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Clemson vs. Boston College Film Review: 2nd Half

Never In Doubt

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

In my circle of gambling friends, we have a saying whenever one of our bets wins by the skin of its teeth: Never In Doubt. Dave’s bet on Ole Miss over hits by 3 points because of a bad snap on a punt? Never In Doubt. Luke’s bet on Patriots -7.5 hits because a Jets QB throws a pick-six while being sacked with time expiring? Never In Doubt.

This isn’t just a reflexive joke to distract ourselves from a nearly-bad-beat. It’s more importantly a device with which I use irony to prevent myself from getting bent out of shape about football, which at it’s most basic level is a game for our entertainment (will not be getting into the enormous amount of complexities surrounding football that cloud it and prevent it from being boiled down to this simplistic reduction). I mean, it’s already bad enough that I’m putting a non-insignificant amount of money on a game. No need to put too much emotional energy into it as well.

And so, while the Clemson extended universe was crumbling around me, STS was going nuts in both the gamethread and Slack chat simultaneously, and nobody wearing the Good Kind of Orange could operate with any other tone but that of doom, I remained relatively tranquil. For I was parked on one of the many LiveBet portals online, waiting for my opportunity to pounce on a good-value-for-Clemson moneyline. However, just as I suspected, Vegas wasn’t budging.

When Clemson went down 28-10 with a minute left in the first half, at the point of the game where every Clemson fan I knew was going full-blown Doomer Emo, Sound The Alarms Hopeless territory...the odds dropped to the best value I could find for Clemson all day: Clemson ML (+145). So, in essence, when we were down by 3 scores with barely more than a half of football to play, we were still only slight underdogs to win the game. Vegas said the words I needed to hear so badly: Never In Doubt.

*Hopefully me sharing a story about a live bet I won will also double as evidence that my gambling instincts aren’t nearly as bad as my awful inaugural Pick’em column that I debuted this Saturday, which I will NOT link, and that this was just a rare bad weekend for me*

The main reason I’ve subjected y’all to my gambling spiel is because I don’t want to dwell much on this game since I choose to call it by what it was: a fluke game. Except unlike Pitt 2016, we survived this time. I don’t want to come off as a sore winner here or discount the resilience BC showed in the first half (including a fake field goal so nifty that I’m sure this game will have Hafley’s name buzzing in “Hot Seat” rumors with more affluent programs by the end of the year) but a lot went weird for it to get to this point.

I’ve been told by my colleagues that I shouldn’t complain about awful officiating like some fanbases of Other Schools & Universities, but c’mon man. Additionally, we were not only down Sunshine, but at least 5-8 other essential contributors. There were definitely still some trouble spots we need to address that were on full display, but with every bit of context accounted for, I’m much more prepared to dismiss this as a game with an unusual amount of bad beats than I am with calling it a “sleepwalking” game.

If you made it all the way through Alex’s article, then you can see the finish line: the light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure if I need to add a spoiler alert, but Boston College would not add a single point to their total of 28 in the second half. Here’s my analysis of the 2nd half that saved the collective soul of Tiger Nation. Feel free to chime in below.

Clemson ball, 15:00, Clemson 25, 28-13 BC lead

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel Stack Right vs 4-3 Option pitch to Etienne gain of 3 BC had been beating up our line, so it's smart to get Etienne on the perimeter. Also, very happy the safety blitz didn't get home on this one
2nd & 7 11 personnel empty vs. 4-3 Mesh concept w/ flat route to Etienne, incomplete Judging by DJ's eyes, this play was designed to clear out space underneath to the field side for Etienne, but he couldn't haul it in
3rd & 7 11 personnel vs 4-3 nickel Switch to Powell, first down Looked like a "Switch" concept (essentially a rub) that got Powell open over the middle by going underneath Spector to put a body in the way of the guy covering him. In fact, Spector runs right into the corner, so I'm glad that a pick didn't get called (especially with the way the officiating was going in this game!)
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 nickel Hitch route to Powell, gain of 8 I like that Elliott is giving his freshman QB a few throws to get in rhythm to start a comeback effort
2nd & 2 11 personnel slant right vs 4-3 Power run by Dixon, loss of 1 Allen isn't able to dig out the inside shoulder of the DE here and it doesn't leave Bockhorst with room to pull into C gap like designed. This means Bockhorst has to make an awkward adjustment, which in turn means that he can't lead block for Dixon
3rd & 3 11 personnel slant left vs 4-3 nickel QB keep, gain of 1 Safety blitz trips up Uiagalelei before he can make it to the first down line
4th & 1 12 personnel vs 4-3 ZR keep by Uiagalelei, TOUCHDOWN The comeback starts and a star is born

