Missouri Beats Texas A&M: Beyond The Box Score

Time to relive this one a bit more. I doubt anybody will mind.

Missouri 38, Texas A&M 31

Missouri A&M Missouri A&M
Close % 100.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 46.0% 48.5% Success Rate 56.4% 53.5%
Leverage % 74.3% 71.7% PPP 0.40 0.33
S&P 0.964 0.870
TOTAL
EqPts 32.0 26.9 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 48.7% 51.5% Success Rate 26.3% 46.4%
Close PPP 0.43 0.27 PPP 0.52 0.11
Close S&P 0.918 0.787 S&P 0.787 0.578
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts 17.7 10.7 Number 1 3
Close Success Rate 47.9% 51.1% Turnover Pts 5.1 15.7
Close PPP 0.37 0.24 Turnover Pts Margin +10.6 -10.6
Close S&P 0.848 0.748
Line Yards/carry 3.85 3.27 Q1 S&P 1.131 0.702
Q2 S&P 0.511 1.293
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.620 0.760
EqPts 14.3 16.2 Q4 S&P 1.164 0.468
Close Success Rate 50.0% 51.9%
Close PPP 0.55 0.30 1st Down S&P 0.956 0.706
Close S&P 1.049 0.819 2nd Down S&P 0.897 0.863
SD/PD Sack Rate 0.0% / 16.7% 3.1% / 0.0% 3rd Down S&P 0.882 0.847
Projected Pt. Margin: Missouri +15.7 | Actual Pt. Margin: Missouri +7

OMG PINKEL IS SO STUBBORN AND WON'T CHANGE, Et Cetera.

Missouri's Run Percentage In Recent Wins In College Station:
2010: 36% on standard downs, 21% on passing downs
2011: 75% on standard downs, 37% on passing downs

Two years, two wins, two completely different -- and equally effective -- offensive gameplans.

Uncle Mo

In college football, you rarely play at the same caliber from possession to possession. Unless you are very, very good (or bad), your momentum fluctuates quite a bit over the course of a given game. You find a weakness, you exploit it, the opponent adjusts, then you search for another hole. And when you have an offense with first-year starters at, say, quarterback, running back, center and left tackle, your momentum swings are likely going to be a bit more extreme. The key is to maximize the points you score during your good momentum and minimize the damage during your bad spells. Mizzou failed miserably at this against Oklahoma State, but they eventually succeeded at this against A&M.

Mizzou's Offense:
First Three Drives: 20 plays, 129 yards (6.5 per play), 14 points (4.7 per drive)
Next Seven Drives: 34 plays, 158 yards (4.6 per play), 3 points (0.4 per drive)
Last Five Drives: 22 plays, 165 yards (7.5 per play), 21 points (4.2 per drive)

Texas A&M's Offense:
First Two Drives: 6 plays, 12 yards (2.0 per play), 0 points
Next Four Drives: 40 plays, 254 yards (6.4 per play), 28 points (7.0 per drive)
Last Eight Drives: 54 plays, 224 yards (4.1 per play), 3 points (0.4 per drive)

When hot, Missouri's offense was rather efficient in terms of the points it generated; they could have been even more effective, obviously -- they had to punt after a fourth-and-1 holding penalty late in the game, then they missed what would have been the game-winning field goal in regulation. Still, their good spells lasted eight possession, their bad spells seven. Meanwhile, A&M's hot streak was a little too hot thanks to a nice run of third-down conversions, but their good spells only lasted four possessions, their bad 10. A&M's good momentum was better than Missouri's, but Missouri's lasted longer. Tortoise, hare, etc., I guess.

Momentum was not just gauged by one team's offense versus the other team's defense. The advantage in the trenches seemed to shift dramatically from quarter to quarter, or in some cases from possession to possession.

Texas A&M's Line Yards Per Carry
Q1: 2.16 (Overall S&P: 0.702)
Q2: 4.39 (1.293)
Q3: 4.25 (0.760)
Q4: 2.57 (0.468)

Missouri's Sack Rate (On Offense)
Q1: 11.1% (Overall S&P: 1.131)
Q2: 11.1% (0.511)
Q3: 0.0% (0.620)
Q4: 0.0% (1.164)

By the way, since I mentioned Texas A&M's line yards, this is a good time to mention how impressed I've been with Sheldon Richardson of late. Yes, he's made some silly mistakes and committed some silly penalties. No, he does not have any chance of living up to the hype unless he becomes Ndamukong Suh. But he is playing well. Yes, his conditioning still might be a bit subpar. But he was incredible, in stretches, in terms of both caving in the interior of the A&M line and then pursuing to the ball. Despite his early battles with invisibility, he is still on pace for 8-10 tackles for loss, which is a lovely total for a defensive tackle (he has 5.0 so far, while Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno have combined for 5.5). Assuming he makes the smart decision and returns for next season (not a given), he and Lucas Vincent (1.5 tackles for loss and a QB hurry in second- and third-string duty) could make for an outstanding duo. Then again, if his improvement continues at the current rate, he and I would make for a decent duo.

Improvement Is Rarely Linear

A week ago, people (on other sites more than this one) were calling for an end the James Franklin era, if not this season, then definitely in the spring. I walked through plenty of reasons why this was ridiculous, but here is probably the most important reason: Missouri's offense is improving with him behind center, and it was doing so even before the A&M game.

Missouri Success Rates
First Four Games: 41.2% overall, 47.8% rushing, 34.2% passing, 49.7% on standard downs
Last Four Games: 51.2% overall, 53.6% rushing, 47.4% passing, 57.9% on standard downs

Passing downs have stayed approximately the same (30% first four games, 28% last four), but Mizzou's offense and offensive gameplan have been increasingly efficient as the season has progressed; that is even more impressive considering the "First Four" sample includes games versus Miami (Ohio) and Western Illinois.

