Mizzou 24, Arizona State 20: Beyond The Box Score

Photos via Bill Carter.

As always, we turn the page on last week's game with all the stats you can stand. (And as always, it is a day later than I intended.) And as always, a) there is a glossary at the bottom, and b) if you don't care about the numbers, skip to the words.

But first ... a mini-Numerical! This week's Numerical at SB Nation contained the following tidbit. I'll add to it below.

-99. Wyoming's yardage margin in a 24-22 loss to Cal Poly. Without starting quarterback Brett Smith, the Cowboys' offense was directionless, gaining just 4.2 yards per play behind quarterback Colby Kirkegaard. Meanwhile, Missouri gained just 3.6 yards per play against Arizona State behind new (and temporary) starter Corbin Berkstresser, but they won, 24-20, thanks to turnovers, defense, and a split of miserable special teams plays. Oklahoma State, of course, fared a little better with its backup. After Wes Lunt left the game with an injury, J.W. Walsh averaged 11.6 yards per pass and 12.2 yards per carry in a 65-24 win over UL-Lafayette. OSU gained 742 yards, more than Wyoming and Missouri combined.

4.3. Average yards per pass attempt for Corbin Berkstresser in his first career start. He completed 21 of 41 passes for 198 yards and a pick, and he was sacked twice for 11 yards. This is a pretty dreadful per-attempt average, but it is difficult to fault him too much. He was pressured repeatedly, and if he had time on just two passes, his passing line would have gone from poor to downright solid. On first-and-10 from the Mizzou 7, with 11:53 left in the third quarter, L'Damian Washington was semi-open, sprinting down the right hash with a lot of room available for an over-the-right-shoulder throw. But under pressure, Berkstresser had to throw it before Washington was ready, and L'DW couldn't locate the ball in time. That play would have been good for about 35-40 yards. Then, on first-and-10 from the ASU 49 with under 10 minutes remaining in the game, an absolutely perfect play-call left Washington wide open in the secondary. With another instant to step into the pass, Berkstresser could have completed his easiest pass of the night, and it would have gone for a 49-yard touchdown. Instead, he went 2-for-5 for 33 yards on the rest of the drive, and Mizzou missed its third field goal of the night. Complete those two passes, and Berkstresser's per-attempt average jumps directly into the mid-6's to low-7's.

5.5. Tackles for loss made by Mizzou defensive linemen. Sheldon Richardson had 1.5 TFLs and 0.5 sacks (and was second on the team with 7.5 total tackles). Michael Sam had 1.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks. Kony Ealy had 1.5 TFLs and 0.5 sacks. Brad Madison's lone tackle was for a two-yard loss. The defensive line was dominant, though MIzzou's secondary had plenty of plays, as well: E.J. Gaines, Kip Edwards, Randy Ponder, Braylon Webb and Kenronte Walker combined for 3.0 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and three passes broken up. Walker saved his for the end: he broke up a fourth-and-goal pass with 3:36 remaining, then picked off Taylor Kelly's final pass with 0:38 left.

5.6. Points a team can expect to score, on average, when they reach their opponent's 1-yard line. Arizona State did so with under five minutes left in the game, came away with zero points, and lost by four.

10. Mizzou penalties, two of which went for 30 yards on ASU's second-to-last possession of the game. Mizzou is currently 104th in the nation, averaging 74.0 yards of penalties per game. A lot of these are of the aggressiveness variety (those are typically forgivable, as they usually result in enough aggressive, legal play to offset the penalties), but not all of them are.

14.6. Missouri's turnover points margin. Mizzou committed one turnover worth 4.8 equivalent points (Corbin Berkstresser's red zone interception), but ASU committed four worth 19.4. Turnovers and near-misses in the ASU passing game helped stake Mizzou to leads of 17-0 and 24-7 ... and the Tigers needed every single one of those turnovers to pull off the win.