I’ll let the ACC network and Greg McElroy draw it up for you. It’s your standard Zone Read keeper that we’ve seen a million times with Clemson, but it works so effectively here because of just how hard BC sells out to stop the run up the middle on short yardage. Not only does the edge defender on the boundary crash down hard, but both ILBs sell out against Etienne as well. With only one safety deep, it’s up to him to provide a last level of defense, but he also gets sucked into the inside handoff and puts himself out of position. Which is funny because you notice that he widens out when he sees Uiagalelei running around the edge, but then seems to be convinced it’s a handoff by the ILBs crashing in hard. By the time he realizes the truth it’s too late.

BC ball, 11:38, BC 25, 28-20 BC lead

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 3-4 nickel Slant pass, gain of 8 Double slant concept against soft zone coverage, ball comes out at some point at the end of the play
1st & 10 11 personnel vs Okie In route, incomplete The Jurkovec-Flowers connection killed us in the 1st half, but comes up short here. BC starting to feel the nerves
2nd & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 Sack, fumble recovered by Jurkovec BC extremely lucky that this wasn't a scoop and score. Clemson only brings 3 but Murphy occupies both the tackle and guard, allowing Simpson to get a one-on-one with tailback, who's block he viciously blows up. Jurkovec gets tripped up and Clemson is close to leveling it back even.
3rd & 28 11 personnel vs Bench Triple option (?) pitch, gain of 4 Very confusing play from BC here. It honestly just looks like it was drawn up as a Zone Read, but Jurkovec improvises at the end with a pitch. Either way, Clemson gets Boston College off the field

Clemson ball, 9:15, Clemson 36, 28-20 BC lead

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel stack left vs 4-3 Inside Zone to Etienne, gain of 2 Etienne sells fake to the outside on the Will linebacker well, but unfortunately the DT strongarms Bockhorst and is able to get off his block to make the tackle
2nd & 8 11 personnel empty vs. 4-3 nickel 9 route to Etienne, first down Uiagalelei throws a dime to Etienne, who is running what looks to be a 9-route with an outside release. When I saw they were going empty with no motion it made me happy, because it showed that they weren't trying to force a run game that had been dreadful for most of the day and instead were trusting in DJ's golden arm, which is on full display here
1st & 10 11 personnel stack right vs 4-3 nickel IZ run by Etienne, gain of 2
2nd & 8 11 personnel stack left vs 4-3 Skinny post route to Rodgers, incomplete Uiagalelei puts it right on him, but I'm confused by Rodgers's route here. Rodgers speed releases inside, but then crosses the corner back outside before trying to stack him before slanting toward the post. This is confusing to me because the safety to the boundary blitzes, which McFadden points out and makes a call. I'm not sure if Rodgers just doesn't hear McFadden because of how close his call was to the snap, but if Rodgers stays inside on his initial release then he has the corner beat and the other safety too far out to affect the play, which would have been a score.
3rd & 8 11 personnel vs. 4-3 Switch to Powell, gain of 7 Elliott exploits Hafley's preferred Cover 1 look again, just like he did on the last drive, by calling a "Switch" rub to Powell, except this time the corner covering Powell isn't completely removed from the play, which might have saved a touchdown
4th & 1 12 personnel vs 4-3 Fake pitch to keep by Uigalelei, first down Galloway seals off well and it allows DJ to easily pick up the first
1st & goal 11 personnel stack right vs 4-3 Counter RPO, fade route by Rodgers, TOUCHDOWN Good backshoulder placement by Uiagalelei, but an even better adjustment from Rodgers

This is my take on the 2-point conversion:

No disrespect to Brannon Spector or DJ Uiagalelei, but this play should be retired along with the #13 jersey.

