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Clemson 45, UNC 37: Pass defense and QB draws sent the Tigers to the CFP

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Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson 45, North Carolina 37

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Clemson North Carolina Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 98 67
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 97.0%
Avg Starting FP 28.4 38.1 29.8
Possessions 16 15
Scoring Opportunities*
9 8
Points Per Opportunity 5.00 4.75 4.73
Leverage Rate** 69.4% 58.1% 68.2%
Close S&P*** 0.628 0.573 0.586
* A scoring opportunity occurs when an offense gets a first down inside the opponent's 40 (or scores from outside the 40).
** Leverage Rate = Standard Downs / (Standard Downs + Passing Downs)
*** When using IsoPPP, the S&P formula is (0.8*Success Rate) + (0.2*IsoPPP)
EqPts (what's this?) Clemson North Carolina
Total 56.7 39.0
Rushing 28.2 15.0
Passing 28.5 24.0
Success Rate (what's this?) Clemson North Carolina Nat'l Avg
All (close) 49.0% 35.5% 41.6%
Rushing (close) 46.4% 46.4% 42.6%
Passing (close) 52.4% 26.5% 40.6%
Standard Downs 54.4% 36.1% 46.9%
Passing Downs 36.7% 34.6% 30.4%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Clemson North Carolina Nat'l Avg
All (close) 1.18 1.45 1.26
Rushing (close) 1.08 1.11 1.07
Passing (close) 1.29 1.93 1.48
Standard Downs 1.09 1.29 1.11
Passing Downs 1.47 1.67 1.77
Line Stats Clemson North Carolina Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 3.38 2.97 2.88
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 6.3% 4.9%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 5.6% 7.5%
Turnovers Clemson North Carolina
Turnovers 1 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 4.3 8.2
Turnover Margin Clemson +1
Exp. TO Margin Clemson +0.22
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Clemson +0.78
TO Points Margin Clemson +3.8 points
Situational Clemson North Carolina
Q1 S&P 0.578 0.640
Q2 S&P 0.594 0.299
Q3 S&P 0.782 0.608
Q4 S&P 0.569 0.756
1st Down S&P 0.584 0.613
2nd Down S&P 0.623 0.612
3rd Down S&P 0.670 0.556
Projected Scoring Margin: Clemson by 21.5
Actual Scoring Margin: Clemson by 8

Usually when there's this big a difference between the projected and actual scoring margins, it means that either something funky happened on special teams (because this box score doesn't really account for that) or there was a large disparity in terms of finishing drives. That wasn't significantly the case here, but North Carolina did manage a healthy field position advantage, in part because of more effective punting (net punting average: UNC 41, Clemson 34).

The Clemson defense was put into tough positions, with UNC starting drives, on average, within a first down of field. But the Heels threw an interception at the Clemson 16 and lost a fumble at the 46. That flipped the advantage to the Tigers.

Clemson's run effectiveness was encouraging -- returns had diminished of late -- and the Tigers' pass defense was magnificent, holding UNC to a 27 percent success rate. But field position and some big plays kept the Heels close enough that the horrific offsides call on the late UNC onside kick might have actually made a difference.

Formations/Basics

North Carolina Clemson
Backs-Wide % of Plays Yds/Play % of Plays Yds/Play
0 backs, 5 wide 4.0% 3.0
1 back, 2 wide 1.4% 46.0 9.9% 4.8
1 back, 3 wide 46.5% 3.2 34.7% 6.8
1 back, 4 wide 36.6% 7.0 47.5% 6.3
2 backs, 3 wide 12.7% 5.1 3.0% 2.3
3 backs, 0 wide 1.4% 1.0 1.0% -1.0
3 backs, 2 wide 1.4% 1.0
No Huddle? % of Plays Yds/Play
North Carolina 75.0% 4.9
Clemson 62.7% 5.5
North Carolina Clemson
Hash % of Plays Yds/Play % of Plays Yds/Play
Left 25.0% 4.7 42.2% 5.4
Middle 27.8% 2.3 19.6% 7.0
Right 47.2% 7.4 38.2% 6.1

The base formations worked better for Clemson than UNC, and for one reason or another, the Tigers held a significant advantage when the ball was lined up in the middle of the field. I'll let someone else figure that one out.

Passing

North Carolina Clemson
Passing Comp Rt Yds/Pass Passing Comp Rt Yds/Pass
Behind Line 0-6, 0 yards 0.0% 0.0 5-9, 32 yards 55.6% 3.6
0 to 4 3-7, 50 yards 42.9% 7.1 9-9, 89 yards 100.0% 9.9
5 to 9 4-6, 54 yards 66.7% 9.0 8-10, 62 yards 80.0% 6.2
10 to 19 1-8, 21 yards 12.5% 2.6 2-6, 29 yards 33.3% 4.8
20 to 29 4-5, 115 yards 80.0% 23.0 0-1, 0 yards 0.0% 0.0
30-plus 0-3, 0 yards 0.0% 0.0 2-7, 77 yards 28.6% 11.0
North Carolina Clemson
% Blitz: 43.2% 26.2%
Avg. Rushers 4.5 4.2
Passing (no blitz) 8-21, 129 yards, 0 sacks, 6.1 yds. per att. 21-31, 244 yards, 0 sacks, 7.9 yds. per att.
Passing (blitz) 4-14, 111 yards, 2 sacks, 6.9 yds. per att. 5-11, 45 yards, 0 sacks, 4.1 yds. per att.
Reason for INC/INT North Carolina Clemson
QB Fault 18 7
Good Defense 3 5
WR Fault 2 4

North Carolina never sacked Deshaun Watson, but the biltz was still effective -- Watson averaged 7.9 yards per attempt when UNC rushed four or fewer defenders but only 4.1 when they rushed more. Music to Mike Stoops' ears.

One other note: Deshaun Watson is an efficiency machine, but he was only 4-for-14 on passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield. Marquise Williams was only 5-for-16, so this didn't hurt that much, but big plays are still awfully hard to come by for the Tigers.

Rushing

North Carolina Clemson
Rush-Yds YPC Rush-Yds YPC
To Edge 8-50 6.3 19-126 6.6
Toward Tackle 6-22 3.7 11-49 4.5
Up Middle 7-33 4.7 3-5 1.7

Neither team saw much success between the tackles, but in part because of Watson, Clemson held the edge on the edges.

QB Activity

North Carolina Clemson
QB Move Rushes-Yds Passes-Yds Sacks-Yds Rushes-Yds Passes-Yds Sacks-Yds
Bootleg 1-1 2-9
Rollout 2-3 4-35
Option - speed option 1-11
Option - zone read 4-19 7-24
QB Draw 3-6 12-83
QB Sneak 1-0
Sack - in pocket 1-(-10)
Broken Play 1-(-3) 1-(-3)

UNC defended the zone read well (as did Clemson), but the straight-up QB draw, often with the RB as a lead blocker, saw effectiveness, especially on a 33-yarder that set up Clemson's second touchdown.