21. Yards gained in five touches by Dorial Green-Beckham. I'll admit it: I really am surprised that Mizzou isn't looking to DGB a little more at this point in the season, but one also has to admit that Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington (combined in 2012: 38 targets, 20 catches, 301 yards, 7.9 yards per target) are doing alright in the deep and intermediate routes. Washington has been particularly impressive on passing downs: 11 targets, six catches, 136 yards (12.4 per target). DGB's time will come. And when it does, I hope Mizzou's quarterback of choice actually has enough time to throw good passes.

28. T.J. Moe's career receptions of 20 yards or more (via Mizzou historian Tom Orf). He is sixth all-time at Missouri in this category, one behind Jeremy Maclin for fifth, three behind Will Franklin for fourth, seven behind Victor Bailey for third, nine behind Danario Alexander for second, and 14 behind Justin Gage for first. I assume he will end up a pretty easy fourth, though catching Bailey will be a bit of a challenge.

45.5. Missouri's third-down conversion rate (10-for-22). This trumped ASU's (2-for-12, or 16.7%) by quite a wide margin. As we'll see after the jump, that is primarily because Mizzou had a much better success rate on passing downs than ASU did. Mizzou was also actually able to run the ball at least a little bit; ASU very much was not.

77. Average starting field position (i.e. the ASU 23-yard line) of Mizzou's three touchdown drives. This offense is in bad, bad shape, but defense, special teams and some spectacular field position helped to move Mizzou to 2-1. Of course, you could also say that defense, special teams and some spectacular field position allowed ASU to almost come back. Average starting field position of ASU's final four drives (two touchdowns, two red zone stands): 53.8.

Missouri 24, Arizona State 20

ASU Missouri ASU Missouri
Close % 98.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 42.2% 47.7% Success Rate 46.5% 39.3%
Leverage % 67.2% 63.6% PPP 0.27 0.24
S&P 0.737 0.631
TOTAL
EqPts 16.3 19.6 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 36.1% 35.2% Success Rate 19.1% 28.1%
Close PPP 0.23 0.22 PPP 0.22 0.20
Close S&P 0.586 0.575 S&P 0.411 0.479
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts 7.1 11.8 Number 4 1
Close Success Rate 34.4% 38.6% Turnover Pts 19.4 4.8
Close PPP 0.18 0.27 Turnover Pts Margin -14.6 +14.6
Close S&P 0.522 0.654
Line Yards/carry 2.47 2.40 Q1 S&P 0.233 0.464
Q2 S&P 0.717 0.658
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.570 0.731
EqPts 9.2 7.9 Q4 S&P 0.902 0.448
Close Success Rate 37.9% 31.8%
Close PPP 0.28 0.18 1st Down S&P 0.791 0.519
Close S&P 0.656 0.497 2nd Down S&P 0.611 0.476
SD/PD Sack Rate 0.0% / 20.0% 4.4% / 4.8% 3rd Down S&P 0.244 0.822
Projected Pt. Margin: Missouri +17.9 | Actual Pt. Margin: Missouri +4

A week ago, Georgia was just a little bit better on standard downs (0.716 S&P to 0.668) and a little bit better on passing downs (0.633 S&P to 0.514), and when combined with turnover differential (plus-7.7 turnover points), it made all the difference in the world. This week, Mizzou basically fought ASU to a statistical draw, but between turnovers and better success on third downs, they won.

How's The Line?

As against Georgia, Mizzou's patchwork offensive line did not do a terrible job of protecting its quarterback, at least as it pertains to the actual number of sacks registered by Arizona State. A sub-5% sack rate certainly isn't a disaster. Of course, the only reason the rate was that low was because Corbin Berkstresser was either throwing short passes or throwing long passes a lot earlier than he wanted to. Both James Franklin and Berkstresser do a strong job of getting rid of the ball, even if they are not completing passes. That keeps the sack rate down, but it does nothing for the offense, which is still a half-disaster.

