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Clemson vs Wake Forest Film Review: 1st Quarter

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NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Ohio State vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It feels good to have a game to dive into once again. Clemson looked efficient and pretty sharp Saturday night, especially on offense, and Wake never threatened. The final score does not indicate the ease with which Clemson had their way with Wake.

An effortless performance on offense checked the marks I looked for heading into the game. Travis Etienne had 20 touches. We saw the passing game scheme receivers open instead of tossing up 50/50 balls — the second quarter was nearly flawless in this regard. Amari Rodgers looked faster and stronger than ever. Joseph Ngata showed us the hands and body which won him the alpha receiver role. We saw tight ends! Braden Galloway was active everywhere, Davis Allen had a good night blocking, and JC Chalk left me happily bemused. This is going to be a fun season.

Depending on health and other obvious variables, this could bloom into the best offense we’ve ever seen at Clemson. Wake really played quite well defensively; their front was active and their safeties flew in on run support and hit Etienne low so he couldn’t break his usual big runs. It felt almost as if they kept him in check, but he still put up 100 yards.

But Wake’s admirable performance didn’t matter with the calls Tony Elliott dialed up. He victimized Wake’s calls. The self-scouting Elliott underwent was clear early and often, and could not have been more refreshing. It’s my primary takeaway from Saturday and why I’m more optimistic for this offense than I envisioned this off-season. Also because this proves Elliott reads STS and takes my input seriously, so you’re welcome.

The defense was a bit of a mixed bag with so many younger players stepping in, both into new starting roles and filling in for medical holdouts. The good: the defense looked faaaaast. The bad: a couple busts and mistakes at corner, and a few issues wrapping up and stopping runners’ momentum. Overall a solid first effort with so many new faces in an opener. Venables has a lot to work with, especially with that defensive front. There’s plenty of time to round into killer form as well.

Clemson’s Opening Drive

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet motion counter to Etienne gains 4. Putnam pulls and seals Basham out, Galloway gets a good block in the hole to spring Travis, but was tripped up.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun (strength to boundary) vs 4-3 RPO pull, quick out to Rodgers incomplete. All three linebackers bit on the run action, absolutely zero underneath coverage in front of the cover 4, but Rodgers slipped on his break.
3rd & 6 11 shotgun (TE in boundary slot) vs dime Dropback vs cover 3 fire zone, nobody open, Lawrence is flushed and sacked for a huge loss. Coverage sack, Lawrence held it too long and couldn't get away from Basham.

Wake ball, 13:50, Wake 42 yard line

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Counter handoff stuffed for no gain. Clemson's new look defensive line in the backfield early, which was fortuante since Spector and Venables hit each other filling the same gap.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs cover 4, Henry gets around the edge for the sack. Booth played this like cover 2 instead of cover 4, luckily the boundary receiver's route was a post and Turner had it bracketed and Henry arrived.
3rd & 18 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep fade gets behind Booth in cover 4, Gain of 28. Booth did the exact same thing on this play, gave a jam and released to sit in the flat, then couldn't recover. Turner couldn't get over to close the window Booth opened.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Play action deep seam against cover 0, Zanders gets away with PI and saves a touchdown. Difficult to see how this wasn't a flag, Zanders was grabbing and trailing. Only excuse is he tripped while turning his head and the ref deemed it incidental.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 OZ handoff right into a Sam fire gains 4. Good quickness from Jones to not simply overrun the play on his blitz, changed direction and made first contact.
3rd & 6 10 shotgun vs 4-3 Dropback vs inverted cover 2 with a Mike bullet, Bresee comes free and makes the sack. Bresee abused the left guard, beautifully violent hand technique made it look easy.

