Iowa State: Beyond the Box Score

Photo via Bill Carter

Confused?  Catch up with the BTBS Primer.

My writing schedule has been extremely front-loaded this week, so I assure you the ISU diary is forthcoming.  For now, though, let's walk through a quick(ish) stat recap.

Mizzou 14, Iowa State 0

Mizzou ISU Mizzou ISU
Close % 100.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 41.3% 25.3% Success Rate 42.1% 37.8%
Leverage % 60.3% 60.0% PPP 0.25 0.11
S&P 0.670 0.483
TOTAL
EqPts 17.5 10.6 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 38.1% 33.3% Success Rate 32.0% 26.7%
Close PPP 0.28 0.14 PPP 0.32 0.20
Close S&P 0.659 0.475 S&P 0.642 0.463
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts 7.8 4.9 Number 0 1
Close Success Rate 35.1% 39.0% Turnover Pts 0.0 4.3
Close PPP 0.21 0.12 Turnover Pts Margin +4.3 -4.3
Close S&P 0.563 0.510
Line Yards/carry 2.25 3.06 Q1 S&P 0.876 0.462
Q2 S&P 0.586 0.538
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.629 0.663
EqPts 9.7 5.7 Q4 S&P 0.632 0.348
Close Success Rate 42.3% 26.5%
Close PPP 0.37 0.17 1st Down S&P 0.492 0.301
Close S&P 0.796 0.433 2nd Down S&P 0.831 0.496
SD/PD Sack Rate 0.0% / 0.0% 8.8% / 0.0% 3rd Down S&P 0.695 0.767
Projected Pt. Margin: Mizzou +11.2 | Actual Pt. Margin: Mizzou +14

In wins over Texas A&M and Iowa State, Mizzou absolutely dominated the field position battle and dictated the tone and pace of the game because of it.  In losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech, it was the exact opposite.  Field position means so much more than we even think it does, and on Saturday night, it allowed Mizzou to stay conservative and turn the game into a surprising defensive battle.  Mizzou ran only 41% of their plays on Iowa State's side of the field -- not at all a good total -- but their ability to continuously pin Iowa State deep (25% is incredibly low) meant they didn't have to take risks.  They could run, run, run (they ran the ball 65% of the time on first down and 68% of the time on standard downs, much higher than their season average), and in cold and windy Ames, they were perfectly content with that even if the run wasn't tremendously successful.

There were a couple of times in the first half where my biggest worries were realized -- Iowa State was able to convert on some passing downs, which was a giant no-no considering Jerome Tiller still has a bit of new car smell to him.  As I mentioned last week, when you're facing a relatively new quarterback, you might find yourself a victim of good gameplanning.  Even though Tiller has indeed played quite a few snaps over the last couple of years, Mizzou could not scout Tiller as well as Austen Arnaud, and I figured that Iowa State would uncork some new wrinkles that might be effective.  And to be sure, Iowa State ran much more zone read than they would have with Arnaud.  But when Mizzou was able to leverage Iowa State into passing downs, they absolutely had to make the stop; there would be no excuse for allowing the inexperienced Tiller to create on second- and third-and-long.  For the game, however, Mizzou shut ISU down as hoped.  The Cyclones still had a bit more success on third downs than I would have preferred, but Mizzou was so good at forcing third downs that it wasn't much of a detriment.

Targets and Catches

Mizzou did not pass much in this game, but the targets-and-catches data is still pretty interesting.

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
Michael Egnew 11 7 63.6% 42.3% 77 7.0
Jerrell Jackson 6 4 66.7% 23.1% 34 5.7
T.J. Moe 3 2 66.7% 11.5% 16 5.3
Rolandis Woodland 1 1 100.0% 3.8% 26 26.0
Wes Kemp 1 1 100.0% 3.8% 14 14.0
Henry Josey 1 1 100.0% 3.8% 5 5.0
Marcus Lucas 1 0 100.0% 3.8% 0 0.0
N/A 2 0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 26 16 61.5% 100.0% 172 6.6
TOTAL (WR) 14 8 57.1% 53.8% 90 6.4
TOTAL (RB) 1 1 100.0% 3.8% 5 5.0
TOTAL (TE) 11 7 63.6% 42.3% 77 7.0

