Joe Moore Award Big Ugly Spotlight Game Review – Week 6: Clemson vs Virginia Tech
For those who enjoy the unmatchable electricity that collegiate environments can create in big game situations, there are few better than Blacksburg, Virginia on a Saturday night when their Hokies are good. The famed “Enter Sandman” entrance is a staple of Virginia Tech, and had their faithful in a fever pitch as they hosted the Clemson Tigers, at that time the #2 team in the nation. Clemson, coming off of their National Championship in 2016-17 still feature among the best defensive lines in the nation, and that would prove to be a big challenge for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech runs a spread, exclusively shotgun attack under Head Coach Justin Fuente. Operating out of almost solely 11 and 10 personnel, the Hokies like to spread you out. They run a zone heavy run game. In pass protection the Hokies utilize mostly 5 and 6 man half-line slide protections. They also use a lot of rollout actions, moving the pocket to both help the offensive line as well as their freshman quarterback.
Clemson, fresh off of their National Championship, use a multiple offense, almost all out of shotgun as well. The Tigers vary their offensive attack, as they stretch you horizontally with their run game, as well as runs right up the middle and off tackle. In pass protection, they use a lot of the same, 5 and 6 man protections with half and full line slides. The quarterback run game is also a large part of the Clemson rushing attack, as it gains a numbers advantage for their blocking schemes when the RB can be added as a blocker for the QB.
Clemson’s pass protection was clicking early against an amped up Virginia Tech defense. On this play, it’s a simply 60’s style pass protection scheme with the slide set to the right. The left guard, initially with no threat to his outside, joined the slide. However, Virginia Tech crosses their blitzing linebackers, and the guard’s only rule about joining the slide is that he can’t get backdoored. He sees it a little late, but does a nice job of bailing on the slide to pick up the looping blitzer. This allows the quarterback to deliver a nice ball and grant a 1st and goal situation early for the visiting Tigers.
On this play Virginia Tech called a roll out to the left. This puts a lot of stress on the left tackle, because not only can he not get beat, but he has to keep the defender on or as near to the line of scrimmage as he can, as to give the quarterback as much room to see and throw the ball as he can. Virginia Tech’s left tackle does a nice job on this play, and the result ends up being a first down. This is a very difficult block on a future NFL defensive lineman that was made to look easy.
This is another example of Virginia Tech moving the pocket, and throwing off platform for their freshman quarterback. Clemson is aligned a little differently than in the last example, and it changes the responsibilities of the offensive line. The right tackle sort of wanders into space, in order to be able to pick up any potential blitzers that might come off of the edge. The right guard does an excellent job of executing a reach block on the 3 technique defensive tackle, and is able to flip his hips and seal off the outside. This is a crucial block to make, especially with the tackle not able to help much. This was a job well done, and concluded in another completion, this one a bit longer than the last.
While Clemson was pretty firmly in control for most of this game, both teams’ offensive lines played pretty well. Both defensive fronts are stout and talented, and neither team had much success running the ball, rather, they both allowed their athletic perimeter players to make plays in space. Blacksburg lived up to the billing of being one of the most electric atmospheres in college football, but unfortunately their team didn’t live up the challenge of defeating Clemson.