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A look at the stats that mattered in Missouri's SEC road loss in Columbia, SC.
Since it's late on Wednesday, and we're all ready to move on, I'll try to make this brief. Or, as brief as I am capable of making it.
1. Tackles made by Zaviar Gooden before he had to leave the game because of his lingering hamstring issue. One particularly cruel aspect of Missouri's 2012 injuries (other than the sheer quantity of them) is that they are happening to seniors. Obviously that indirectly does Missouri's 2013 team some favors, but injuries to Gooden, Elvis Fisher, Jack Meiners, Travis Ruth, etc., have been doubly frustrating to watch because they are abbreviating these players' final seasons as Missouri Tigers. When you get hurt as a freshman, you still have a future to look forward to; when you miss a good portion of your senior season, you are losing what already felt like borrowed time.
3. Mizzou passes targeting Dorial Green-Beckham. Zero of them were catchable. One was knocked away by a defender before it reached him, one sailed out of the back of the end zone, and one was thrown well behind him. If those passes are on target, he potentially ends up with a stat line of something like "three catches for 30 yards and two touchdowns," which is something on which to build. Instead, he was a bystander even when he was the target. It's frustrating.
I hate to question coaches, and I make a habit of reminding myself that they know more about this team than I ever can. But I do wonder ... exactly what is Gahn McGaffie doing on the field that DGB is not? I know that Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington have proven themselves to an extent that it is difficult to call for DGB to be seeing passes instead of them (Washington, by the way, saw only one target on Saturday). But while McGaffie has been targeted 17 times (DGB: 11), mostly over the middle in "catch-and-tackle" situations (his 11 catches have gone for just 66 yards) ... can we really say that DGB couldn't be occupying that role and perhaps occasionally breaking a tackle? For all intents and purposes, McGaffie and DGB play two completely different positions, but ... Mizzou's offense is in the middle of as bad a four-game sample as it has seen since probably 2005 or 2004. You need your best, most talented players on the field as much as possible, and I'm struggling with the thought that McGaffie (who I will always appreciate like crazy because of that one play you're also thinking of right now) seeing more snaps and targets than DGB. The freshman had bad luck with the passes thrown his way on Saturday, but he should be seeing more, and if he isnt taking targets from Lucas and Washington (and T.J. Moe, for that matter), he should be taking them from McGaffie.
And while we're at it ... replace "DGB" with "Jimmie Hunt" and read that paragraph again. Hunt has gained 77 yards in four targets this year. Target him more.
6.3. Yards per carry for Mizzou running backs Kendial Lawrence, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy. As we'll see below, Mizzou's line yardage improved to 2.71 line yards per carry last week (against a lesser Arizona State front, Mizzou averaged 2.40), a very encouraging sign. We can debate who was most to blame for the struggles in the passing game -- James Franklin had about 0.6 seconds to find an open man on passing downs -- but improvement is improvement. UCF has a lot going for it, but the Knights have the worst defensive line Missouri has seen since SE Louisiana. Hopefully they can take advantage.
17. Mizzou's average starting field position during the first half. South Carolina's? 50.3. In a lot of ways, it's a wonder Mizzou was only down, 21-3, at half.
46.7. Average yardage on Trey Barrow's seven punts. Net yards per punt: 28.7 (one touchback, six returns for 106). For the most part, you could see Ace Sanders' big returns coming: most of the time, the ball was leaving Barrow's foot at a very low angle, and Sanders fielded the ball with probably 10 yards separating him from the nearest potential (and potentially failed) tackler. These kicks make an average punt returner look very good and make a very good punt returner (like Sanders) look like an All-American.
50. Percentage of Mizzou's completions that went to Marcus Lucas. Mizzou found something that worked in those quick slants to Lucas. And that was all they found.
69.5. Percentage of South Carolina's passes that were directed at running backs and tight ends. I'll say this much: I loved Steve Spurrier's gameplan. My one complaint with the way David Yost calls a game (and it was the same issue sometimes with Dave Christensen) is that he almost overthinks sometimes -- he finds something that works, then decides to hold onto it for later instead of milking it for all it is worth. One cannot accuse Spurrier of that; he overthought South Carolina's first goal line series -- when you've got Marcus Lattimore on your side, Connor Shaw should not be running on third or fourth down, even in a read option situation -- but when he saw that Missouri was going to back off of in the back seven and try to keep plays in front of the linebackers, he took advantage. Will Ebner and Donovan Bonner combined for 18.5 tackles. Part of that was Shaw making the right reads, of course, but most of the time South Carolina was sending two receivers into one linebacker's zone, forcing the LB to choose, then dumping to the either Lattimore or Justice Cunningham for an easy seven yards.