Clemson ball, 11:31, Clemson 8

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 Play action, deep post (so deep it became more like a corner route) to Rodgers against cover 1 complete for a gain of 35. Perfect quarterback play. Footwork, delivery, accuracy. All of it.
1st & 10 12 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO bubble screen to Rodgers gains 16. The hype around Rodgers this season is affirmed. The play before, he made a great over the shoulder catch and beat man coverage. Here, we saw his quickness and strength with the ball already in hand. And he definitely looks faster.
1st & 10 12 pistol vs 4-3 OZ to Etienne gains 4. Hope to see more outsides zones -- get Travis where he's most dangerous. Allen had a great seal block. Would've been a big game if not for good safety play.
2nd & 6 11 shotgun (TE split) vs 4-3 Out to Galloway against cover 4 gains 5. Good reaction and tackle by the corner to prevent the 1st down.
3rd & 1 12 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR give to Etienne gains 5. The Will bullet gave Etienne an easy hole, again solid safety play kept Travis from breaking it. Flew in low and tripped him up, otherwise it's probably a touchdown.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne gets to the edge, gain of 16. Get Travis to the edge and let him outrun and/or stiff arm everyone. Basham is crashing into the backfield so hard that Carman just has to seal him and there's a huge hole off tackle.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Jet pop pass to Rodgers gains 2. Ngata did his part with a good downfield block; Etienne did not with a poor lead block.
2nd & 8 12 shotgun vs 4-3 IZ to Etienne, hole in the B gap again, Travis is cut tackled again just short of the endzone. Carman is having his way with Basham; Brockhorst and Steward had a good double team and there's your big B gap hole (and Stewart climbed well after the double team!). Wake is diving at Travis' feet rather than letting him bowl people over, and it's been relatively effective.

Lawrence walks into the endzone on a zone read keeper for the opening touchdown.

Wake ball, 8:02, Wake 25, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 10 shotgun vs 4-3 OZ handoff gains 6. Spector did well setting the edge and wrapping up, but was dragged for about 3 yards.
2nd & 4 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR handoff stuffed but nobody wraps up and it bounces outside the scrum for 7. Young defense, fighting well though.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Wheel route against man coverage, Turner is in position, incomplete. We've worried about Turner in man coverage but he played this perfectly. Read the route and didn't allow an opening.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR handoff gains 3. There's the slow mesh, again the defense gets penetration but can't finish the TFL.
3rd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Bubble screen vs fire zone, defense rallies to it and holds it for a gain of 5.

Clemson ball, 5:52, Clemson 20, 7-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Fake toss to Etienne, wide open seam to Galloway against cover 4 gains 25. Wake is hapless against play action, linebackers are crashing every single run action and both Galloway and Rodgers had nobody near them.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 RPO quick hitch to Powell gains 6. This was a called run that Lawrence can choose to pitch out based on the look. Powell had a 10+ yard cushion and Wake had a Mike bullet coming in, correct read.
2nd & 4 11 shotgun (really wide WR splits!) vs 4-3 Counter to Etienne bursts free up the middle for 16. Brockhorst and Stewart with a great combo block again, Allen blocking well too.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Draw to Etienne stuffed for no gain. DT stunt got inside Brockhorst, who was selling a pass block, and kept Etienne from bursting.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Deep post vs cover 4, busted coverage and Rodgers is free, barely overthrown and Rodgers drops it to avoid the goalpost. Powell and Rodgers ran deep crossers, the safety and corner each took Powell, leaving Rodgers free deep. A little less on the throw and Rodgers can basically fair catch it...
3rd & 10 11 shotgun vs dime Rollout draw to Etienne, big lanes, gain of 29. Wake had players spying and dropping into zones, basically moved themselves out of running lanes. Easy yardage on the only acceptable passing situation run play.

Two Etienne runs are kept just short of the endzone (though the second should’ve been reviewed) before Lawrence walks in on another zone read keeper.

Wake ball, 2:31, Wake 25, 14-0 Clemson lead

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Play action vs cover 3 double LB blitz, Hartman steps up and tucks, no gain. Here come the blitz calls after some mostly vanilla coverages thus far.
2nd & 10 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Rollout vs cover 4, nobody open and Hartman runs out of bounds. Great coverage, no busts on a rolllout/scramble.
3rd & 9 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5!! Man cover 1 behind a Will bullet. Venables rushes on a green dog (his man responsibility was in pass protection), deep go route against Booth complete for a gain of 39. Difficult to sugar coat Booth's first quarter. He's busted and been beaten. Lost the battle back to an underthrown ball. Booth will be fine.
1st & 10 11 shotgun vs 3-3-5 Tempo, outside zone gets outside for 3. Bresee was there to get the TFL but was held/slightly blocked in the back and fell. Good alley support from Charleston, the third safety.
2nd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 Tunnel screen blown up and forced incomplete by Upshaw. Ohio State fans look away, a "fumble" was overturned.
3rd & 7 11 shotgun vs 4-3 ZR dive gains 5, field goal attempt no good. Mascoll got blown off the ball, tacklers being dragged for too often thus far.

A tunnel screen to Powell (HEY QT) gains 9 to close out the quarter.