Mizzou 33, Kentucky 10: Beyond the box score

Bill Carter

Quick glossary (complete with national averages) at the bottom of the post.

2. Additional wins Mizzou needs for bowl eligibility. This win brought with it a small dose of positivity (at least, at this site ... not so much at others), and it brought Mizzou to within two games of 6-6. Despite the goals we may have professed at the beginning of the season, that is the only achievement-related goal remaining.

3.4. Yards per carry averaged by Kentucky's running backs after the first two drives. I mentioned last week that Kentucky's run game is actually pretty solid. Backs Raymond Sanders, Jonathan George and Dyshawn Mobley are all shifty, interesting backs, and the Kentucky O-line is absolutely enormous. In the first two drives of the game, Kentucky backs rushed nine times for 59 yards (6.6 per carry). But while Kentucky fans and writers mourned the fact that the Wildcats switched quarterbacks after the second drive (apparently the plan all along was to get freshman Patrick Towles some reps, and he was incredibly ineffective) and killed momentum, the fact is that even when UK went back to the run after Drive No. 3, it didn't work. Kentucky backs rushed 16 more times and gained just 54 yards. The pass never worked, but the run stopped working pretty early on, too.

3.5. Tackles for loss logged by Will Ebner. That's almost as many as Kentucky's entire team (four).

8.0. Value, in equivalent points, of Sheldon Richardson's strip-and-run fumble recovery in the first quarter. I have long discussed the point value of turnovers and how not every turnover is created equal. For instance, long interception (an "arm punt," if you will) is of little value because the offense's starting field position probably wasn't great, and the resulting field position for the opposition also probably isn't that great. But on the flipside, you've got the "Pig Brown versus Illinois" turnovers, the ones that not only prevent a score but set one up, too. Richardson's single-handed turnover on Kentucky's drive was enormous, both because of the Kentucky points it prevented and because of the Missouri points it set up. "Points off of turnover" is an incredibly overrated statistic, but Richardson's fumble return had an impact on both sides of the scoreboard.

31.3. Mizzou's completion percentage on passes that didn't target Dorial Green-Beckham or Gahn McGaffie. The two combined to catch all 11 passes thrown their way. Ten of those were pretty easy; the 11th was the wounded duck of a lob that Berkstresser threw at McGaffie on Mizzou's second drive (actually, he threw it at a Kentucky defender). McGaffie had no business even breaking up the interception, much less catching it himself. Regardless, Mizzou completed only five of 16 passes to players other than DGB or McGaffie. Passes to T.J. Moe, Marcus Lucas and Bud Sasser went 1-for-10. That's horrendous, and aside from Lucas' drop, that wasn't really the fault of Moe, Lucas and Sasser, either. Moe was dealing with slants thrown behind him and wide-open touchdowns that were overthrown. Sasser had no chance on either of two interceptions targeting him (loosely).

32. Solo tackles made by Sheldon Richardson so far in 2012. According to Mizzou historian Tom Orf, this is already the most by a Mizzou defensive tackle since 2004, when Atiyyah Ellison had 30. Both Ellison and C.J. Mosley had 41 in 2003. At his current rate, Richardson would have 48 after 12 games. Incredibly, he is either leading the team in tackles or is second behind Will Ebner (depending on whether you count assisted tackles as one tackle or 0.5). As a defensive tackle. That's ridiculous.

38. Carries given to Kendial Lawrence, Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough. Those carries gained 188 yards, and while a lot of that was on the offensive line (according to the box score below, Mizzou averaged a robust 3.29 line yards per carry), that doesn't really matter. The run game very much bailed Missouri out when the pass game continued to fail miserably.

45.5. Percentage of Missouri's incomplete passes that were "defensed" (intercepted or broken up) by Kentucky defensive backs. As you will see, I am not going to be kind at all to Corbin Berkstresser in this piece. But "defensed" tackles are, as often as not, examples of defensive backs beating receivers to the ball. A really young Kentucky secondary defensed five passes -- J.D. Harmon intercepted two passes intended for Sasser, and three passes to Lucas and Sasser were also broken up -- and it served as a reminder that while the quarterback situation has been terribly shaky, this receiving corps (completely healthy, mind you) has not lived up to expectations we set for it in the offseason.

48.9. Corbin Berkstresser's completion percentage in his first three starts. All three of these came against BCS-conference defenses, and one came against Alabama, against whom nobody can pass effectively. But a spread offense completing under 60%, much less 50%, is simply not going to be effective. But we'll come back to this.

64.2. Percentage of Kentucky's total yardage that the Wildcats gained in their first two drives. Say this for Dave Steckel's defense: it adjusts. What works at the beginning of the game simply isn't going to later on.

