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Film Room - XXL edition for an XXL win over Clemson

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Get some coffee and don’t read this on the toilet, this will be a while.

Clemson v NC State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Welcome back to another edition of everyone’s favorite kinda sorta recurring segment!

I would love to have a telestrator the announcers on TV use to draw out the plays. That would make things so much easier. And cooler. Mostly cooler. Maybe I could become a youtube star with my hand-scribbled play breakdowns. Nah, probably woudn’t work when I’m too nervous to even show my ankles. Heaven forbid I show my face.

Soooo, watch anything interesting last Saturday? My day was quite eventful. We had a family wedding to attend out of town. I had been a wreck all morning, for days honestly, trying not to get too riled up for a potential loss. But a half hour before kickoff my nerves were shot. I had my wife drive the second half of the trip so I could watch the 1st quarter in the car. Then watch until halftime in the hotel while getting ready. Then watch the second half and OT sitting there in the ballroom waiting for the bride and groom to show up. The game ended right before their entrance. By the end, I roped in my other cousins to watch with me, all crowded around my phone. Needless to say, the rest of the party was a blast.

Now that I’ve had a chance to look back at it, we can look at some of the plays that worked, and others that didn’t. And to celebrate Dave Doeren’s best win as NC State head coach, this is the longest Film Room to date. It seemed deserving, and also, I’ve got some (many) thoughts. Let’s go to the video tape!


  1. DJ Uiagalelei (I did not type that from memory) can make throws if you let him. The problem becomes not giving him the chance. Overall, Tony Gibson called a great game vs Clemson. However, he does love his Safety blitzes. This is a fine strategy except he’s had a low rate of success with them. On this play, it was almost successful since Will Shipley missed the block, but you can not arm tackle a guy who is 6’4” and clocks in at 250 lbs. He sheds the tackle and throws a dime to Joseph Ngata for a big gain.

2. Clemson’s first TD. NC State rushes 3, the rest drop back.

This allows DJ to have all day in the world to throw, and Justyn Ross honestly makes a great catch. DJ rolled away from the traffic and gave enough time for Ross to get to the endzone.

Tanner Ingle and Jaylon Scott had the flat covered in case DJ took off. The problem was he stayed back to launch a 40 yard pass to the back of the endzone.

Jakeen Harris got flat out beat down field by Ross. It took a stunning throw by DJ to make it work, but Harris had no shot at that ball.

A play you might see him make on Sundays.


3. Let’s pretend this never happened. After this, Leary was much more mindful of obviously grounding the ball with nobody in the vicinity. Here’s hoping he never forgets.


4. I like this play mostly because it shows Leary’s evolution of working through his progressions. He checks down off Thayer Thomas to Devin Carter for a first down.


5. Solid RPO work by Leary. He doesn’t hand off. Checks off Thayer when the LB goes over to cover, then finds Emeka Emezie standing in the middle of the zone, who gets the first down.


6. Speaking of Emezie! This one was going to him the whole way. He turns back to the ball and Leary has to hit him with a pinpoint accurate outside shoulder throw away from the defender. This is almost the same exact play from Leary’s game winner at Pittsburgh last year, also to Emezie.

Clemson brings a LB blitz, Ricky Person helps pick it up. Great protection all around, and Leary has all the time he needs to make the throw.

Take a bow for your adoring fans:

Can we get some multiple angles on that, please???

Emezie pins the ball to his helmet because he’s a legend. And Tanner Ingle reminds him he did it first.

You can see how tight the margin of error was on the pass:

Shout out to Megan Bastedo for the fire close up video:

The second picture here is a wonderful shot taken from USA Today, shared by Inside Pack Sports:

USA Today

7. Defense stands up on this designed run. They were prepped for DJ taking off, since much was made about the need for Clemson to utilize his running more to have success.

Another safety blitz, this time Ingle was deftly picked up by Shipley. Derek Pitts Jr. identifies it, breaks off his man and makes the tackle to save the first down. These are the little plays that add up to victory.

At the very hand, see all the hats to the ball. Ingle and Isaiah Moore collide just as Pitts makes the tackle, causing Shyheim Battle to comically yet luckily safely flip over. No Shyheim’s were harmed in the making of this tackle. Another 3 and out, punt it.


8. The rest of the half was relatively deadlocked as the two defenses settled in:

Clemson’s scoring drive in the first quarter was 80 yards in 5 plays. From that point on, NC State’s defense forced them into 7 STRAIGHT 3 AND OUTS, stretching until they scored again with 10:52 left in the fourth quarter. Just outstanding work.

Plays like this. Not sure if it was a designed blitz, but Moore identified the Shipley run right away and got the TFL.