BC ball, 6:16 3rd Quarter, 28-26 BC lead

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel vs Field, Will blitz Split zone run, gain of 3 BC's runningback runs into their guard trying to unsuccessfully move Bresee
2nd & 7 11 personnel vs Gut PA dig, first down Play action baits the linebackers and clears out the middle of the field for an easy throw that somehow almost gets dropped
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 Inside zone run, loss of 2 Spector fills his gap and blows up the back for a loss
2nd & 12 11 personnel vs 3-4 nickel Dig route, called back for OPI ESPN made the interesting decision to just not show us the OPI and instead show us the obvious hold on Bresee, but either way this was going to be pushed back
HOLDING, 1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 Inside zone run, gain of 2 Williams whiffs on a tackle, but pretty much the rest of the entire front 7 cleans up immediately
2nd & 8 11 personnel tight vs 3-4 nickel PA deep out to Flowers, first down Edge rush doesn't get home and gets Jurkovec enough time to hit a wide open Flowers
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 3-4 nickel PA corner route to Flowers, incomplete
2nd & 10 11 personnel vs 3-4 Outside zone run, gain of 7 This should have been limited been limited to a short gain, but Mascoll takes a piggyback ride on the RB for a few more yards
FALSE START 3rd & 8 11 personnel vs 4-3 nickel, bullet blitz Shotgun dropback, incomplete Venables sends six guys and Jurkovec rushes the throw

Clemson ball, 0:45 3rd Quarter, Clemson 9, 28-26 BC lead

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel stack left vs. 4-3 PA out route to Rodgers, gain of 11 Not much to say here without a wider angle of the play, other than Uiagalelei can sling it
1st & 10 11 personnel stack right vs. 4-3 quarters Option Pitch to your new All-time ACC rushing leader, first down Travis Etienne is your new All-Time ACC rushing leader, folks!
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 Quick out to Etienne, gain of 2 Etienne gets blown up but maintains control of the ball
2nd & 8 SNAP FUMBLED, recored by Uiagalelei
3rd & 8 11 personnel vs Dime Out route Rodgers, gain of 11 Rodgers gets plenty of space to run his route against soft zone coverage, but doesn't get deep enough for the first
4th & inches 11 personnel stack right vs 3-4 IZ run by Etienne, first down Etienne hits the backside C gap with power and gets the first
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 nickel Fake rollout to Tunnel Screen, loss of 1 I actually liked the decision here because I generally think we should have been attacking the perimeter all second half, and the execution was actually good too (you can tell Carman loves to bully smaller defenders) but #4 caught wind that something was up, and proceeded to make the play
Please forgive me for missing this play, the illegal full-game replay I'm using to write this only has the end of Etienne's run included. Sorry!
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 nickel Quick tunnel screen to Powell, gain of 6 This is a great call against the soft cover 3 BC is employing here. Field corner is backpedaling at the snap and the strong safety rolling down is still far enough off the line that only 1 player needs to be blocked from blowing up the play. Powell makes a nice cut on the safety overpursuing too to pu him over 100 yards for the day
2nd & 4 11 personnel stack left vs. 4-3 nickel Inside Zone run by Etienne, TOUCHDOWN Clemson gets a hat on a hat here and Etienne has no unblocked defender at the second level to worry about, so he easily blows by the safety for the touchdown.

The best player in Clemson history is now the new ACC all-time rushing leader. You really couldn’t have scripted it better for the combined effect of honoring Travis Etienne and providing momentum for a come-from-behind effort. The 3rd quarter expiring right after the play was perfect for capturing both. Admittedly, I was generally against having fans during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even I will concede that it just wouldn’t have sat right if Etienne had achieved this honor in an empty stadium. God Bless Travis Etienne!

