Mizzou-Iowa State: Beyond the Box Score

Confused?  Catch up with the BTBS Primer.

Be sure to check out the Healthy Blaine vs Gimpy Blaine comparison after the jump.



Iowa St.
(24)

Mizzou
(34)

Close %
100.0%
Field Position %
44.1% 52.5%
Leverage %
69.1% 82.5%
TOTAL
EqPts 20.7 31.7
Close Success Rate 48.5% 57.5%
Close PPP 0.30 0.40
Close S&P 0.790 0.971
RUSHING
EqPts 6.6 13.2
Close Success Rate 50.0% 56.3%
Close PPP 0.28 0.28
Close S&P 0.776 0.838
Line Yards/carry
3.14 3.07
PASSING
EqPts 14.1 18.4
Close Success Rate 47.7% 59.4%
Close PPP 0.32 0.58
Close S&P 0.797 1.170
SD/PD Sack Rate
0.0% / 15.8% 0.0% / 0.0%
STANDARD DOWNS
Success Rate 55.3% 60.6%
PPP 0.29 0.46
S&P 0.842 1.064
PASSING DOWNS
Success Rate 33.3% 42.9%
PPP 0.34 0.11
S&P 0.673 0.534
TURNOVERS
Number 2 1
Turnover Pts 6.7 3.6
Turnover Pts Margin
-3.1 +3.1
Q1 S&P 1.002 0.924
Q2 S&P 0.887 0.682
Q3 S&P 0.725 1.515
Q4 S&P 0.348 0.819
1st Down S&P 0.782 1.262
2nd Down S&P 1.042 0.810
3rd Down S&P 0.294 0.565
Projected Pt. Margin
-14.1 +14.1
Actual Pt. Margin
-10 +10


Quick reactions...

  • Obviously very nice offensive output for Mizzou, though with an 82.5% Leverage Rate (which means that 82.5% of Mizzou's offensive plays were run on Standard Downs and only 17.5% on Passing Downs) you'd have almost expected more success.  Then again, Mizzou was quite unsuccessful on those Passing Downs, as they have been all year.  Which, really, is pretty healthy.  Passing Downs success comes with experience, and while Mizzou has shown on Standard Downs that they are plenty talented and athletic, they don't yet have the chops for Passing Downs.  It'll come.
  • That said, Mizzou did have a 42.9% success rate on Passing Downs, which was pretty good; in fact, I'd say that while PPP is probably more important on Standard Downs, success rate is more important on Passing Downs, and Mizzou showed some nice progress in that regard.
  • Gotta say, ISU's rushing success rate was higher than I expected.  It really didn't feel like the Cyclones ever really got going on the ground, as evidenced by Alexander Robinson's 14 carries for 56 yards (4.0 per carry), but they were just efficient enough to keep them moving forward, and they were able to utilize the shorter passes because they had fewer yards to go to move the chains.  Of course, ISU's offensive output got worse with every passing quarter, so it only worked for so long.
  • As demonstrated in last week's preview, Iowa State potentially has the best offensive line in the North division, and Mizzou held up relatively well.  ISU did average a strong 3.14 line yards per carry, and Austen Arnaud was never sacked on Standard Downs, but Mizzou's three Passing Downs sacks were drive-killers and potentially made the difference in the game.
  • I also said in last week's preview that ISU's pass rush was so weak that any sack allowed would be too many.  Well...0 is a pretty good number, no?  That's two straight weeks where Mizzou faced a weaker pass rush but didn't slip up even once.

Healthy Blaine vs Gimpy Blaine

The difference between Blaine Gabbert's one-legged production and two-legged production is simply staggering at this point.

Healthy Blaine
Stats: 182-for-278 passing, 2,487 yards, 21 TD, 2 INT; 63 carries, 156 yards, 2 TD
Rates: 65.5% completion rate, 8.9 yards per pass, 7.6% TD rate, 0.7% INT rate; 2.5 yards per carry

Injured Blaine:
Stats: 42-for-95 passing, 512 yards, 1 TD, 5 INT; 14 carries, -22 yards, 1 TD
Rates: 44.2% completion rate, 5.4 yards per pass, 1.1% TD rate, 5.3% INT rate; -1.6 yards per carry

Just a simply insane difference, even in the rushing stats.

But there's an obvious disclaimer here: Mizzou faced the Nebraska and Texas defenses while injured, and his stats wouldn't have been as good in those games even if healthy.  So the question for today is, what would he have produced against Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas if healthy?

Thanks to the "+" measures, we can create a pretty good estimate.  To do so, we're going to look at one specific measure: Passing PPP+, or EqPts per Pass.  As you know, EqPts create an estimated point value for every play (and the "+" is the schedule adjustment), so if we can determine what Mizzou's PPP+ was for Healthy Blaine and Injured Blaine, we can estimate what Missouri may have produced if Injured Blaine never happened. (And we're keeping rushing stats out of the equation to keep things simple.)