Honestly, not only did this force Missouri to tackle better than it was capable of tackling (especially without Gooden -- Bonner has a world of potential, but he goes for the big plays a bit too much and loses his fundamentals), but it also highlighted the Missouri offense's biggest problem right now. Between the shaky line, the quarterback injuries, et cetera, Mizzou has been almost completely unable to take the free yards the opposing defense is giving up. Part of that is because Georgia, Arizona State and South Carolina don't give up many free yards. But Carolina showed how it was done on Saturday. Hopefully we begin to see more easy pitch-and-catch opportunities for this offense in the future. I loved the quick slants off of the play-fake (which gave Marcus Lucas a nice number of receptions). More of that, please.
64. Line Yardage ranking of Mizzou's next opponent, UCF. As a frame of reference, South Carolina currently ranks fifth (which makes Mizzou's 2.71 line yards per carry quite impressive, actually), Georgia 17th and Arizona State 45th. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better.
133. Games since Mizzou last scored its only touchdown with under a minute remaining (via Mizzou historian Tom Orf). The last time it happened, Mizzou was preventing a shutout in a 55-7 loss to Michigan State. That is ... less than elite company.
South Carolina 31, Missouri 10
|Close %||70.0%||STANDARD DOWNS|
|Field Position %||37.9%||64.5%||Success Rate||43.2%||56.1%|
|Close Success Rate||29.7%||53.2%||Success Rate||28.6%||42.9%|
|Close Success Rate||36.4%||42.3%||Turnover Pts||4.5||10.3|
|Close PPP||0.09||0.22||Turnover Pts Margin||+5.8||-5.8|
|Line Yards/carry||2.71||2.73||Q1 S&P||0.419||0.850|
|Close Success Rate||20.0%||66.7%|
|Close PPP||0.15||0.78||1st Down S&P||0.573||1.062|
|Close S&P||0.354||1.449||2nd Down S&P||0.783||0.660|
|SD/PD Sack Rate||0.0% / 25.0%||8.3% / 0.0%||3rd Down S&P||0.280||1.019|
|Projected Pt. Margin: South Carolina +6.6 | Actual Pt. Margin: South Carolina +21|
Mizzou Targets And Catches
|Marcus Lucas (WR)||11||9||81.8%||42.3%||78||7.1|
|Gahn McGaffie (WR)||3||2||66.7%||11.5%||7||2.3|
|Dorial Green-Beckham (WR)||3||0||0.0%||11.5%||0||0.0|
|Jimmie Hunt (WR)||2||2||100.0%||7.7%||34||17.0|
|T.J. Moe (WR)||2||2||100.0%||7.7%||13||6.5|
|Kendial Lawrence (RB)||2||2||100.0%||7.7%||11||5.5|
|Marcus Murphy (RB)||1||1||100.0%||3.8%||3||3.0|
|L'Damian Washington (WR)||1||0||0.0%||3.8%||0||0.0|
|Bud Sasser (WR)||1||0||0.0%||3.8%||0||0.0|
Again, it's good that DGB was actually targeted a few times. But a) please throw catchable balls, and b) please throw more to him. Gary Pinkel said to the media yesterday that he was on the field for basically half of Missouri's plays, and a few more plays were designed to go through him but were altered because of South Carolina's coverage (I do have to admit: it always seems like defenses are aware of his presence, even though his stats have barely given them reason to). So the intentions are either there or close. Hopefully intentions turn into production soon, for the sake of both DGB and Mizzou's offense.
South Carolina Targets And Catches
|Marcus Lattimore (RB)||8||7||87.5%||34.8%||60||7.5|
|Justice Cunningham (TE)||4||4||100.0%||17.4%||41||10.3|
|Damiere Byrd (WR)||3||3||100.0%||13.0%||26||8.7|
|Kenny Miles (RB)||2||2||100.0%||8.7%||26||13.0|
|Nick Jones (WR)||1||1||100.0%||4.3%||36||36.0|
|Ace Sanders (WR)||1||1||100.0%||4.3%||23||23.0|
|Bruce Ellington (WR)||1||1||100.0%||4.3%||17||17.0|
|Rory Anderson (TE)||1||1||100.0%||4.3%||13||13.0|
|Qua Gilchrist (FB)||1||1||100.0%||4.3%||10||10.0|
|Shaq Roland (WR)||1||0||0.0%||4.3%||0||0.0|
It would be pretty if it weren't so horrifying. I still maintain what I said on Sunday, though: the passes to Lattimore, Cunningham and the rest of the RBs/TEs simply caused flesh wounds. The downfield shots to Jones, Sanders and Ellington were fatal. You can give up the dump-offs as long as you are guarding against the deep bals. But if you are giving up the deeper passes to, then you are simply a sieve.
And now we move on.
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%.