Vandy 19, Mizzou 15: Beyond the box score

BIll Carter

It took some bad luck, some bad offense, and a couple of bombs to Chris Boyd for Mizzou to lose this game. But lose it, they did.

Here's one more look at this incredibly frustrating game.

We start with, as is now customary, a mini-Numerical.

66,250. Announced attendance. Granted, that was probably more "tickets sold" than "butts in seats," but still, with likely sellouts for Alabama and Homecoming against Kentucky, Mizzou will probably enter the final home game of the season with four sellouts and a per-game home attendance average of around 68,740. Last year: 62,095. Granted, this average will probably slip next year if Mizzou continues to plod through a frustrating season, but that's still a pretty number, isn't it?

101. From today's Numerical:

101.0. Missouri receiver Bud Sasser's average yards per catch versus Vanderbilt. In a game that saw Missouri quarterback James Franklin, and yet another offensive lineman, go down with another injury, the Tigers eventually fell, 19-15. But hey, at least Sasser got creative. He caught one pass for an 85-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and he recovered a fumbled Marcus Lucas reception and returned it for 16 yards, which goes into the box score as zero catches, 16 yards. Therefore, his official stat line read: 1 catch, 101 yards, long: 85. Unique.

83. Yards gained in three lobs to Vanderbilt's No. 2 receiver, Chris Boyd. Mizzou did a good job against Vandy's No. 1, Jordan Matthews (when E.J. Gaines is your cornerback, you tend to do well against No. 1's), who averaged just 7.0 yards per target, well below his season average. But Boyd destroyed Mizzou. His second reception was a 29-yarder that flipped the field on Vandy's first scoring drive, even before Sheldon Richardson's costly personal foul penalty. His third came soon after Mizzou had cut Vandy's lead to 16-15 with Bud Sasser's long touchdown; from the Mizzou 45, Jordan Rodgers evaded pressure and threw an absolutely perfect pass on the run. It was high enough that Boyd was able to outjump the shorter Braylon Webb at the Mizzou 5. Mizzou held Vandy to a field goal on that drive, but those three points ended up making an enormous difference, I would say.

56. James Franklin's completion percentage. He completed two of three passes to Marcus Lucas for 33 yards, two of three to Gahn McGaffie (all on third down) for 23 yards, and misfired twice to T.J. Moe and once to L'Damian Washington. Mizzou was not dominating through the air (including an incompletion from Moe on a trick play, Mizzou was only averaging 5.6 yards per pass attempt), but it got much, much worse in Franklin's absence. To those same four receivers, Corbin Berkstresser completed just six of 22 passes for 60 yards. He was 2-for-9 to Lucas, 0-for-4 to Washington and 4-for-9 to Moe and McGaffie. Vandy's secondary is quite strong, and Mizzou shouldn't have expected a great day through the air (particularly without its future ace-in-the-hole, Dorial Green-Beckham), but things got much, much worse when Franklin got hurt. And Berkstresser got absolutely no help from Lucas, who suffered between probably two and four drops of Berkstresser passes (and fumbled one that he did catch).

18. Number of plays it took Missouri to gain 123 yards with James Franklin at quarterback. In the first two drives, Franklin completed five of nine passes for 56 yards, ripped off a powerful, 23-yard run, and keyed quite a bit of ground game dominance. Mizzou had to settle for two field goals on those two drives (well, they didn't HAVE to -- they should have gone for it on fourth-and-1 on the first drive), but the offense was clicking. When Franklin was removed from the game, it took Mizzou another 42 plays to its next 123 yards.

6. Games finishing with 19-15 scores since 1978. Since 1996, there has been only one (Pitt 19, WVU 15 in 2008). So ... yeah. Like Bud Sasser's average, it was a unique aspect of what has been an incredibly unique (and not in a good way) season.

4. Box score categories to which Kip Edwards contributed. He logged 3.5 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, and he picked off one pass and broke up another. Edwards is still a little on the inconsistent side (to my eye, anyway), but he has had some pro-caliber games this season. He made an incredible break on a ball for an interception against Arizona State, and he was strong in both pass coverage and run support on Saturday. He broke up a pass intended for Jordan Matthews in the first quarter, he recorded two nice run stops on Vandy's first scoring drive (he combined with Matt White to stop Zac Stacy for one yard, then he brought down Josh Grady for a loss of one later on), and he combined with Donovan Bonner to stop Stacy for a loss of one in the third quarter. Nice game. When Boyd victimized Mizzou, it was against Gaines the first time (14-yarder), Ponder the second (29) and Webb the third (40). It was never Edwards.

