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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Making Lawrence Look Mortal

December 18, 2020
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The record is staggering. 92 games. Three losses. Only one of those has come at Clemson for Trevor Lawrence. He’s 37-1 overall in his three seasons. There’s a reason why New York Jets fans are happy to keep losing games in order to have a shot at drafting him.

That one loss came against LSU in last year’s national championship game. It happens to be the worst game of Lawrence’s college career.

His numbers have been prolific in most games, which is why it was so shocking to see his stat line that night. A 48.6% completion percentage is the worst of his career. 6.3 yards per attempt is the second worst of any game he finished healthy. It’s the only the second time he didn’t throw for a touchdown pass. The first came all the way back in his first start against Syracuse and he left that game before halftime with an injury.

The odds are small that Notre Dame will be able to keep him from throwing a touchdown pass on Saturday. They’re just as small that they’ll keep him from completing under 50% of his throws. All they can hope for is to make him look mortal.

The Irish defense did when they had Julian Love in the game against the Tigers in 2018 (14 of 24 and 4.1 YPA). They don’t have Julian Love this time around. Clemson also doesn’t have Tee Higgins or Justyn Ross. The rosters are different, but Lawrence is still a star.

So what can Notre Dame do to make him less of one? Pressuring him is at the top of the list (his completion percentage drops 38% when pressured in 2020). It wasn’t all about pressure with LSU, though. They constantly presented different looks to Lawrence and it ultimately led to his poor performance.

Clemson was 1 of 11 on 3rd down in the game. I went back and looked at every one of those 3rd down chances to see what LSU did to shut them down.

It might be surprising to some, but LSU rushed four on most 3rd downs. It was always a question of which four players would be rushing, though. It was a constant stream of zone blitzes that stressed the protection of Clemson, but more importantly, didn’t make for easy reads for Lawrence.

Right before this clip, the slot defender for LSU had shown blitz and it looks like he has backed off it here. Lawrence had checked the play and if he knew that defender was going to still blitz from depth, his first read was probably going to be that inside receiver.

via GIPHY

That defender does blitz from depth and what Lawrence thought he was going to see was not what LSU presented. His first read is gone and that forces him to pause to try and buy time, but it’s too late with that blitzer coming in for the sack.

On this 3rd and 5, LSU dropped their edge to the boundary to help take away the potential easy throw for the conversion. They’re bringing two blitzers from the field, but both are not showing at the snap.

via GIPHY

That’s because they don’t have to give Lawrence, and the Clemson coaching staff, any easy reads on “check with me” calls. If Lawrence sees that before the snap, he’s probably hitting that slot on the play.

With the easier throw taken away, Lawrence is forced to make the difficult throw deep down the boundary. Of course, the corner has to be there in coverage, but the level of difficulty of making this throw compared to simply moving the sticks is the point of this.

There’s obviously nothing fancy about this next 3rd and 5 with LSU rushing four straight up and not even running a stunt with it. They are playing matchup zone behind it. They win with the standard rush, but it’s important to highlight this because when they were coming with so many other looks, this can be unexpected when it happens.

via GIPHY

It’s another example of keeping Lawrence guessing as to what he might see.

3rd and 7 and they are rushing four with the fifth adding in the snap. This is probably more of Green Dog where this defender has the back if he’s not blocking, but again, it’s not showing the extra rusher at the snap.

via GIPHY

This is simply a poor throw from Lawrence, who at this point in the game appeared to be seeing ghosts. That’s not the point, though. Clemson is running a man beater with this crosser and trying to pick a defender with a tight end (which was obvious pass interference). It didn’t matter because LSU was running zone and the intended receiver (the crosser) was likely going to get tackled short of the first down.

LSU had Lawrence off of his game and they did it by taking away the easy reads and disguising what they were going to do at the snap of the ball. It was a great game plan and execution.

Other coaches have seen this game film as well and weren’t able to stop Lawrence from looking like the future number one pick he is going to be. We’ll see if Notre Dame is going to be influenced by this with what they do on Saturday.

It’s one thing to come up with a great plan. It’s another thing to go out and execute it.

 
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