Arizona State Beats Missouri: Beyond The Box Score

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09: General view of action as wide receiver Kyle Middlebrooks #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils returns the opening kick off from the Missouri Tigers during the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 9, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As one would expect, there was a lot to like and a lot to dislike about this one.

Arizona State 37, Missouri 30

ASU Missouri ASU Missouri
Close % 100.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 42.2% 53.2% Success Rate 59.6% 39.2%
Leverage % 73.4% 64.6% PPP 0.57 0.31
S&P 1.162 0.699
TOTAL
EqPts 33.2 28.9 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 53.1% 38.0% Success Rate 35.3% 35.7%
Close PPP 0.52 0.37 PPP 0.39 0.47
Close S&P 1.050 0.745 S&P 0.741 0.830
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts 6.6 9.9 Number 1 0
Close Success Rate 50.0% 42.9% Turnover Pts 4.8 0.0
Close PPP 0.22 0.28 Turnover Pts Margin -4.8 +4.8
Close S&P 0.721 0.710
Line Yards/carry 2.61 2.98 Q1 S&P 1.183 0.832
Q2 S&P 1.032 0.674
PASSING Q3 S&P 1.083 0.723
EqPts 26.6 19.0 Q4 S&P 0.746 0.902
Close Success Rate 55.9% 34.1%
Close PPP 0.78 0.43 1st Down S&P 1.113 0.706
Close S&P 1.340 0.773 2nd Down S&P 1.161 0.824
SD/PD Sack Rate 4.6% / 0.0% 8.3% / 0.0% 3rd Down S&P 0.549 0.597
Projected Pt. Margin: Missouri +0.5 | Actual Pt. Margin: Arizona State +7

Like: James Franklin

He took some good hits and looked none the worst for wear, and despite still showing his inexperience at times ... boy, he looked good as a whole, didn't he? Never mind the glitches, never mind all the "Dislikes" below: Franklin completed 62% of his passes and engineered a two-touchdown comeback, in the fourth quarter, on the road, against a team that very well might end up in the Pac-12 title game. Stripping aside all other context, that's pretty damn impressive.

Dislike: Standard Downs Defense

Arizona State had an excellent scheme, pulling off multiple fakes with each snap and preventing Mizzou from confidently attacking a given play. That said ... Arizona State doesn't end up with a 1.162 S&P on Standard Downs against everybody, and they didn't change their scheme just for Missouri. Meanwhile, Mizzou attempted to confuse ASU by disguising their coverages on defense, and they really only ended up confusing themselves.

A 60% success rate on standard downs is far too high, though it makes Mizzou's near-comeback all the more impressive. ASU was able to do whatever they wanted to on those downs, and though Mizzou did relatively well in shutting drives down once they reached passing downs status, they didn't force enough passing downs.

Like: Passing Downs Offense

(I could have also put this as "Dislike: Standard Downs Offense.")

I've long considered standard downs the "play-calling downs" or the "game-planning downs." Meanwhile, passing downs are the "play-maker downs." Just hope that somebody talented can make a play and get you back on schedule. It makes sense, then, that Mizzou's standard downs offense isn't very good right now. Mizzou is not only breaking in a new quarterback -- one who differs significantly from the last one in terms of strengths and weaknesses -- but they are doing so while missing their No. 2 receiver, their starting left tackle, their starting center, and three of their four strong running backs. Hard to gameplan when your personnel changes from heartbeat to heartbeat.

For Mizzou to succeed through all of this ridiculous transition, they're going to need some play-makers to, quite simply, make plays. They did just that on Friday night, producing a much better S&P on passing downs (0.830) than on standard downs (0.699). For one reason or another, this was always a weakness for a Blaine Gabbert offense, but it wasn't last week.