2.4. Including one target that resulted in an incompletion, this is the average yards per touch for Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy on Saturday. As we'll see below, Mizzou's defensive line completely and totally dominated Vandy in the run game, and Stacy didn't get a chance to do much. Of course, he saved his best for last: In his final carry of the game, Stacy bounced outside, pulled off a hellacious stiff-arm and rushed for 13 yards and the game-clinching first down. Before that, his per-touch average was just 2.0.

Vanderbilt 19, Missouri 15

Missouri Vandy Missouri Vandy
Close % 100.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 41.3% 40.6% Success Rate 23.3% 33.3%
Leverage % 57.3% 60.9% PPP 0.14 0.24
S&P 0.375 0.575
TOTAL
EqPts 19.6 16.9 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 26.7% 30.4% Success Rate 31.3% 25.9%
Close PPP 0.26 0.24 PPP 0.42 0.25
Close S&P 0.528 0.549 S&P 0.734 0.509
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts 7.1 9.1 Number 1 1
Close Success Rate 35.3% 24.4% Turnover Pts 4.7 4.3
Close PPP 0.21 0.22 Turnover Pts Margin -0.4 +0.4
Close S&P 0.561 0.465
Line Yards/carry 2.79 1.45 Q1 S&P 0.538 0.182
Q2 S&P 0.198 0.588
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.478 0.390
EqPts 12.5 7.8 Q4 S&P 1.009 0.834
Close Success Rate 19.5% 39.3%
Close PPP 0.31 0.28 1st Down S&P 0.379 0.563
Close S&P 0.501 0.673 2nd Down S&P 0.540 0.440
SD/PD Sack Rate 5.3% / 0.0% 16.7% / 0.0% 3rd Down S&P 0.825 0.722
Projected Pt. Margin: Mizzou +2.3 | Actual Pt. Margin: Vanderbilt +4

In The Absence Of Many Big Plays...

...the game turns into an efficiency battle. Mizzou logged five plays of more than 20 yards, and Vandy logged four, but neither team's PPP averages were very good at all. Mizzou was quite a bit more efficient on the ground despite James Franklin's absence, but Vandy made up for it by not being horrifically inefficient through the air. Since Mizzou could often be described as a "pass to set up the run" offense (for better or worse), a 20 percent success rate in the passing game leads to a pretty awful standard downs success rate, too. Mizzou actually outplayed Vandy significantly on passing downs (and it started when Franklin was still in the game -- Mizzou converted a 3rd-and-10, a 2nd-and-8 and a 2nd-and-9 in the first two drives), but an inability to stay out of passing downs will eventually catch up with you, especially when your line is improving but is still only average at handling passing downs pass rushes.

The Offensive Line Is Improving ... Now Knock It Off With The Injuries

Though Corbin Berkstresser got pressured severely on his final four passes of the night, he was still only sacked once. Meanwhile, Mizzou averaged a rather solid 2.79 line yards per carry. There are certainly signs of improvement here. The major problem at this point: consistency, in both the unit's output and makeup. The consistency of output will come with experience; the makeup needs some help from the Injury Bug.

Whereas a team typically gets away with perhaps two or three different starting lineups on the line in a given season* (at least if the line is good enough to not be shuffling around for competent pieces), or even as few as one, this coming Saturday will see Mizzou's fifth starting line in seven games. Mizzou started Fisher-Boehm-Morse-Copeland-Britt for the first two games, Britt-Boehm-McNulty-Copeland-Morse for the third, Britt-Boehm-Morse-Copeland-Meiners for the fourth and fifth, and Fisher-Boehm-Morse-Meiners-Britt for the sixth. As it currently stands, they will start Fisher-Boehm-McNulty-Copeland-Britt for the seventh. That is just too much. Your improvement is capped when you can't ever keep the same five guys on the field.

* Before an SEC'er tries to tell you that injuries are more common in the SEC thanks to The Grind™, realize this: at the end of last season, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee each had only six offensive linemen on the roster with at least one career start. Florida and Mississippi State had seven. Auburn had, by my count, FIVE. Mizzou has produced seven in six games this year. And it could have been even worse: Mizzou has at least been a bit lucky in the timing of Elvis Fisher's and Jack Meiners' respective returns. Meiners came back just in time to replace Fisher in the starting lineup, and Fisher came back just in time to account somewhat for Morse and Meiners.

