Somehow, it's already Wednesday. Better late than never when revisiting a particularly frustrating loss, right? Right?
Baylor 42, Missouri 39
|Close %||90.5%||STANDARD DOWNS|
|Field Position %||48.8%||47.7%||Success Rate||61.3%||64.2%|
|Close Success Rate||54.9%||54.3%||Success Rate||35.0%||26.3%|
|Close Success Rate||59.0%||55.3%||Turnover Pts||6.7||4.2|
|Close PPP||0.45||0.38||Turnover Pts Margin||-2.5||+2.5|
|Line Yards/carry||3.68||3.71||Q1 S&P||0.992||0.922|
|Close Success Rate||51.2%||53.1%|
|Close PPP||0.59||0.33||1st Down S&P||1.097||0.989|
|Close S&P||1.101||0.859||2nd Down S&P||0.958||0.985|
|SD/PD Sack Rate||3.5% / 7.1%||2.9% / 0.0%||3rd Down S&P||1.133||0.831|
|Projected Pt. Margin: Baylor +5.1 | Actual Pt. Margin: Baylor +3|
In Which I (Sort Of) Compliment A Torched Secondary
I hate to break out the "tale of two halves" cliche more than necessary, but we really did seem to experience two different games on Saturday evening. The first saw a Missouri defense scrapping; they avoided big plays, they forced Baylor to drive the length of the field to score, they took advantage of some shoddy Baylor place-kicking, and they hit the break up 14-13. They managed the explosive Baylor offense as well as just about anybody had all season, and the target numbers prove it.
|Baylor -- FIRST HALF
||Targets||Catches||Catch%||Target%||Rec. Yds.||Yds. Per
|Terrance Williams (WR)||9||6||66.7%||37.5%||72||8.0|
|Kendall Wright (IR)||7||3||42.9%||29.2%||29||4.1|
|Tevin Reese (IR)||4||3||75.0%||16.7%||18||4.5|
|Jordan Navjar (TE)||2||2||100.0%||8.3%||25||12.5|
|Levi Norwood (IR)||1||1||100.0%||4.2%||9||9.0|
|Lanear Sampson (WR)||1||0||0.0%||4.2%||0||0.0|
It truly is difficult to see any defense handling the Baylor passing game much better than that. Wright struggled, then tweaked his ankle, and Griffin actually had to check down to his rarely-used tight end to move the ball downfield. He's a fantastic, elusive quarterback, so he was able to check down and find open men sometimes, but Mizzou made him work. The Bears moved Williams around the field a bit and bought him some favorable matchups -- he caught his first six passes and drew an (incredibly, ridiculously dicey) pass interference call on a seventh, but when Kendall Wright got shaken up, Mizzou moved E.J. Gaines to Williams, and Williams' final three targets of the half all fell incomplete.
(Gaines was somewhat directly responsible for the fact that the first three passes to Wright also fell incomplete -- he is a complete and total badass at this point.)
But then, in my estimation, two things happened to derail the Mizzou defense:
1) Baylor hit the 50-play mark awfully quickly.
2) Braylon Webb got hurt on the first drive of the second half.
As you are acutely aware, I always enjoy a good boxing analogy. While scoring rounds is my general forte, I occasionally dabble in body-blow analogies. That fits here. In football, there are two particular ways in which you can wear an opponent out over time: either by a) pulling a 1995 Nebraska and sending giant guards and fullbacks your way all game until what was a five-yard gain in the first quarter becomes a 12-yard gain in the third; or b) forcing you to keep up with really fast players all game, until a 12-yard pass in the first half becomes a 68-yarder in the second. Like Oregon, Baylor attempts the latter, and it very much worked on Saturday evening. Mizzou did a good job of making them earn every point in the first half, but they wore down considerably. Hard hits became attempts at arm tackles; Terrance Ganaway's 38-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter was the perfect example of that. (It isn't a coincidence, in other words, that the 240-pound Ganaway's first six carries gained 40 yards, and his next six gained 146.)
