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I was as curious as anybody to dive into the stats for this game, but even I didn't expect the numbers to paint such a specific picture of how the game unfolded. Per-quarter and Passing Downs stats have rarely been this telling.
|% Close = 100%
||Field Position %
||Points Per Play (PPP)||0.31
||S&P (Success + PPP)||0.767
||SD Sack Rate
||PD Sack Rate
||Turnover Pts Margin
||1st Down S&P||1.016
||2nd Down S&P||0.642
||3rd Down S&P||0.406
||Projected Pt. Margin
||Actual Pt. Margin
Thanks to great punting from both teams, neither team really established any sort of field position advantage. Mizzou ran only 40% of its plays from Bowling Green's side of the field, but they still won the battle thanks to Jake Harry and Bowling Green's 33.3%. In the end, Mizzou generated three length-of-the-field drives and Bowling Green only generated two, and that made the difference in the game.
- Knowing the struggles Mizzou faced, it's very odd to see how well Mizzou did in staying out of Passing Downs overall. Anything over 70% in Leverage % is pretty strong, and Mizzou had a solid 74.7%. What almost killed Mizzou wasn't the number of Passing Downs they faced, it was...
- ...HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THOSE FREAKING PASSING DOWNS NUMBERS. Mizzou was dreadful in Passing Downs--a 0.253 Passing Downs S&P is usually what you see from a low-tier FCS team playing Oklahoma or something--and that has everything to do with a) BGSU dropping into a Cover 4, and b) Blaine Gabbert thinking he was being pressured when he wasn't. The Falcons got into Gabbert's head in a major way, and it paid huge dividends, especially in the first half. Mizzou converted on just one of every ten Passing Downs, and it was the major culprit in digging a 20-6 hole. I am VERY curious to see both how Gabbert repsonds to this and how defenses choose to defend Mizzou. The "Attacking a young QB" playbook usually includes blitzing from tons of angles, tons of times. But the key to defending Gabbert might be the deep zone and Cover 4, at least until #11 realizes he has time to work and learns how to create even more time like Chase Daniel did.
- Thanks to the two killer turnovers, Bowling Green actually did enough to win this game in terms of Projected Point Margin. Luckily the Mizzou defense (the Stecking Crew!!) held the Falcons to field goals on both of the post-turnover drives, saving eight points in the process (two FGs = 6 pts, two TDs = 14)...in a seven-point win.
- More props to the Stecking Crew for really doing quite wonderfully against BGSU on Standard Downs, holding them to just a 0.618 S&P. I was hoping to see a lot more pressure on Passing Downs than Mizzou actually generated, but I think their failure there had as much to do with BGSU getting rid of the ball very quickly most of the time instead of any major shortcomings from the D-line. I do recall a couple of times where Tyler Sheehan had too much time in the pocket, but they were only a couple of times. For the most part BGSU had a solid gameplan--get into Gabbert's head on defense, while going quick-strike, quick-strike, quick-strike on offense. It resulted in tons of short, meaningless gains, but it also prevented any major losses (until Aldon Smith's game-turning 18-yard sack, of course...god I like that kid).
- You will rarely see per-quarter stats this telling, but they deliver to you the entire narrative of the game. Mizzou improved from a horrifying first quarter, to a mediocre second quarter, to a really good third quarter, to a near-perfect fourth quarter. Meanwhile, aside from one great drive in the third quarter, Bowling Green almost did the exact same thing in reverse.
- I guess Mizzou is a third-quarter team again, just like in 2007. And hey, I'm for as many 2007 similarities as humanly possible.
More after the jump.
- Can you imagine where this team might be without the unbelievable work of Jake Harry and Grant Ressel in both winning the field position battle and getting points out of every single scoring opportunity? At this moment, Missouri is sixth in the country in net punting and 5-for-5 in field goals (three of which have been beyond 40 yards). Neither Harry nor Ressel were tremendously inspiring in spring ball, but (KNOCK ON WOOD) they have been cold-blooded and effective so far. Without Ressel's boot, Mizzou leads only maybe 10-3 or 13-3 at halftime against Illinois and, even more important, trails 13-3 or 13-0 at halftime against Bowling Green. Blaine Gabbert has been lights out in the second half so far, but without Ressel's field goals, these second halves might play out in a completely different way.
- As documented above, The Stecking Crew came through in a big way. Aside from one or two outliers, they tackled extremely well, which is the most important aspect in defending the sideline-to-sideline attack Bowling Green tried to implement. They fought off of blocks well, and they tackled well, limiting Bowling Green to lots of 3- and 4-yard passes. And with the game on the line, they held BGSU to a 0.341 Q4 S&P and 0.489 Third-Down S&P.