Missouri 33, Kentucky 10

Kentucky Missouri Kentucky Missouri
Close % 89.2% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 46.4% 70.3% Success Rate 48.6% 56.6%
Leverage % 62.5% 71.6% PPP 0.30 0.29
S&P 0.787 0.855
TOTAL
EqPts 7.8 18.2 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 34.0% 47.6% Success Rate 4.8% 33.3%
Close PPP 0.15 0.24 PPP -0.13 0.13
Close S&P 0.488 0.715 S&P -0.082 0.468
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts 5.7 16.5 Number 3 3
Close Success Rate 41.9% 58.8% Turnover Pts 21.1 14.1
Close PPP 0.18 0.39 Turnover Pts Margin -7.0 +7.0
Close S&P 0.604 0.980
Line Yards/carry 2.44 3.29 Q1 S&P 1.008 0.757
Q2 S&P 0.303 0.939
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.087 0.360
EqPts 2.1 1.7 Q4 S&P 0.090 0.892
Close Success Rate 22.7% 34.5%
Close PPP 0.10 0.06 1st Down S&P 0.772 0.687
Close S&P 0.324 0.403 2nd Down S&P 0.411 0.721
SD/PD Sack Rate 0.0% / 18.2% 5.9% / 8.3% 3rd Down S&P 0.048 0.900
Projected Pt. Margin: Missouri +18.4 | Actual Pt. Margin: Missouri +23

I'm Not Giving Up On Corbin Berkstresser

I figured I should make that the header right out front. But let's just say that I have severe reservations about him at this point. After a decent performance against Arizona State, behind a then-atrocious offensive line, Berkstresser has been mostly awful since replacing injured James Franklin in the starting lineup. Against good defenses with a young quarterback, that will tend to happen. But it's the way Berkstresser has struggled that has me worried.

First, a table.

Mizzou Quarterbacks In Their First 3 Starts Vs. BCS Opposition
Player Average
Passing Line
Average
Rushing Line
Average Plays
(runs + passes),
Yards
Brad Smith (2002) 16-for-31, 150, 1 TD, 1 INT 20 carries, 128, 1 TD 51 plays, 278 yds (5.5)
Chase Daniel (2006) 21-for-31, 223, 2 TD, 2 INT 12 carries, 41 43 plays, 264 yds (6.1)
Blaine Gabbert (2009, inc. injury) 21-for-40, 259, 1 TD, 2 INT 8 carries, 14, 1 TD 48 plays, 273 yds (5.7)
Blaine Gabbert (2009, no injury) 24-for-38, 326, 2 TD, 1 INT 9 carries, 7 47 plays, 333 yds (7.1)
James Franklin (2011) 20-for-37, 275, 1 TD, 1 INT 21 carries, 78, 1 TD 58 plays, 353 yds (6.1)
Corbin Berkstresser (2012) 14-for-29, 132, 0 TD, 2 INT 10 carries, 4 39 plays, 136 yds (3.5)

Corbin Berkstresser did not get the benefit of tune-up games versus FCS competition, nor did he even get a chance at any non-FBS teams. His first three starts have come against Arizona State (a defense with a great pass rush, if little else), Alabama (potentially the best defense of the last decade, if not longer) and Kentucky (currently ranked 111th in Def. F/+). So basically one fantastic defense, one interesting defense, and one pretty bad defense. Brad Smith's first three BCS opponents were Illinois (bad), Oklahoma (great) and Nebraska (great). Blaine Gabbert's (including injury) were against Illinois (bad), Nebraska (fantastic) and Oklahoma State (solid). James Franklin's were against Arizona State (decent), Oklahoma (good) and Kansas State (good). Aside from Chase Daniel, these quarterbacks didn't have a cakewalk for an introduction to BCS-level football. And they all averaged much better than Berk. Even if you remove Alabama from the equation and add in Berkstresser's easy, garbage-time possessions versus SE Louisiana and South Carolina's second string, Berk's average still only rises to 4.5 yards per play (as defined for this example), and that is still incredibly unacceptable.

Now, the line deserves some blame for this. While it was good against Kentucky, it was horrendous against Arizona State. That Berkstresser was still able to deliver a win in that game was admirable. But I'm scared because, frankly, the mental aspect of Berkstresser's game seems to be coming along alright. He still takes some sacks he shouldn't, and his in-the-face-of-pressure instincts are not amazingly well-honed yet (nor should they be -- it's probably too early in his career for that). But I'm concerned because, quite simply, his accuracy has been awful. It is decent with proper footwork, but he still misses pretty easy passes (like slants to T.J. Moe). But when harried at all, his footwork disappears, and any disruption in footwork causes his ball to not only fly an inaccurate distance (usually short, sometimes long), but also veer pretty far to the right or left. On his first interception against Kentucky, a pass rusher got into his face, and he had to hurry the throw. But not only did he miss Bud Sasser, he missed him by about 10 yards to the right. The ball was so far away from Sasser that he had no chance to even break the pass up. On his second interception (on basically the same pass), his footwork was better, but it wasn't great, and the ball was still well off-target.