Of course, if Webb hadn't injured his knee, then the fade may have been less pronounced. Webb played beautifully in the first half; he has shown significant growth just over the course of three starts, and his speed is quite superior to that of the other safeties Mizzou has trotted out next to Kenji Jackson. (His speed is superior to Jackson's, too, for that matter.) So naturally, as soon as I started to note how well he was playing and become more optimistic about Mizzou's pass defense, he got hurt. (He is evidently still out and will miss at least another game or two.) From then on, it was downhill, and fast.
|Baylor -- SECOND HALF
||Targets||Catches||Catch%||Target%||Rec. Yds.||Yds. Per
|Tevin Reese (IR)||6||4||66.7%||35.3%||145||24.2|
|Kendall Wright (IR)||6||4||66.7%||35.3%||68||11.3|
|Lanear Sampson (WR)||3||2||66.7%||17.6%||8||2.7|
|Terrance Williams (WR)||1||1||100.0%||5.9%||28||28.0|
|Terrance Ganaway (RB)||1||1||100.0%||5.9%||4||4.0|
Football is a fascinating, complex game. We always attempt to boil things down to black-and-white -- "Mizzou's defense was terrible," for instance. But things are so wonderfully gray. Games turn based on individual matchups, and when Webb got hurt, and a suddenly gassed Missouri defense had to line Matt White up opposite Tevin Reese, Baylor found the matchup they were looking for. Baylor didn't even look at the wideouts, focusing almost entirely on the slot guys guarded by backup safeties and nickle backs. White had perhaps the worst quarter of his life, when he first got burned deep by Reese, then couldn't close a gap fast enough and allowed Ganaway to turn a 15-yard run into an 80-yard touchdown as Mizzou desperately scrambled for a stop that wouldn't come.
It really is a shame that the secondary got burned perhaps just one too many times, as it not only distracted from how well Gaines and Webb were playing, but it also changed the story to "Mizzou gets torched" from "Wow, were Mizzou's defensive tackles dominant." Sheldon Richardson and Dominique Hamilton combined for 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks; they limited Griffin's effectiveness in scrambling as well -- he averaged 5.9 yards per non-sack carry (which is good, but not amazing for Griffin), and if not for an incredible no-call on the first touchdown of the second half, Richardson might have found another sack and stopped a key drive.
It is odd saying there were positives for a defense that allowed 700 yards, but there you go. Mizzou's defense has been "almost" good all year, and this was another chapter to that story. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic, both about the rest of this schedule (neither Texas, Tech, nor Kansas have anywhere near the speed Baylor has in the receiving corps ... or anywhere else on offense, for that matter) and 2012, but future optimism did not help a Mizzou defense that had one too many holes to fill in the second half in Waco.
Second-Half Adjustments Don't Always Work
So I didn't hear about this until PowerMizzou's Gabe Dearmond mentioned it after the game, but evidently Henry Josey was banged up for a good portion of the third quarter. This cleared up some confusion on my part, as to my eyes, Mizzou made some adjustments in the second half and attempted to utilize matchup advantages that didn't actually exist. After a mostly effective first half -- almost too effective, as they did not work the clock well enough to keep Baylor's own offense off the field -- Mizzou moved away from the zone read and toward speed options and quick screens to Michael Egnew in the third quarter. Josey's unavailability explains this a decent amount, but it doesn't change the fact that the adjustments just were not effective, and it led to a brief bout of ineffectiveness that polished off a tiring Mizzou defense.
