. Galloway did Dixon no favors letting the backside DE slide into the backfield.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Another quick out left to Williams at field, overthrown versus man coverage. Missing to his left is known on tape now, this will give ND a break like most defenses who aren't worried about an out to the field side from college QBs. DJ has the arm strength, just has to hit it.
3rd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Man cover 1, pocket holds but DJ is flushed by the coverage, checks down to Powell on a late comeback for 7. Field goal is good. Another solid drive from DJ aside from missing the out to his left. He's been safe with the ball, trusted his reads, and made a couple of money throws already. He's the brightest spot on the day thus far.

BC ball, 8:44, BC 25, 21-10 BC lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 ace vs 4-3 Split zone gains 3. Big thump from Spector after slipping inside a climbing linemen to fill the hole, otherwise it's a big gain.
False start, 2nd & 12 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Slant against soft cover 2 incomplete. Wide open slant just dropped, would've been an easy 5 yards or a 1st down.
3rd & 12 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Deep crosser to the TE complete against man cover 2, Turner beaten across the field. This seems another "prayer" throw where the QB just trusted his guy to beat Clemson's, and so far he's been right. Beyond frustrating since Clemson's supposed to have the better athletes.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Big hole for an IZ, gain of 4. Simpson fired off the edge and was easily sealed out, nobody in the B gap. Charleston and Zanders filled quickly.
Offside, 2nd & 1 13 shotgun vs 4-3 Iso handoff gains 2. Good penetration by Venables but Jordan Williams was washed out of the hole.
1st & 10 11 ace vs 3-3-5 Off tackle handoff gains 8. This stretch is the worst the defense has looked thus far. DBs have been in position on the long completions, but the line has been worked on back to back plays. Completely sealed out of the edge here.
2nd & 2 13 ace vs 4-3 under Iso stuffed for a loss of 1. Spector with another great bullet blitz for first contact, Mascoll helps clean up in the backfield.
Offsetting penalties thanks to a BS roughing call negating an interception, 3rd & 3 11 ace vs 4-3 Split zone cutback gains 4. Like I said, this was the worst defensive drive of the game. Jordan Williams completely carried out of the hole again. Bresee couldn't get off a block. Mascoll filled from the backside and just dove to trip him, letting the back fall forward for 2 yards.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Delayed handoff gains 4. Venables' bullet got in the backfield but whiffed on the tackle attempt. There was a lane to the second level if the back could hurdle his own lineman, but couldn't.
2nd & 6 11 ace vs 4-3 PA slide to the backside gains 6. Ugly defense, blown man under coverage, Charleston whiffs the tackle and Bresee finally cleans up on the sideline.
3rd & 1 12 ace vs 4-3 QB sneak gains 3. 3 yards on a sneak, why are you reading this?
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 IZ gains 2. Spector again, great fill and thump. The best defender we have left on the field at this point and it's not really close.
2nd & 8 11 ace vs 4-2-5 (Turner at nickel) Smash handoff gains 2. Another great blitz from Spector, he was tackled in the backfield but Bresee and Williams held the point and clogged the lanes.
3rd & 6 11 pistol vs nickel Another IZ, stuffed but the pile moves for 3 yards. DL stepped up here, Bresee held the point and worked into the hole.
1st & 10 after an inexcusable hard count jump by Pinckney 11 shotgun vs nickel Deep fade against man cover 1, Goodrich is there but the ball lands in the receivers hands anyway. The TE seam was wide open in the endzone but BC wanted the style points. Moot point, but Venables blew coverage on the TE jumping the slot curl manned by Zanders.

The turning of the tide follows this BC score, fortunately, when Clemson puts together a nice 1 minute drive to kick a field goal. DLG will pick up from here with the second half later this week.