  • Drive No. 2: James Franklin rushes for 18 yards on 2nd-and-10.
  • Drive No. 2: Franklin passes to Michael Egnew for 14 yards on 2nd-and-16.
  • Drive No. 3: Franklin rushes for 22 yards on 3rd-and-14.
  • Drive No. 3: Franklin passes to T.J. Moe for 20 yards on 2nd-and-8.
  • Drive No. 3: Franklin passes to Marcus Lucas for 21 yards on 2nd-and-15.
  • Drive No. 5: Henry Josey rushes for 24 yards on 2nd-and-13.
  • Drive No. 6: Franklin passes to Lucas for 8 yards on 2nd-and-8.
  • Drive No. 7: Franklin passes to Wes Kemp for 18 yards on 2nd-and-10.
  • Drive No. 7: Franklin passes to Kemp for 11 yards on 3rd-and-10.
  • Drive No. 10: Lucas draws a pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-15.
  • Drive No. 11: Franklin passes to Lucas for 49 yards on 3rd-and-14.

Three of Lucas' four catches came on these downs, but we'll come back to him.

Dislike: Short Yardage

The following tidbit comes from Tidbit King Tom Orf:

Mizzou on 4th-and-2 or Less
1-30 Yard Line 31-49 Yard Line
Run Pass FG Run Pass Punt
2011 3-3 1-1
2010 0-2 2-3 2-2 1-2 3
2009 1-2 1-2 3-3 1-2 2-2
2008 1-2 1-1 2-2 1-2
2007 4-4 2-2 1-2 2
2006 2-3 1-2 1-1 2-2 2
2005 4-4 0-1 2-3 2-2 1
2004 4-4 4-4 1-1 1-1 1
2003 10-13 0-1 1-1 3-3 1-2 2
2002 5-7 0-1 2-4 1-3 1
2001 0-1 1-2 1-3 1-1 1

So on fourth-and-2 or less, inside the opponent's 30, Mizzou went for it 83% of the time in 2006, 67% of the time in 2007, 60% of the time in 2008, 57% of the time in 2009, 40% of the time in 2010 and, thus far, 0% of the time in 2011. Because of some combination of distrust of the offensive line, distrust of the quarterback and trust in the defense, Mizzou is taking FAR fewer chances in short-yardage situations; I approve of the need to be a bit more conservative, but this is almost too conservative.

As we heard Rod Gilmore say approximately 26 times (only 474 fewer times than we heard Joe Tessitore tell us that Brock Osweiler was 6-foot-8), the spread offense is not naturally inclined to dominate at the goal line. But Mizzou has a solid overall track record in this regard, especially in the more pass-happy Chase Daniel years (6-for-7 passing inside the 30 on 4th-and-2 or less from 2006-08). Right now, it appears the confidence in the personnel is lacking, and hopefully both improved health and increased experience change that as the season progresses.

Like: The Offensive Line

The Missouri offensive line currently includes a backup guard at left tackle and a starting guard at center. In missing Elvis Fisher and Travis Ruth, you have to take the good with the bad here. And to be sure, there was some bad to go around, namely some atrocious early-game shotgun snaps and three penalties for 25 yards (a chop block by Justin Britt and a false start and illegal block by an unspecified lineman). But there was quite a bit to like, too.

For starters, three penalties is an improvement over the previous week. So there's that.

More importantly, the line averaged 2.98 line yards per rush attempt, not a wonderful total, but a stable one. Plus, against an Arizona State defense that feasts on passing downs, they allowed no sacks and gave Franklin enough time to find some targets downfield. This was huge. The Mizzou line is not yet as good as we dreamed it might be with Fisher, Ruth and company, but it took a significant, size-18 step forward.

Dislike: The Pass Rush

Again, the motion and fakes seemed to sap Mizzou's aggression a bit, but they also seemed to voluntarily keep the foot off the accelerator as well. The Tigers managed to chop down Osweiler just once all night, though it did come at a key time: 2nd-and-3 for ASU right after Mizzou had tied the game at 30-30. It helped to force the punt that set up Grant Ressel's ill-fated attempt at the game-winning field goal. Granted, they did not face that many sack opportunities (i.e. passing downs), but they didn't take advantage of the ones they had either. It does not surprise me, then, that there was a bit of a shuffle on the depth chart: Michael Sam will now start in Jacquies Smith's absence instead of Brayden Burnett.