Two drives in particular doomed the offense:
Drive No. 2 Of The Third Quarter
1st-and-10, Mizzou 18: Henry Josey 6-yard run
2nd-and-4, Mizzou 24: James Franklin 4-yard loss
3rd-and-8, Mizzou 20: Franklin INC to Michael Egnew
It is odd saying that Michael Egnew had a poor game when, as we see below, he caught 12 of 15 passes thrown his way. But passes to him averaged fewer than five yards each, and Egnew's third quarter was incredibly forgettable. First, he failed to come down with a fourth-and-3 pass from the Baylor 32 after the Bears had gone up 21-14. Then, he let this third-and-8 lob hit him in the helmet instead of the hands (he woefully mistimed his jump). Mizzou punted, and the defense stiffened again -- a Hamilton sack forced a missed 54-yard field goal attempt. Given renewed life, Lawrence ripped of a nice run, and Egnew fumbled. Two plays later, Ganaway ran through 17 arm tackles in his 38-yard touchdown run, and Baylor had the double-digit advantage they needed.
Mizzou kicked a field goal on their next drive and forced a punt, but with another chance to cut Baylor's lead to single digits with plenty of time left on the clock, a third-and-15 pass to Egnew also failed to find its mark. (It was third-and-long thanks to a creative but misguided option pass to Lawrence that resulted in a 10-yard loss.) Then Griffin found Reese past White for a 68-yarded, and that was (eventually) that. The track meet was on, and Mizzou couldn't quite catch back up.
|Player||Targets||Catches||Catch%||Target%||Rec. Yds.||Yds. Per
|Michael Egnew (TE)||15||12||80.0%||32.6%||69||4.6|
|Marcus Lucas (WR)||6||4||66.7%||13.0%||80||13.3|
|L'Damian Washington (WR)||6||4||66.7%||13.0%||52||8.7|
|Brandon Gerau (WR)||6||3||50.0%||13.0%||29||4.8|
|Wes Kemp (WR)||5||3||60.0%||10.9%||20||4.0|
|T.J. Moe (WR)||4||3||75.0%||8.7%||31||7.8|
|Jerrell Jackson (WR)||1||1||100.0%||2.2%||22||22.0|
|Henry Josey (RB)||1||1||100.0%||2.2%||11||11.0|
|Gahn McGaffie (WR)||1||1||100.0%||2.2%||7||7.0|
|Kendial Lawrence (RB)||1||1||100.0%||2.2%||4||4.0|
For the game, Mizzou's passing numbers were interesting and diverse, but a) that third-quarter drought was devastating, and b) once again, Mizzou's odd receiving corps made things awkward. When Mizzou was ahead or close, it made sense to keep players like Wes Kemp and a dinged-up Jerrell Jackson in the game for run-blocking purposes. But when they fell behind, James Franklin turned to Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington, and is normally the case when those two get involved, good things began to happen. It was too little, just barely too late, however.
Mizzou has now played five good-to-great teams on the road and lost four games, all by ten points or less (three by a touchdown or less). As has been the story all season, Mizzou was decent in many ways Saturday night, but Baylor was just a little bit better. The good news is, Mizzou's weaknesses are less likely to be as fully exacerbated by their remaining opponents -- Texas is strong but not as fast, Tech passes a lot but is more physical than athletic, and Kansas ... is Kansas. The bad news, of course, is that Mizzou still has weaknesses that can be exploited, and they still have two more likely bowl teams remaining on the schedule. There is work to be done, but Mizzou has shown just enough this year to suggest they can either win out, or at least become bowl eligible. (Especially if Texas Tech continues to lay the eggs they've laid the last two weeks.)
A Quick Glossary
F/+ Rankings: The official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.
Field Position %: The percentage of a team's plays run in their opponent's field position. National average: 43%.
Leverage Rate: A team's ratio of standard downs to passing downs. National average: 68%. Anything over 68% means a team did a good job of avoiding being leveraged into passing downs.
Passing Downs: Second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more.
PPP: An explosiveness measure derived from determining the point value of every yard line (based on the expected number of points an offense could expect to score from that yard line) and, therefore, every play of a given game. National average: 0.32.
S&P: Think of this as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rate. The 'P' stands for PPP, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. S&P is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter. For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders. National average: 0.747. Standard downs S&P average: 0.787. Passing downs S&P average: 0.636.
Standard Downs: First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less.
Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down. National Average: 42%.