Mizzou Targets And Catches

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Target
Marcus Lucas (WR) 12 4 33.3% 30.0% 54 4.5
Gahn McGaffie (WR) 7 5 71.4% 17.5% 32 4.6
T.J. Moe (WR) 7 2 28.6% 17.5% 30 4.3
L'Damian Washington (WR) 5 0 0.0% 12.5% 0 0.0
Bud Sasser (WR) 2 1 50.0% 5.0% 101 50.5
Jaleel Clark (WR) 2 1 50.5% 5.0% 6 3.0
Jimmie Hunt (WR) 1 1 100.0% 2.5% 22 22.0
N/A 4 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 40 14 35.0% 100.0% 245 6.1
TOTAL (WR) 36 14 38.9% 90.0% 245 6.8
TOTAL (RB) 0 0 N/A 0.0% 0 0.0
TOTAL (TE) 0 0 N/A 0.0% 0 0.0

Against Arizona State, Corbin Berkstresser threw all but two passes to wide receivers. Against Vandy, he threw all of his passes to wide receivers. Obviously tight ends really aren't involved in the passing game this year (and when the tight end position is involved, it's being filled by a wideout like Dorial Green-Beckham or Bud Sasser), but after a series of successful checkdowns against UCF, running backs were not at all involved against Vandy. Part of this was due to the fact that Kendial Lawrence spent a lot more time in pass protection, and part is probably due to Marcus Murphy's injury. But initial evidence suggests that, perhaps predictably (he is a redshirt freshman, after all), Berkstresser is not yet remarkable at going through his reads. He has the tendency to lock onto one option, and while that hasn't backfired much on him yet in terms of interceptions ... let's see if we're still saying that after this coming Saturday.

(By the way, after looking at how Gahn McGaffie was used early in Saturday's game -- as the resident third-down specialist -- I've almost come to the conclusion that he is Missouri's pass-catching tight end.)

Vandy Targets And Catches

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Target
Jordan Matthews (WR) 13 9 69.2% 50.0% 91 7.0
Chris Boyd (WR) 3 3 100.0% 11.5% 83 27.7
Kris Kentera (TE) 2 1 50.0% 7.7% 4 2.0
Jordan Rodgers (QB) 1 1 100.0% 3.8% 24 24.0
Jonathan Krause (WR) 1 1 100.0% 3.8% 4 4.0
Zac Stacy (RB) 1 0 0.0% 3.8% 0 0.0
Wesley Tate (RB) 1 0 0.0% 3.8% 0 0.0
N/A 4 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 26 15 57.7% 100.0% 206 7.9
TOTAL (WR) 17 13 76.5% 65.4% 178 10.5
TOTAL (RB) 2 0 0.0% 7.7% 0 0.0
TOTAL (TE) 2 1 50.0% 7.7% 4 2.0

Without Chris Boyd, Vandy's per-pass average was a paltry 5.3 yards despite a series of trick plays designed to catch Mizzou's pass defense off-guard. But Boyd made a simply enormous difference in this game, and Vandy did a nice job of making sure that he was isolated deep against a shorter defensive back.

Summary

What stinks the most about this game is that, with a likely whipping coming this Saturday (anything is possible, as we will discuss later this week, but still ... odds favor a whipping) and a bye the next, we are guaranteed of two more weeks of negativity stemming from this unlikely loss. It took not only a James Franklin injury, but a first-quarter James Franklin injury for Mizzou to lose this game (if he gets hurt in, say, the third quarter, it is quite conceivable that Mizzou is playing with a solid lead), but the Tigers did indeed lose it. Mizzou's service has been broken, so to speak, and now we probably have to wait until November to see if Mizzou can break back in road games against Florida, Tennessee or Texas A&M.

In my best efforts to not immediately turn the page to the 2013 season, I can certainly find some evidence that this is still a pretty good team. The offensive line is coming along, even if Morse's absence (and the fact that Alabama is up next) will likely lead to another iffy performance this weekend. Kendial Lawrence is awesome, and Marcus Murphy is coming back. The defensive line is downright fantastic. The linebackers are strong. (Mizzou is in no way getting "pushed around" by SEC offenses, though I see that meme is still getting pursued thanks to the inability of Mizzou's second-string OL to gain a lot of ground on SEC defenses' first-string lines. Just prepare yourself now if you are forced to watch this game on television: If you don't hate CBS' Gary Danielson at the beginning of the game, you will by the end.) The secondary still makes me nervous, but it is at least solid.

There is a lot to like. But obviously that won't result in a bowl bid unless Mizzou can pull a November upset. Until then, we just keep on keepin' on, I guess...

----------

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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