In the game before he was officially named Mackey Award finalist, Michael Egnew had a very strong game that was another catch or two away from becoming a major statement game.  After serving as one of Mizzou's few offensive bright spots in the first half, he had a couple of drops later on.  Regardless, his touchdown catch was gorgeous and, dare I say, rather Coffman-esque.  And he once again proved himself as a great bailout option.  Of his seven catches, four came on passing downs -- a 16-yard catch on 2nd-and-17, a 9-yard catch on 3rd-and-7, a 24-yard catch on 3rd-and-7, and an 8-yard catch on 3rd-and-10.  To the extent that Mizzou was able to continue drives, Egnew was the primary reason.

Meanwhile, they were not asked to do a ton, but once again Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp proved that if they hold their own, Mizzou wins.  They caught five of seven passes thrown their way (a 71% completion rate), and for an average of almost seven yards per pass.  With the conservative gameplan in place, this was a great thing.  And look!  We passed to a running back (once)!

(Kudos to Rolandis Woodland, by the way, for continuing to turn his season around.  He caught a deep ball against Kansas State, and he made a very tough catch over the middle this week.  Keep it up, Ro!)

The Schizophrenic Offensive Line

For the season, Mizzou's offensive line has been one of the best in the Big 12.  They rank 24th in Adj. Line Yards and 19th in Adj. Sack Rate.  That's great.  But it has been extremely hard to predict when they will have a great game and when they will have a terrible one.  Against a very good Oklahoma line, they were magnificent.  Against a good Illinois line, they were solid.  Against a decent Texas Tech line, they were fantastic for a quarter, then pretty poor.  Against a bad Iowa State line on Saturday ... they were not very good.  Defensive tackle Stephen Ruempolhamer looked like Gerald McCoy (or at least Brent "Big Play" Curvey) in the first quarter or two, and the interior of Mizzou's line just never got much of a push in the running game.  Aside from a small handful of plays, Mizzou running backs were consistently forced to make moves in the backfield to get positive yardage.

The pass blocking was no problem -- Blaine Gabbert usually had more than enough time to make his reads -- but that was mostly against a three-man front.  ISU often dropped eight into coverage to make sure Gabbert's options were covered, and they were pretty successful in doing so.  This week Mizzou faces probably the weakest defensive line they have seen since McNeese State (yes, they rank worse than Miami-OH's).  Is this a good thing?

A Word About the Defense

I'm not really sure what to say about the defensive performance.  Against an offense that was limited and consistently pinned deep on its end of the field, Mizzou's D was great, better than expected even.  They didn't exactly shut down Seneca Wallace here, but it was a very good performance made better considering the extenuating circumstances.  Will Ebner?  Still hurt.  Luke Lambert?  Ditto.  Dominique Hamilton and Donovan Bonner?  Long gone.  Jarrell Harrison?  Now a linebacker (sort of).  Jasper Simmons?  Suspended.  We saw a ton of freshmen (E.J. Gaines) and redshirt freshmen (Andrew Wilson, Matt White, Tavon Bolden, Marvin Foster, Michael Sam) getting important snaps, and aside from on a couple of passing downs (one in which Carl Gettis misjudged the wind and jumped too early to break up a third-down pass), the unit simply did not break down.  Zaviar Gooden, Andrew Gachkar and Kenji Jackson were absolutely magnificent, and once Mizzou went up two possessions, the defensive line took over.  We saw Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Aldon Smith all making great plays late.

Obviously there is some luck involved in pitching a shutout -- that's why it doesn't happen often.  But for Mizzou to record two conference shutouts in one season (the only other team to do that this year: Stanford), and despite the injuries/suspensions no less, is nothing short of amazing.  Dave Steckel and the defensive staff deserve a huge amount of praise for doing so much with such a rotating cast of characters.  Despite the impending personnel turnover in the secondary, the future is bright for this unit.

Summary

9-2, baby.  Now (aside from the upcoming ISU diary) it's Hate Week.

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