As for run-blocking ... last week, I listed out Mizzou's performance in Line Yards per Carry for every game since the start of 2010. Mizzou's 1.09/carry average was by far its worst in that time frame. Well, against an ASU defense that had struggled to stop Illinois' one-dimensional ground game a week earlier, Mizzou averaged 2.40 line yards per carry ... which would tie it for the sixth-worst performance of this now 29-game sample. Improvement? Technically, yeah. Still far too poor? Absolutely.

The good news, of course, is that the line will improve. There is such a strong correlation between experience and improvement, and with every progressive game, Mizzou will get a little more experienced.

  • Starting Offensive Line vs. SE Louisiana: 53 career starts (Elvis Fisher 40, Justin Britt 13, Mitch Morse 0, Max Copeland 0, Evan Boehm 0).
  • Starting Offensive Line vs. Georgia (beginning): 58 career starts (Fisher 41, Britt 14, Morse 1, Copeland 1, Boehm 1)
  • Starting Offensive Line vs. Georgia (end): 17 career starts (Britt 14, Morse 1, Copeland 1, Boehm 1, Brad McNulty 0)
  • Starting Offensive Line vs. Arizona State: 21 career starts (Britt 15, Morse 2, Copeland 2, Boehm 2, McNulty 0)
  • Projected Starting Offensive Line vs. South Carolina: 31 career starts (Britt 16, Jack Meiners 6, Morse 3, Copeland 3, Boehm 3)
  • Projected Starting Offensive Line vs. Central Florida: 36 career starts

Et cetera. Obviously the Injury Bug could decide to strike again at any moment, but in theory Mizzou could begin to reap rewards from the "Injuries hurt in the present tense and help in the future tense" law reasonably soon. A little continuity could go a long way, as well. The South Carolina game will see Mizzou's third line arrangement in four games, and none of the arrangements will be the one we expected to see in August.

Mizzou Targets And Catches

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Target
T.J. Moe 14 8 57.1% 34.1% 88 6.3
L'Damian Washington 9 3 33.3% 22.0% 34 3.8
Marcus Lucas 8 4 50.0% 19.5% 35 4.4
Gahn McGaffie 5 4 80.0% 12.2% 25 5.0
Kendial Lawrence 1 1 100.0% 2.4% 14 14.0
Dorial Green-Beckham 1 1 100.0% 2.4% 2 2.0
Eric Waters 1 0 0.0% 2.4% 0 0.0
Jaleel Clark 1 0 0.0% 2.4% 0 0.0
N/A 1 0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 41 21 51.2% 100.0% 198 4.8
TOTAL (WR) 38 20 52.6% 92.7% 184 4.8
TOTAL (RB) 1 1 100.0% 2.4% 14 14.0
TOTAL (TE) 1 0 0.0% 2.4% 0 0.0

Some thoughts:

  • Rushed throws did L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas no favors (a horrific pass interference no-call also did Washington no favors), but they still came up big at times. Lucas made an incredible through-his-defender catch in the first half, and Washington made a huge third-down catch that, if not for the pass interference no-call later in the drive, might have set up the game-clinching score. And, as mentioned above, pass protection cost Washington two catches and probably about 90 receiving yards.
  • This is not at all the pass distribution I expected to see by the third game of the season. I guess it's not that far off -- one had to figure that Moe, Washington and Lucas would be Nos. 1-3 in some order -- but I did not expect the Top 3 to be targeted quite that much (three-quarters of Berkstresser's passes went to them), and I didn't expect Jaleel Clark to be targeted as many times as DGB. (And yes, DGB also carried the ball four times.) You can do all the preseason analysis and overthinking in the world, and one quarter of the way through the season, the reality you thought would exist, doesn't even slightly exist.
  • Earlier in the week, someone on RMN made a very good point: We saw a lot of the second-stringers on the field at given times on Saturday. Jaleel Clark, for instance, saw the field a ton. He barely ever saw the ball (his one target was, like others, rushed and not particularly well-thrown because of pass pressure), but he was on the field as much or more than DGB. This very well could have been because the coaches were attempting to provide Berkstresser as much familiarity as possible. It didn't necessarily reflect in the targets themselves, but it was interesting.
  • According to the official play-by-play, Brandon Holifield was the intended target of Berkstresser's first incompletion. I am almost positive this is incorrect. I pulled up ESPN3 to find out who actually was the target, but ESPN3 picks up the game five minutes in. I applied that INC to Moe (my shady memory tells me that's the most likely guess), but that is far from certain.