- We talked about this on yesterday's podcast, and it bears repeating: Mizzou did not give up on the running game. Despite being down 14 for much of the third quarter, they actually ran more in the second half than the first (19 in the first, 22 in the second...taking away the three time-killer runs late in the game, they still ran the same amount despite the deficit). Gary Pinkel's staff has taken flack in the past for giving up on the run too early, and whether that was a preference of Dave Christensen or just a point of emphasis with a new QB this year, things appear to have changed, and honestly Mizzou is undefeated because of it.
Passing Downs. Are you freaking kidding me? I just cannot convey how bad the Mizzou offense was in this game. I do see Gabbert growing from this experience, but...ggh. Probably will not win a road game this year with that sort of performance, and it must improve by next Friday night in Reno.
- In fact, it was so bad, it gets an unprecedented second spot on the list. Passing Downs, Passing Downs, Passing Downs.
- Missouri is also going to struggle significantly this year any time they end up with a negative Turnover Points Margin in the double digits. This really was like last year's Buffalo game, in that not only did Missouri uncharacteristically fumble a couple of times, but the fumbles bounced right into defenders' arms. (And seriously, the behind-the-back Carl Gettis fumble into the belly of a Bowling Green defender was one of the damnedest things I've ever seen.) The turnovers are a bit of a concern simply because Missouri has a fresh, new quarterback who hasn't actually thrown any INTs yet, and they still lost the T/O battle.
Last year, bad fumble luck was a huge cause of Missouri's slight underachievement (they recovered 60% of all fumbles in 2007, 40% in 2008), and of the eight fumbles that have taken place in Mizzou games thus far, they have recovered three (37.5%). Hopefully that evens out over time.
Three Keys Revisited
Stay out of Passing Downs
Passing Downs increase the likelihood for turnovers (just ask Texas Tech) or quickly stalled possessions, and Bowling Green will obviously want a few of those if they want to have a chance.
Passing Downs were absolutely huge in this game, but not quite in the way I proposed. Missouri did a great job of staying out of them overall, and Bowling Green wasn't bad, so both teams passed this test. But it was the performance on Passing Downs that was a surprise. BGSU certainly didn't light the world on fire here, and Missouri only registered one Passing Downs sack (though it was a gigantic one), but I did not see Missouri's terrible offensive performance coming. Advantage: Bowling Green.
The Running Game
BGSU ran the ball a bit better than I expected (Willie Geter is very quick and elusive...though as a friend of ours said in the stands "Nothing good was ever named Geter/Jeter"), but Missouri's running game was outstanding, and it made the difference in the game. Derrick Washington and Kendial Lawrence, you are men. Advantage: Missouri.
Needless to say, Missouri did not exactly come out ready to pillage. Gary Pinkel took the blame for the slow start, and while I'm never really able to tell how much "being up for the game" comes into play (you might not look like you're "up" for it, but it might have to do with the opponent's gameplan or a million other factors instead of simply not being ready to play), clearly Mizzou's offense was in a major funk early on. The offensive line improved in every quarter (they get a D for Q1, C for Q2, A- for Q3, A for Q4), but the early pressure on Gabbert stuck in his head for much of the game. Luckily the defense was in better form. Yes, they allowed a couple of touchdown drives, but as I said previously, BGSU is good enough to do that. They locked everything else down, and it won them the game.
There aren't many headlines more perfect than The Trib's "Fortunate is the team that learns without losing" line from Sunday. I think Missouri--Blaine Gabbert in particular--learned a ton from this game, and if he grows from it, then this was the perfect experience. Mizzou had to dig down deep, but they stuck to the game plan, they executed better in every quarter, they came through in the clutch, and they're 2-0. In a year where OSU has already lost to Houston, OU lost to BYU, Florida State almost lost to Jacksonville State, Ohio State almost lost to Navy, etc., the goal here is simply winning.
A team like Bowling Green is good enough to beat you if turnovers, penalties, etc., go in their favor. Mizzou turned the ball over and had three drives die because of penalties, and they almost lost. Nevada is a similar opponent, really (Furman, hopefully, is not). If Missouri executes well and wins or splits the turnovers, they should be 4-0 when Nebraska comes to town. But they're not good enough to overcome extreme disadvantages there, and it cannot be emphasized enough how much Mizzou needs to improve on Passing Downs.
But hey, the crowd sure was great in the fourth quarter, wasn't it?