That's a problem. When Blaine Gabbert did struggle early on (okay, throughout his entire career), it was mostly because of pocket instincts. When Brad Smith struggled, it was usually because he couldn't decide whether to run or pass. (Again, instincts.) But right now, Berkstresser is throwing like Smith and running like Gabbert. He obviously has potential, and it is quite obvious that a ton of eventually strong quarterbacks struggle in their first few games. But the way he is struggling concerns me greatly. Let's just say that I was leaning toward Maty Mauk in the "Mauk vs. Berkstresser in 2014" battle, and despite ample opportunity to take a lead in that battle, Berkstresser has not done so.

Mizzou Targets And Catches

This almost just belabors the point at this point, but just so it's on record...

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Target
Dorial Green-Beckham (WR) 7 7 100.0% 25.9% 25 3.6
Gahn McGaffie (WR) 4 4 100.0% 14.8% 40 10.0
T.J. Moe (WR) 4 1 25.0% 14.8% 8 2.0
Kendial Lawrence (RB) 3 3 100.0% 11.1% 7 2.3
Marcus Lucas (WR) 3 0 0.0% 11.1% 0 0.0
Bud Sasser (WR) 3 0 0.0% 11.1% 0 0.0
L'Damian Washington (WR) 1 1 100.0% 3.7% 7 7.0
Marcus Murphy (RB) 1 0 0.0% 3.7% 0 0.0
N/A 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 27 16 59.3% 100.0% 87 3.2
TOTAL (WR) 22 13 59.1% 81.5% 80 3.6
TOTAL (RB) 4 3 75.0% 14.8% 7 1.8
TOTAL (TE) 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A

I'm actually pretty impressed with what Kentucky's secondary might become in a couple of years. The Wildcats are ridiculously young at defensive back and seemed to have quite a bit of athletic potential. But they shouldn't have held Mizzou to 3.6 yards per WR target. Berkstresser can't throw accurately, Marcus Lucas has the yips, and it's pretty clear at this point that this receiving corps cannot block very well on the bubble screens. Up 26-10, James Franklin threw three straight quick screens to DGB, and they gained a total of 16 yards. And I couldn't think of a thing DGB could have done differently. One guy might struggle to bring him down, but two or three don't, and there were quickly two or three defenders dragging him down every time.

Now, those passes did still gain five, five and six yards. (I'll ignore the six-yard loss on a poorly-thrown Franklin ball for now, even though I shouldn't.) That's better than 3.6, and that's better than what Missouri might generate on the ground against an excellent Florida defense this coming Saturday. This should absolutely be a weapon in the Mizzou arsenal, and it shouldn't have taken this long to get DGB involved in the short game again (he got quite a few touches like this against Arizona State and barely did over the next month). But the ceiling for such plays is low. Miss you, Wes Kemp, and your tight end-like blocking ability.

Kentucky Targets And Catches

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Target
Demarco Robinson (WR) 5 3 60.0% 22.7% 56 11.2
La'Rod King (WR) 5 1 20.0% 22.7% 7 1.4
Raymond Sanders (RB) 4 3 75.0% 18.2% 0 0.0
Jonathan George (RB) 2 1 50.0% 9.1% 5 2.5
A.J. Legree (WR) 1 1 100.0% 4.5% 7 7.0
DeMarcus Sweat (WR) 1 1 100.0% 4.5% 4 4.0
E.J. Fields (WR) 1 0 0.0% 4.5% 0 0.0
Dyshawn Mobley (RB) 1 0 0.0% 4.5% 0 0.0
N/A 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 22 10 45.5% 100.0% 78 3.5
TOTAL (WR) 13 6 46.2% 59.1% 73 5.6
TOTAL (RB) 7 4 57.1% 31.8% 5 0.7
TOTAL (TE) 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A

One pass to Demarco Robinson gained 30 yards. The other 21 passes Kentucky threw gained 48. I'll take that.

Summary

Mizzou did what it had to and beat a bad team by more than three touchdowns. That's good. I predicted a 24-28 point win, one that didn't always look good but looked good enough, and that's basically what I got. Progress is progress, even if it isn't as much as we'd like to see (and it almost never is). If Mizzou can show further signs of growth against Florida (AND STAY HEALTHY), even in a loss, then I will be able to talk myself into the Tigers having a decent chance at Win No. 5 against a Tennessee team in turmoil and with quite a few defensive issues. This team is not what we expected this year, because of issues both preventable (personnel development) and not (mega-injuries), but there is still a pretty clear, definable goal left to play for in 2012, and Mizzou took Step No. 1 toward achieving that goal on Saturday.

**********

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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