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Clemson vs Virginia Tech Film Review: 1st Quarter

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

This was all my fault. Last week I was 10+ drive charts deep into film review, yet only halfway through the 1st quarter against Pitt, so when the game clock never stopped ticking during Virginia Tech’s 5 play, 4 minute opening drive, I gleefully welcomed it.

Yet the price to be paid was a confounding first half in which VT sat on the ball and chipped away at a defense suddenly lacking James Skalski again after that initial drive. I humbly ask for your forgiveness, having learned my lesson that it’s better for all of us if I have to slog through a 31 point, hour-long first quarter than watch a maddening hour-long first half like that again.

Though we may want to flush this sloppy game from memory, it was at least an opportunity to play a game in cold weather and get some minds right while key pieces continue to get healthy before Charlotte. There are more encouraging signs from this game (the offensive line was better and the defense settled in) than bad signs (poor execution) to take away from this game.

VT opening drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs nickel (Greene at NB) OZ gains 2. Davis was doubled but Bresee worked down the line to help form a scrum and work toward the ball; Murphy did the same from the playside edge.
2nd & 8 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake jet, backside TE screen gains 8. Tyler Davis making tackles in space, love to see it.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 OZ spins back inside for 3. Jones knived through the backside hole to make contact but whiffed on the tackle at the LOS.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fumbled snap, loss of 13. Big hit by Murphy as Hooker recovered, a microcosm of Hooker's night.
3rd & 20 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR keeper gains 10. Weak effort in run support by the unblocked DK, but better than getting greedy and extending the drive on a hard hit.

Clemson ball, 11:15, Clemson 28

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ kicked out to Rodgers on the bubble, gain of 4. Certainly looks like a Bud Foster defense in terms of alignment, a 9 man box without a deep safety.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet motion, split zone to Etienne gains 7. This is the formula for success on inside zones this year: jet motion and tight end movement. Putnam had a great block working the 1-tech completely out of the hole as well.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake power option, TE seam to Galloway versus cover 3 gains 50, beautiful. Every linebacker bit on the run. Probably the best play Clemson has against teams worried about Etienne (everyone!), Lawrence did well to get the ball off in a crowded pocket. Powell blocking downfield is an artform.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter to Etienne is blown up, Etienne cuts back inside for 2. McFadden was never able to pull but Etienne bounced inside behind him to save 5 yards.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dig route to Powell against cover 0 incomplete. Powell quit on the route and almost made Lawrence throw a pick.
3rd & 8 20 shotgun vs 4-3 Etienne motions out, catches the swing pass with momentum but can't beat the unblocked defender in the alley, field goal good. Beat the Sam and it's a walk-in touchdown, outside blocks were solid. Great tackle...

Calamity!

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-4 (Murphy playing Jack OLB) Rollout, TE in the flat blown up by Turner, loss of 3. Inverted cover 2 so Turner was already able to play underneath, immediate recognition and a great tackle for loss.
2nd & 13 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Curl to field against soft man coverage gains 8. DK gave too much cushion and was dragged for 3 extra yards.
3rd & 5 12 shotgun vs nickel Cover 0 with a Mke and nickel overload, Mascoll and Greene each get quick penetration but allow a scramble for 6 yards Mascoll had a good inside move to break the pocket and Greene was on a missile, but picket up by good RB pass pro.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Power toss strung out for no gain. Jones overran the edge but Turner and Spector met with force to hold the alley.
2nd & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Tunnel screen vs a backside safety blitz, Venables misses the open field tackle with a bad angle. Here's where everyone laments missing Skalski; Venables isn't quick enough to play in this much space. Horrible angle.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 PA, long crossing route complete against a bust, gain of 45. Charleston busted man coverage, got caught in the crossing routes and couldn't carry his man across the field, wide open.

Clemson ball, 3:45, Clemson 25, 7-3 VT lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 pistol vs 4-3 Power to Etienne bounced outside for 5. Stewart pulled well and got the first key block, kudos when they are due...
2nd & 5 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Quick out to field gains 8 against soft cover 0. VT isn't even bothering with a deep safety, they're shading 1 into a half coverage and leaving the field side completely in cover 0. Deep shots have to come.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Orbit PA, deep post against cover 3 to Powell is triple covered, this ain't it. Despite the bad decision (max protect and one deep route meant all three deep zones converged on the post) it really was a good throw...
2nd & 10 SPRINKLERGATE WHAT IS THIS #GOACC
2nd & 10 for real 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter sweep to Etienne gains 13, beautiful. Clemson pulled two linemen into the boundary and then pitched back to Etienne toward the field, a single defender had the edge so Etienne zoomed through the alley, bookmark this play because the misdirection worked nicely.
1st & 10 11 shotgun 4-3 Tunnel screen to Rodgers dropped. Poor throw, Rodgers would've been left out to dry. Sloppy execution all around.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO flipped out to Allen in the flat gains 9. Rodgers got away with a hold.
3rd & 1 12 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR dive gains 2. Teams finally respecting the Lawrence keeper in 3rd & short?
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 PA boot, corner route to Rodgers gains 18. Is anyone better than Lawrence rolling to his left? Maybe Aaron Rodgers, lol.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Split zone to Etienne gains 2. Two linemen held blocks at the second level, would've been a TD if Bockhorst weren't beaten at the LOS.
2nd & 8 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR keeper goes outside untouched, easy TD. Allen's perimeter block sealed the deal, he's a difference maker there.