We always fall into the trap of thinking, after a great game, that an offense (or more specifically, a quarterback) has "turned the corner" and is never going to have another bad game. It doesn't work like that. James Franklin's mistakes (and the severity of them) have come and gone, and they will continue to do so, but this offense is on a clear, indisputable upward trend.

Throw It To The Big Guys

Missouri Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per
Target
T.J. Moe (WR) 7 4 57.1% 29.2% 38 5.4
Marcus Lucas (WR) 5 5 100.0% 20.8% 64 12.8
Michael Egnew (TE) 4 4 100.0% 16.7% 51 12.8
Henry Josey (RB) 2 1 50.0% 8.3% 2 1.0
Jerrell Jackson (WR) 2 0 0.0% 8.3% 0 0.0
Eric Waters (TE) 1 1 100.0% 4.2% 42 42.0
Kendial Lawrence (RB) 1 1 100.0% 4.2% 1 1.0
Wes Kemp (WR) 1 0 0.0% 4.2% 0 0.0
N/A 1 0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 24 16 66.7% 100.0% 198 7.9
TOTAL (WR) 15 9 60.0% 62.5% 94 6.3
TOTAL (RB) 3 2 66.7% 12.5% 3 1.0
TOTAL (TE) 5 5 100.0% 20.8% 93 18.6

Or, to put it in a different, more fun way:

Passes To Marcus Lucas And Tight Ends: 10-for-10, 157 yards, 2 TD
Passes To Everybody Else: 6-for-14, 41 yards

Not sure what else I can say beyond that. T.J. Moe had an off-day, Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson continued to be invisible (while, mind you, doing wonderful things in terms of run-blocking), and Mizzou's tight ends and their biggest receiver wrecked shop.

(By the way, throw in a couple of bombs to L'Damian Washington, and I am rather thrilled by this pass distribution.)

Mizzou's Cornerbacks: Good

A&M Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per
Target
Ryan Swope (WR) 13 8 61.5% 24.5% 66 5.1
Jeff Fuller (WR) 11 5 45.5% 20.8% 42 3.8
Uzoma Nwachukwu (WR) 9 6 66.7% 17.0% 49 5.4
Cyrus Gray (RB) 7 6 85.7% 13.2% 46 6.6
Nehemiah Hicks (TE) 3 2 66.7% 5.7% 47 15.7
Malcome Kennedy (WR) 3 3 100.0% 5.7% 38 12.7
Hutson Prioleau (TE) 3 3 100.0% 5.7% 18 6.0
Michael Lamothe (TE) 2 1 50.0% 3.8% 2 1.0
Christine Michael (RB) 1 1 100.0% 1.9% 9 9.0
Brandal Jackson (WR) 1 0 0.0% 1.9% 0 0.0
TOTAL 53 35 66.0% 100.0% 317 6.0
TOTAL (WR) 37 22 59.5% 69.8% 195 5.3
TOTAL (RB) 8 7 87.5% 15.1% 55 6.9
TOTAL (TE) 8 6 75.0% 15.1% 67 8.4

For reference:

Receiving Data, A&M's Big Three (Before Mizzou)
Swope: 73% catch rate, 11.0 yards per target
Fuller: 59% catch rate, 6.5 yards per target
Nwachukwu: 63% catch rate, 8.7 yards per target

Combined, A&M's big three was averaging a 65% catch rate and 8.6 yards per target heading into Saturday's game. Mizzou held them to a 58% catch rate and an outstanding (for Mizzou) 4.8 yards per target. That is just incredible. We've been talking about the level of upside Mizzou seems to have at cornerback all season; Saturday, we got the clearest possible glimpse of it.

As time passes, Mizzou seems to eschew a soft zone for more and more tight man coverage. Here's a glimpse of that: four of Randy Ponder's six tackles came on Swope (as did his forced fumble and interception), four of E.J. Gaines' 8.5 tackles came on Fuller (as did three of his four pass breakups) and three of safety Braylon Webb's 9.5 tackles came on Nwachukwu. That leads me to believe two things: 1) Ponder and Gaines are outstanding and getting better in huge strides, and 2) Webb was playing something of a nickel back role instead of, presumably, Kip Edwards. Edwards still had 5.0 tackles, but evidently in man coverage, Mizzou's coaching staff preferred Webb on him.

By the way, watch Webb very closely the rest of the season. My biggest concern heading into 2012 is at the safety position, but if he continues to reward the coaching staff for increased playing time, that will alleviate concern at at least one of the two positions. (Whoever fills Kenji Jackson's spot is an entirely different matter.) Webb looked lost a few games ago and looked great for a solid portion of Saturday's game (aside from the fourth-quarter horse-collar tackle, anyway). Here's to hoping his growth continues.

Summary

As I said after the game on Saturday, I don't really care that the national storyline is more "A&M blows another one!" instead of "Great comeback from Mizzou!" A&M has its own set of issues to deal with, but the fact is, A&M would have played well enough to win this game if not for the plays Mizzou made. They didn't sit back and allow the Aggies to implode -- they went out and got the job done in the second half, via Henry Josey's runs, James Franklin's runs, Marcus Lucas' catches, Brad Madison's tip of the pass that Ponder intercepted, Ponder's forced fumble on Swope, Jacquies Smith's gorgeous late strip of Tannehill, the best fade pass Franklin has ever thrown, Sheldon Richardson's fourth-quarter (and overtime) surge and Dominique Hamilton's tip. Go ahead and continue to think that A&M "blew" this game -- I'll go ahead and continue to think that Mizzou won it.

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