Followed up by this play, which is a good example to all the 3-3-5 haters out there! This defensive setup isn’t built to generate tons of sacks, but it did here. With only 3 down linemen rushing, they were able to overwhelm the Clemson OL (one of the known weak points entering the game) and get the sack:

The Clemson RG gave up his ground immediately and Davin Vann blew right by him and tackled DJ as he tried to step up in the pocket. New starting Nose Tackle Cory Durden worked through a double team to get the assist.

Now this play caps off this 3 and out. Keep your eyes on the Nose, as Durden blows up the Clemson Center, #65 Matt Bockhorst. Getting Durden as a transfer from FSU has been huge for this defense, as he’s added to the depth of the team and is now being asked to fill the shoes left by CJ Clark.

Also watch Vann push through the RG again. He didn’t get the sack, but the push by him and DE Daniel Joseph helped collapse the pocket and pave the way for Durden. Joseph is another transfer, from Penn State, one of the best transfer finds in Doeren’s tenure.

Dance, big man, you earned it.

From the top angle, you can see that almost everyone is covered. The curl route is open for a quick second if DJ had been quicker with it, but it still would have been short of the first down. Rushing 3 allowed more numbers to drop back in coverage.

A receiver did get open late in the play, but by then the sack was upon them.

The defense was more of that throughout the game.


9. This one, I don’t know what to make of it. Pitts got beat off the line, and seemingly felt obligated to tackle the receiver to avoid giving up the pass.

You could say he knew that 15 yards is better than giving up a touchdown? But he’s got to get better at making a play for the ball. I don’t think he was out of the play. It’s not like Ngata was 5 yards ahead of him. I don’t know, it’s a head scratcher and hopefully doesn’t happen again, since Clemson has the fastest receivers NC State is likely to see all year.


10. Luckily, the defense recovered immediately. That penalty put the Tigers on the verge of field goal range, but not for long. DJ completed an 8 yard pass and just as it seemed they might get some momentum, this happened:

Several things contributed to this pick. It starts with rushing 4 with another Safety blitz. This time Savion Jackson flies in as Shipley and the LG try to shift and protect. This gives Ingle an unabated path the QB. I’m sure his eyes got big at that second. As nice as it would have been for him to get a 1 on 1 tackle on DJ, this all added up to him throwing the ball quicker than he probably wanted.

Moore read his eyes, gets his hands up to block and then... TIP DRILL!

Nicely done by Drake Thomas to reel it in securely. NC State followed that with a long field goal attempt that missed, but that’s okay. It stopped a possible Clemson scoring drive, then a long 12 play ensuing drive (much of it on the ground with Bam Knight) ate up the remaining time in the half.

Pack goes into the locker room tied at 7 apiece.


11. Credit to Clemson for ending this drive with a huge blitz that Leary never had a chance against. Both LB’s and a safety rush in and overwhelm the OL. RGIII called it the “double barrel blitz” and I have to agree.


12. NC State put together a 9 play, 77 yard drive for a touchdown in the third quarter. Two plays that really helped the drive were a first down pass to Emezie and a first down run by Knight.

Emezie ran a good route just past the first down marker, sat in the zone for an easy catch. Leary had good protection.

On this run by Knight, he ran through a mack truck sized hole on the right side.

NC State ran a lot against type in this game. Much was made in the last few weeks about the Wolfpack enjoying that the opponent knows they’re running left, in a “try and stop me” kind of attitude. Well, that didn’t work against Mississippi State and it wasn’t going to work here.

The secondary is talking to each other to cover the left side because might run the counter. But they run strong to the right, and the O-line gets up into the second level to block the LB’s and extend the run. That extra push got the first down.


13. Excellent TD throw by Leary to Carter on the post route, they made it look easy.

This score happens because of the success with the running game, plain and simple. Everyone and their momma bit on the play action, leaving single coverage and an inside lane for Carter to stroll into the endzone. By the time the safety realized it was too late.

Carter runs a great route, plants and turns for the catch.

Leary looking extremely confident now:


14. In the past, NC State has struggled with open field tackles. This is more of an ankle tackle but shows how they’re fighting for every inch.

Moore with the TFL on Shipley. More on him in a bit.


15. Third and a mile, DJ with nobody to throw it to, takes off running but the defense stays home and stops him well short of the first down. Another 3 and out, punt.


16. Clemson TD drive:

DJ is going to be very good. He just needs an O-line that will give him time. We should expect to see a much different player when this game happens next year in the fake death valley.

Here he is throwing a great pass on third down into a very tight slot.

It is unfortunate Shipley got hurt, and apparently out a few weeks, because he’s another guy that will be much better each year NC State faces him. And it’s going to sting more and more each time. In this fourth quarter drive he finally got his longest run of the game

His offensive line finally gave him a big hole to run through aand he made the most of it.