Arizona Targets And Catches

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Target
Chris Coyle (TE) 5 5 100.0% 18.5% 43 8.6
Jamal Miles (WR) 5 4 80.0% 18.5% 25 5.0
Rashad Ross (WR) 5 1 20.0% 18.5% 16 3.2
Kevin Ozier (WR) 4 3 75.0% 14.8% 21 5.3
Marion Grice (RB) 2 2 100.0% 7.4% 45 22.5
D.J. Foster (RB) 2 1 50.0% 7.4% 33 16.5
Richard Smith (WR) 1 0 0.0% 3.7% 0 0.0
N/A 3 0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 27 16 59.3% 100.0% 183 6.8
TOTAL (WR) 15 8 53.3% 55.6% 62 4.1
TOTAL (RB) 4 3 75.0% 14.8% 78 19.5
TOTAL (TE) 5 5 100.0% 18.5% 43 8.6
  • Earlier this week, I had a bit of a back-and-forth with our Rutgers blogger about the Scarlet Knights' deep target Brandon Coleman. His catch rate for the season is absolutely horrid (6-for-21, 29%), but he "stretches the field," and he averages about 20 yards per catch. There is abstract value in having a guy who can stretch the field, but you probably have to be able to reel in balls at a higher rate than that to be truly effective. He's only averaging 5.6 yards per target, which is poor, so whatever value he provides is more abstract than concrete. The same could be said for ASU's Rashad Ross. His cach rate for the season is now 16.7%, but he's averaging 33 yards per catch. Against MU, he almost had a couple of different long catches but couldn't reel them in. There is value there (among other things, the threat of Ross going deep opens up the underneath options for Chris Coyle), but how much? Passes to players other than Ross went 15 for 22 for 167 yards, but Ross was unproductive. Not that I'm complaining.
  • A week after Coyle ate Illinois alive with short catch-and-run after short catch-and-run (11 targets, 10 catches, 131 yards, two touchdowns), Mizzou did a solid job of only allowing Kelly to find him five times and bringing him down quickly when the two connected. Coyle did make a nice catch of a duck from Kelly on ASU's second-to-last drive, but his four other catches had minimal impact. And Mizzou swallowed him up on fourth-and-goal of that same drive; he was clearly the No. 1 option on the play, and he was very much not open.
  • Marion Grice caught probably the two biggest passes of the game for ASU. ASU constantly had Taylor Kelly roll right, either because it was away from Kony Ealy or because he seems to actually throw better rolling right than standing in the pocket. On both of these catches, Kelly was able to escape a pass rush and buy just enough time for Grice to squirm open downfield. He caught an 11-yard pass on third-and-10 to set up ASU's first fourth-quarter touchdown, and he made a diving, 34-yard catch of a Kelly lob on third-and-10 on the next drive, which set up the score that made it 24-20. For the game, Kelly was 2-for-6 on third-and-longs with an interception and three sacks (Mizzou was truly fantastic on passing downs), but these two completions were enough to get ASU back in the game.

Summary

There are no apologies for a win when are in such poor shape from an injuries perspective. Mizzou beat a good team with a backup quarterback, a backup running back (technically, if we're still counting Henry Josey as the starter), three backup offensive linemen and a backup linebacker. No. Apologies.

And now we turn the page. I honestly can't see how Mizzou can beat a Top 10 team on the road with such an iffy line, but this defense might give them a shot, especially if Zaviar Gooden indeed returns.

-----

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%.

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