Like: Marcus Lucas

He came through big-time. Sure, it would have been great if he had one extra step in him to outrun defenders to the end zone (he was stopped at the 1 on his 22-yarder and at the 2 on his 49-yarder), but he is a big, physical presence, and he asserted himself in the desert. He caught three passes for 78 yards (and drew a pass interference penalty for 15 more yards) on passing downs, and he caught another nine-yarder (and both drew and committed other pass interference penalties) as well. The six passes targeting him averaged 14.5 yards a pop, almost as high an average as the averages of Wes Kemp, T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew combined.

Mizzou Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
Wes Kemp (WR) 9 5 55.6% 21.4% 43 4.8
T.J. Moe (WR) 8 6 75.0% 19.0% 48 6.0
Michael Egnew (TE) 7 3 42.9% 16.7% 27 3.9
Marcus Lucas (WR) 6 4 66.7% 14.3% 87 14.5
Brandon Gerau (WR) 5 2 40.0% 11.9% 16 3.2
L'Damian Washington (WR) 4 3 75.0% 9.5% 39 9.8
Henry Josey (RB) 2 2 100.0% 4.8% 51 25.5
Jared Culver (RB) 1 1 100.0% 2.4% 8 8.0
TOTAL 42 26 61.9% 100.0% 319 7.6
TOTAL (WR) 32 20 62.5% 76.2% 241 7.5
TOTAL (RB) 3 3 100.0% 7.1% 51 17.0
TOTAL (TE) 7 3 42.9% 16.7% 27 3.9

Other thoughts:

  • Michael Egnew has had a dreadful first two games of the season: 11 targets, 5 catches, 39 yards.
  • Juniors and seniors receivers (Kemp, Moe, Egnew, Gerau): 29 targets, 16 catches, 134 yards (4.6 per target)
    Sophomore receivers (Lucas, Washington)
    : 10 targets, 7 catches, 126 yards (12.6 per target).
  • Good things are ahead.
  • Regression toward the mean just wrecked Brandon Gerau. He isn't nearly as explosive as last year's numbers suggest, and Friday's numbers adjusted his averages pretty far in the other direction.

Dislike: The Secondary

Evidently there were some communication issues for the Mizzou secondary as they attempted to disguise their coverages. To be sure, the defense improved significantly late in the game ... but not quickly enough to stop Aaron Pflugrad from destroying them.

ASU Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
Aaron Pflugrad (WR) 8 8 100.0% 24.2% 180 22.5
Jamal Miles (WR) 8 6 75.0% 24.2% 50 6.3
Gerell Robinson (WR) 4 2 50.0% 12.1% 66 16.5
Mike Willie (WR) 4 2 50.0% 12.1% 22 5.5
Cameron Marshall (RB) 3 2 66.7% 9.1% 21 7.0
Kyle Middlebrooks (WR) 2 2 100.0% 6.1% 12 6.0
George Bell (WR) 2 2 100.0% 6.1% 12 6.0
Chris Coyle (WR) 1 1 100.0% 3.0% 25 25.0
N/A 1 0 0.0% 3.0% 0 N/A
TOTAL 33 25 75.8% 100.0% 388 11.8
TOTAL (WR) 30 23 76.7% 90.9% 367 12.2
TOTAL (RB) 3 2 66.7% 9.1% 21 7.0
TOTAL (TE) 0 0 N/A 0.0% 0 N/A

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm not sure I've ever seen a cornerback with an odder ratio of cover skills to ball skills as E.J. Gaines.

Summary

Losses suck. They just do. But non-conference losses to good teams (on the road, no less) only tend to matter if you are aiming for the national title. That probably wasn't in Mizzou's plans this year, and in the end, this post would have had the same likes and dislikes even if Ressel had made the 48-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Mizzou moves forward having shown significant improvement in some areas (offense) and regression opportunities for improvement in others (defense). They probably aren't going to beat Oklahoma in two weeks, and they will almost certainly be 2-2 when they head to Manhattan after a bye week on October 8. But what they showed Friday night suggests both that they should be well-equipped to handle the Big 12 gauntlet, and that the future is still bright in Columbia

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