Then came the back breaker. A stop on this drive may have avoided OT. But alas, no. DJ breaks off HIS longest run of the day, up the middle and down the sideline for 37 yards.

What happened? He got great blocking again, knew his yardage where he just needed 1 for the first down, saw an opening, and took off. Pretty simple. He just didn’t have the chance to do it other times because of a combination of lack of protection and pressure by NC State. On this play, State brought a LB blitz. Moore came around the edge instead of up the middle. Him leaving that spot created the lane for DJ to run. You can’t fault Moore since it seemed like DJ would run wide, it’s just a good read and run by him.

Now the defense is gassed. The backup QB comes in the game because DJ lost his helmet, nut no matter. He hands off to Shipley on first down, easy 5 yard run for the tying score.

NC State guessed middle run the whole way, but they guessed wrong. Ingle was hanging back in case of a pass. Once the LB’s committed there was no stopping this.


17. Miscues

NC state came uncomfortably close to losing this game. They dominated the game up and down the stat sheet.

And yet, Clemson had the game tied. After that last Clemson TD, NC State had two good drives that stalled and ended with missed field goals. It wasn’t the cleanest game on either side. I mean, this play should never have happened.

I’m kind of shocked to see Clemson make penalties like being drawn offsides on a fourth down. You have to chalk this up to the effect of the great crowd on a team facing its first true road test of the year. Plus they barely saw fans last year. But kudos to the Pack for getting them to bite.

Missed opportunities were on both sides. Devin and Devin (need a name for that duo) missed two would-be TD’s by mere inches. This was one of them, but that’s 14 points left on the field.

Maybe the sun played a factor, since Carter emerged from the shadow right as the ball was coming down.

Whatever it is, NC State honestly should have won this game by multiple scores. If they had lost, it would have been another example of dominating the game but not the score.


18. OT - Clemson ball

Clemson played 4 straight runs, then Savion Jackson got away with a facemask

Then on a crucial third down. Ross jukes Ingle out of his shoes for a wide open TD catch.


19. OT - NC State ball

By this point in the game, NC State had totally worn down Clemson with the running attack. Bam Knight just kept trucking.

Then State caught a break with Clemson holding Emezie on a potentially uncatchable ball, turning a third and 2 into first and goal.

State had been running the ball down Clemson’s throat. Then they came back with the same goal line set, fooling Clemson into thinking it would be another run, but NO! Thayer Thomas slides out to walk gingerly into the endzone. Because no Film Room would be complete without some Thayer love.

Did you see it? It’s a pick play. Devin Carter sets a pick and bumps off Thayer’s defender to free him open wide.

This play was the perfect call at this time. You’re in two-down territory so you really need to go for it now to not put all the pressure on fourth down. On to Round Two.


20. 2OT - NC State ball

On the first play, Ricky Person ran for a short gain. Then all it took was Devin Leary throwing the best pass of his career to Devin Carter.

My favorite part about this play, Part 1:

Yes, Leary put the ball in exactly the right spot. But give Carter amazing credit for adjusting to the ball and reeling it in, cradling to leave no doubt it was a legit catch.

My favorite part about this play, Part 2:

Carter wasn’t even the originally intended receiver. His first option was a receiver on the left side (pretty sure it’s Emezie). Leary sees he’s covered then moves his focus to Carter just in time to make the throw.

He’s gaining confidence with every game, you love to see it. Along with that pocket, goodness he had all day back there!


21. 2OT - Clemson ball

The football gods smiled upon NC State with this dropped pass. Almost an identical play to the one Carter made. Here, Ross can’t hang on. The pass was also not quite as well thrown as Leary’s.

Bullet dodged.

Third and 5.

NC State disguises who’s blitzing, and the center whiffs on the block. DJ gets hit but is strong enough to get the pass off anyway. Basically a throwaway.

They caused confusion on the Clemson offensive line.

Gutsy call for a blitz there, paid off.

Fourth and 5

A lot of Clemson fans were chirping after the game that there was pass interference/holding on that play. Let’s take another look:

Obviously, we would say that’s incidental contact. It doesn’t look like Tyler Baker-Williams is holding the arm of Ross as some have claimed. To be honest, Ross also could have sold it more if we wanted the flag.

The ultimate ruling?


Conclusion

NC State should have won this game by a lot more. They caught some breaks, forced Clemson into making mistakes, and Clemson had some (many) unforced errors. Ultimately, the defense was ELITE. And the team overall showed great resiliency. We’ve all seen NC State teams wilt in similar moments in the past, and these guys did not flinch. There’s something special happening with this group. It remains to be seen whether they can grow from this or if this was their mountaintop.


If it was the mountaintop, at least the view is pretty great from up here:

Until next time. Hopefully y’all made it this far, this was a long one.