Passing PPP+, Healthy Blaine: 149.4
Passing PPP+, Injured Blaine: 92.1

So even taking opponent strength into account, Injured Blaine produced 62% of what Healthy Blaine produced, which is just a tremendous drop-off.  So if we take the Healthy Blaine PPP+ and apply it to the passes thrown by Injured Blaine, you get the following added production (assuming the exact same number of passes were thrown against NU/OSU/UT, which of course is a faulty premise, but it's what we've got):

vs Nebraska: +2.0 Passing EqPts (the rain was going to wipe out a good portion of the passing attack regardless)
vs Oklahoma State: +7.7 Passing EqPts
vs Texas: +2.6 Passing EqPts

That's an addition of 12.3 EqPts, or almost two touchdowns.  Who knows if the timing of those points would have changed the outcome of either the NU or OSU games, but that's not the point of this exercise.  Taking some super-rough estimates into account, here's a guess at what Gabbert might have produced in the 95 Injured Blaine passes if healthy:

58-for-95 passing, 810 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT

Which means we'd be looking at a season line of this:

Blaine Gabbert, New 2009
Stats: 240-for-373 passing, 3,307 yards, 24 TD, 4 INT
Rates: 64.3% completion rate, 8.9 yards per pass, 6.4% TD rate, 1.1% INT rate

And this doesn't even take into account that he barely played in the second half of the Texas game.

Just as means of comparison...

Chase Daniel, 2006
Stats
: 287-for-452, 3,527 yards, 28 TD, 10 INT
Rates: 63.5% completion rate, 7.8 yards per pass, 6.2% TD rate, 2.2% INT rate

Gabbert would be slightly better across the board.  You would expect him to have better yards per pass figures just because of his strong arm, but better completion, TD, and INT rates?  Yikes.

Now think about this: what would Danario Alexander's numbers look like right now with no Gimpy Blaine?  Of the 16 extra completions and 298 extra yards, he'd have probably snagged about 7 and 125 of them, giving him about 99 catches for 1,536 yards.  That would bump him from third to second in the country in receptions per game, and from third to first in the country in receiving yards per game.

(And he still wouldn't be a Biletnikoff finalist.)

Three Positives

  1. Diminishing Returns.  Iowa State's offense proved what I always say about the dink-and-dunk attack: you can get away with it for a while, but unless you're able to go deep, you can't get away with it forever.  Darius Darks' end-of-first-half 38-yard touchdown catch was really the only deeper pass the Cyclones completed, and thanks to their lack of a deep threat, Mizzou was able to play closer to the line than normal and get away with it.  Eventually, the yards and points dried up, as ISU managed just 105 yards and 7 points after halftime, and just 8 yards in the fourth quarter.

    This is at least somewhat good news, as there is no doubt that KU will be utilizing as many short passes as they can get away with on Saturday.  They tried it last year, and it eventually wore down Mizzou's defense since Mizzou's offense performed so terribly for most of the first half.  If Mizzou's offense does its job and puts some points on the board early, it will be harder for KU to take shots downfield against a tired defense, and even though KU still has Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, if Mizzou stays fresh, they can defend KU's offense at least relatively well as the game progresses.

  2. Dave Yost.  Missouri still has some work to do to get Blaine Gabbert up into the Chase Daniel Department when it comes to performance on passing downs, but Mizzou's standard downs performance Saturday was simply fantastic, and some credit for that has to go to the puppet master in the press box, Dave Yost.  He was crushed by Mizzou fans a few games ago for not knowing what plays to call to get an offense led by an injured quarterback to score points against some great defenses, but ... well, no offensive coordinator in the country would have engineered much in that situation.  Yes, Mizzou could have tried to run the ball more, but it simply would not have made much of a difference.  But if he gets crushed when Mizzou struggles, he deserves a ton of credit when Mizzou is operating smoothly, and without their #1 RB in the second half and their #2 WR all game, Mizzou's offense was the definition of smooth against Iowa State.

  3. Jerrell Jackson.  We all know what Danario Alexander can do, but Mizzou needed another weapon on Saturday to compensate for the loss of Jared Perry and to prevent Iowa State from quintuple-teaming Alexander, and Jackson stepped up, to the tune of 142 receiving yards (just 31 behind Alexander) and 12 rushing yards, his second straight game combining for over 100 yards.  He is a tremendous athlete, and if he can get that whole "hands" thing under control, he could be a lovely weapon for Mizzou in 2010-11.  But speaking of the hands...

Three Negatives

  1. Jerrell Jackson.  As I posted on Twitter during the game, I'm really developing quite the love-hate relationship with this guy.  If not for his drops, we might have won the OSU game even with a gimpy Gabbert.  And if not for his drops and fumble, ISU probably would not have led at halftime.  But without his catches, Mizzou might not have caught up to ISU.  Still, though, while Gabbert probably needs to do a better job of throwing into Jackson's body to avoid the possibility of a drop, Jackson needs to do whatever he can to become a more reliable receiving weapon this offseason--catching 1,000,000 of Gabbert's fastballs, getting contacts, whatever.  He might be the default #1 WR next year, and if he can't consistently catch the ball ... well ... that's not good.