BC ball, 11:34 4th Quarter, BC 25, 32-28 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 12 Personnel vs. 3-4 PA out-and-up, incomplete Flowers got wide open down the sideline, Jurkovec just missed him
2nd & 10 20 personnel vs 3-4 Fake screen pass, incomplete Venables gets a hand on it at the line, but the tailback leaking out the backfield past the line fell down so it would have been incomplete regardless
3rd & 10 11 personnel vs Over Wide TE dig route, incomplete Excellent coverage from Charleston here to force the 3 & out

Clemson ball, 11:06 4th Quarter, Clemson 29, 32-28 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 Outzide zone w/ Naked rollout, incomplete Uiagalelei doesn't see anything he likes so he throws it away
2nd & 10 11 personnel stack left vs 3-4 Backshoulder fade to Powell, incomplete DJ struggled on some of his intermediate throws to the left side on Saturday, but I'm not going to fault a true freshman in first start for that
FALSE START 3rd & 15 11 personnel vs. 4-3 nickel QB power gain of 7 Etienne didn't get a great seal block here and Uiagalelei gets tripped up. Kind of confused as to why Elliott was confident enough to open the script with two throws, but wasn't confident enough on 3rd & 15 to let DJ air it out

BC ball, 10:06 4th Quarter, BC 9, 32-28 Clemson ball

Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
Down & Distance Personnel Play Notes
1st & 10 11 personnel vs Field Counter run, gain of 7
2nd & 3 11 personnel vs Field Inside Zone handoff, first down Spector makes contact but slightly whiffs and Bailey dives for the first
1st & 10 11 personnel vs Okie Quick hitch to Long, gain of 6 Hunter Long makes a nice play
2nd & 4 11 personnel vs Okie Counter run, first down Linemen stones Mascoll to seal him out of the play and the pullers take care of the 2nd level defenders
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 3-4 PA (if you can call it that) dropback, loss of 4 Some miscommunication from Jurkovec and the RB because Jurkovec fakes the handoff to nobody, which allows for a coverage sack by Thomas
2nd & 14 12 personnel vs Okie PA dropback, intercepted by Spector, but targetting called on Thomas A great play by the secondary completely wiped out by a dumb decision from Thomas to lower his head
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 4-3 Sam blitz Outside zone, gain of 4 Great stop by Booth. I'm really impressed by how good of a run defender he already is as a sophomore, in addition to his obvious coverage talent. Usually you don’t both from college corners
2nd & 6 12 personnel vs Okie Duo, gain of 3 Turner flys in to make the stop
3rd & 3 11 personnel vs 4-3 nickel Split zone keeper, no gain Pinckney eats his block and sets a hard edge, forcing Jurkovec to run more laterally than he would have wanted and Booth makes another excellent stop to force 4th down
4th & 3 11 personnel vs 3-4 nickel Hitch route to Long at the sticks, first down I suppose Venables could have played better coverage, but this is really just a nice throw by the backup to put this away from Venables' leverage to keep the drive alive
1st & 10 11 personnel vs 3-4 Inside zone handoff, gain of 3 Clemson seemed to think the ball came out but no cigar
2nd & 7 11 personnel pistol vs 4-3 nickel Outside zone, loss of 2 Venables dials up a 6-man blitz and Booth shows again why he's an excellent run stopper
3rd & 9 11 personnel jet motion vs 4-3 Fade route to Flowers, incomplete Venables sends a creeper blitz that works to speed up Jurkovec's clock, resulting in the overthrow. Also love at the end of this play how Dabo angrily reminds Booth that there's no showboating when you're only up 4 on an unranked team in the 4th quarter
4th & 9 11 personnel vs 3-4 Post from Jurkovec very incomplete Brutal from Jurkovec here, especially after being so good for most of the game. In trying to maintain good faith with an ACC team I have no ill will toward, I have to assume that this was a miscommunication between him and Flowers due to how overthrown it was. My guess is that it was supposed to be a fade route to the back pylon but Flowers ran the post, but I don't really care to find out. Just happy we got out of this mess with a W

I’m still bewildered by the Xavier Thomas hit and how out of his way he went to make helmet-to-helmet contact. Not sure if we have any soccer fans in the audience, but it reminded me of a flying version of Zidane’s headbutt on Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup.

Clemson proceeds to drive the ball to midfield before Etienne is stuffed on 3rd & 1 and forced to punt. This sets up the final play of the game, which turns out to be a glorious safety to cap the day. I have to assume Venables knew the TE would vacate the line, which is why he calls a stunt for Bresee to wrap into the C gap where he’s 1-on-1 with a RB whom he easily blows by before jerking Jurkovec around, nearly getting a strip sack in the process. That concludes a very fluky and miserable game for our Clemson Tigers. I hope you enjoyed the review. I want to never think about this game again.