All the talk is about the penalties, and the red zone, and the bad officiating, and the missed pass that ended the game. But what was the real key?
Ohio State was scoring consistently on Clemson's defense until the second quarter. Then the Buckeyes did not score again for half the game from 4:55 in the second to 4:52 in the fourth. Why?
Ian Boyd, a Kyle-Jones clone from the Big 12, shows the key Clemson defensive adjustment that confused the OSU offensive coaches and stymied Ohio State. It's called Inverted Tampa 2.
In a nutshell, Brent Venables could see that his base 4-2-5 defense was not working after four OSU scoring drives. So he pulled out a DT and added another safety. It looked like a 3-man front with 8 back, but actually the LBs and a CB were running up and jamming the run and blitzing the passer on almost every down.
The goal of this Inverted Tampa 2 game plan was simple and effective:
1. Clog the interior gaps, confuse the OL and force OSU to play "in space." It worked. Ohio State only rushed for 64 yards, apart from Dobbins' two long runs early on.
2. Flood the "space" with athletes and confuse QB Justin Fields with DBs and extra safeties, and the All American LB Simmons filling the role of a wild-card LB/safety. Fields had few places to throw, and no time to throw the longer routes that were being called by his coaches.
This was a risky tactic that exposed Clemson to short passing to the RB and the TEs behind the LBs, who were rushing up to the line, and in front of the extra defenders, who were blanketing the WRs. But OSU thought it looked like 8 players were back in coverage. So they continued to run into the teeth of the Clemson defense. The Buckeyes did not throw to the TEs after the successful first quarter, and only started throwing to the RB in the final drive, when most of Fields' passes went to Dobbins-- with great success.
Enjoy the Kyle-Jones-like video education in football tactics. This shows what was really going on that held the Buckeyes scoreless for half the game.