  2. ISU's Passing Success Rate.  For the game, ISU's passing success rate of 47.7% wasn't too great, but in the first half it was far too high.  As I mentioned above, it's hard to make the dink-and-dunk work all game, but it was working a lot early on, even with Mizzou giving smaller cushions than normal.  In Q1, ISU's passing success rate was 72.7% (8-for-11), and after misfiring on the first three passes of Q2, ISU finished the half on a 55.6% clip (5-for-9).  As we know, that resulted in 17 points, and then the spigot went dry.  However, against KU, a rate like that might result in about 21-24 points, so even though this ended up a positive for MU, it's a reason to be at least slightly nervous about what KU might do.

  3. Kickoff Coverage. Here are ISU's starting field positions following Mizzou kickoffs:

    ISU 27, ISU 46, ISU 36, ISU 31, ISU 32, ISU 20, ISU 34

    Seven kickoffs with only one stop inside the 25 yard line.  Five of seven times, ISU started past the 30.  And ISU is only an average kick-returning team.  Kansas, meanwhile, has Dez Briscoe.  There is no question that Gary Pinkel and staff have figured things out in terms of the best way to coach kicking and punting...and, for that matter, punt coverage has been pretty good recently too.  But there's something about kickoffs that is harder to coach, and Mizzou has not been a very good coverage team any time recently.  In the six years of data recorded at CFB Stats, Mizzou has ranked 87th (2009), 94th (2008), 53rd (2007), 73rd (2006), 103rd (2005), and 91st (2004) in opponents' kick returns.  Ouch.  And that's just the returns, that doesn't even take into account the overall good starting field position when Mizzou has to pooch it to avoid a big return.

    Anyway, of all my concerns for KU, the two biggest ones are KU's dink-and-dunk ability and their likely fantastic starting field position, and the ISU game only highlighted both of these concerns.

Three Keys Revisited

Seen here.

Turnovers.  More than any other game, turnovers.

Missouri is actually somewhat due a turnover -- their last one was in the third quarter against Colorado, meaning they've gone nine quarters without a lost turnover.  Even the best teams in the world throw a pick or bobble a ball every now and then, so expect 1-2 from Mizzou tomorrow.  But if they stop it at 1-2, while maybe forcing 1-2 themselves, then ISU's odds of winning go down exponentially.  Turnovers are always important, but ISU lives and dies off of them.

Mizzou was +3 points in the turnover game, and they won by 10.  One more strip by Iowa State, and it could have turned the game.

Touchdowns instead of field goals.

If Mizzou is able to punch the ball into the endzone instead of settling for three points, an Iowa State offense that has been far from en fuego recently will find it quite difficult to score enough points to keep up.  But if Mizzou gets, say, three scoring opportunities in the first half and only comes away with 9 points instead of 17 or 21, look out.  Meanwhile, if they're holding ISU to field goals, ISU has no chance.  Red zone execution is ISU's only major defensive advantage, and it could be a big one.

Mizzou advanced inside ISU's 35 five times and came away with 20 points -- two touchdowns, two field goals, and a turnover on downs.  Meanwhile, ISU advanced inside Mizzou's 35 four times and came away with 17 points -- two touchdowns (both on trick plays), a field goal and a turnover on downs.  In other words, this was just about a wash.  Mizzou's two long touchdowns trumped ISU's one, and that made the difference in the game.

Tackle.

Expect ISU to run plenty of short, quick passes, and expect them to work at least a bit considering Mizzou's typically soft coverage cushions.  It's annoying, but we saw last week why they do it.  If they tackle well and force an only-decent offense like Iowa State's to drive the length of the field consistently, the Cyclones will falter more often than not.

Consider this one a FAIL in Q1, a slight fail in Q2, a wash in Q3, and a WIN in Q4.  Like I said, Mizzou might not want to wait as long to really play the short passes well this Saturday, but in all this was still an overall net win for Mizzou.

Summary

Despite the fact that their own mistakes allowed for a little more adversity than you'd like to see (particularly the late-Q2 fumble and some first-half issues defending the short pass), you always like seeing your team overcome adversity, and for the second game in a row, Mizzou dominated the second half.  They sent Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander out as winners, and their young players (particularly #11) continued to show significant growth.  One of the major goals for 2009 was just to not screw up our hopes for the future, and their late-game surges the last couple of weeks have assured that this goal was rather successful, no matter what happens from here on out (though it's obvious that optimism could be starkly diminished with a couple of losses to finish the season).  In all, it was a lovely Saturday to watch a Mizzou win, and like the Mizzou team did immediately after the game, we now turn the page and look to Kansas.

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