Clemson did it–they scored 35 points against what some previously considered to be the best college defense of all time. Just how did Clemson beat Bama? I charted Clemson’s offense throughout the game and found they had consistent success with a few concepts; in the pass game, Clemson beat Bama with tosser and empty smash divide. In the run game, Clemson gained significant yardage with several buck sweep and jet action runs.
The Tosser pass game concept is a double slant combo from the same side of the field. The inside slant usually runs “fat,” or at a lower angle, while the outside runs “skinny,” or at a higher angle. Clemson struggled early, but was able to move the ball with tosser. On 2nd & 11 from their own 29, Clemson gets its first completion of the game on empty left tosser right early in the middle of the first quarter:
With Clemson and Alabama set for a rematch in the National Championship game, I’ll be looking for two specific plays Clemson had success with in their win over Ohio State: the QB counter pitch and a unique jet sweep pitch. Let’s take a further look at each scheme.
QB Counter Pitch
The QB counter pitch is a natural evolution of the QB counter trey read, depicted below:
Instead of riding the QB/RB mesh point and reading the end man on the line of scrimmage, Clemson creates fast flow and misdirection with the QB’s first step and a fake pitch. As for the blocking, there are two pullers like counter trey read, but the Center and H-back pull instead of the Guard and Tackle. This makes the blocking scheme more like Counter OF, and is a better fit for the backfield action. Below, Clemson gets the middle Linebacker and play side Defensive End blocked without ever touching them because of the pitch action:
Alabama pulled out an exciting OT victory against LSU in Death Valley Saturday night. LSU rarely loses in Death Valley, and it appeared LSU was headed for a sure victory, leading with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Alabama got the ball to start OT, and Bama Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin called the perfect play to essentially guarentee an Alabama TD drive. The play involved deception, shifting, and a quick count. Alabama sprinted to the line and came out in an odd formation: Unbalanced. #74, who traditionally plays Tackle, was split out wide and ineligible. On the other side of the formation, a Tight End lined up traditionally where the Tackle would have and actually eligible. Alabama then quickly shifted into an “Empty” formation, where the Quarterback is in the backfield by himself:
Note that #74 is not actually an eligible Receiver on the play, because the Receiver outside of him, #2, is on the line of scrimmage. #2 is “covering” #74, and #74 therefore cannot be illegally down field at the time of the pass. (He is ineligible) However, the Tight End noted in the picture IS eligible, although he is lined up traditionally where a Tackle would be. He is eligible because he is the first “uncovered” player on the line of scrimmage. This means no player outside of him is on the line of scrimmage. Alabama then shifts, with the Running Back moving from the backfield to the outside Receiver spot, and All-American Wide Receiver Amari Cooper moving a few steps toward the sideline. This seems to cause a bit of confusion in the LSU secondary, as they are unsure how to handle the formation: