Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21: Beyond the box score

Bill Carter

If you had told me A&M would only score 21 points and average only 5.4 yards per play, I'd have assumed Mizzou would win by 24 points. Meanwhile, if you had told me Mizzou would start the game with four punts (three three-and-outs), I'd have assumed the Tigers would be down 20 by the time they got the ball a fifth time.

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here. Or just skip to the words. I won't be offended. (Okay, I'll only be a little offended.)

Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21

Missouri A&M Missouri A&M
Close % 100.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 43.2% 24.3% Success Rate 48.0% 45.5%
Leverage % 67.6% 62.9% PPP 0.55 0.46
S&P 1.030 0.913
TOTAL
EqPts 42.5 32.9 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 41.9% 41.4% Success Rate 29.2% 34.6%
Close PPP 0.57 0.47 PPP 0.63 0.49
Close S&P 0.994 0.885 S&P 0.918 0.837
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts 21.6 17.8 Number 0 1
Close Success Rate 41.5% 42.4% Turnover Pts 0.0 4.1
Close PPP 0.53 0.54 Turnover Pts Margin +4.1 -4.1
Close S&P 0.942 0.965
Line Yards/carry 3.51 2.96 Q1 S&P 0.612 0.865
Q2 S&P 0.907 1.332
PASSING Q3 S&P 1.590 0.501
EqPts 20.9 15.1 Q4 S&P 0.793 0.928
Close Success Rate 42.4% 40.5%
Close PPP 0.63 0.41 1st Down S&P 0.818 0.940
Close S&P 1.058 0.813 2nd Down S&P 0.991 0.656
SD/PD Sack Rate 18.8% / 0.0% 5.3% / 5.6% 3rd Down S&P 1.377 1.018
Projected Pt. Margin: Missouri +13.7 | Actual Pt. Margin: Missouri +7

The third quarter was just about perfect

Missouri: seven plays, 75 yards, touchdown.
Texas A&M: six plays, 15 yards, punt.
Missouri: eight plays, 57 yards, touchdown.
A&M: 10 plays, 39 yards, punt.
Missouri: three plays, 32 yards, end of quarter.

Points: Mizzou 14, A&M 0
Yards: Mizzou 164 (9.1 per play), A&M 54 (3.0).

Mizzou rushing: 11 carries, 66 yards (6.0).
Mizzou passing: 6-for-7, 98 yards (14.0).

A&M was able to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, so it's not like the game was won by that point, but you could certainly say that a majority of Mizzou's win came in the third quarter. What a perfect response to a scattered, frustrating first half.

Reviewing the keys

The Trenches

Of course. Missouri has won the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball in basically nine or 10 of 11 games this year. Defensive line play will be key to both slowing A&M's run down and making the Aggies one-dimensional on defense and gashing the soft middle of the A&M defense with the run on offense. Line play makes such an enormous difference, and if Mizzou dominates on offense and, at worst, breaks even on defense, the Tigers will be tough to beat.

Line Yards per carry: Mizzou 3.51, A&M 2.96
Sack Rate: A&M defense 9.1%, Mizzou defense 5.4%
Sacks/Hurries Rate: Mizzou defense 27.0%, A&M defense 15.2%

Johnny Manziel's mobility made a difference; while Mizzou was at least hurrying him on greater than one in four passes, he managed to escape most of the sack attempts, in some cases finding receivers open downfield in the process. Still, Mizzou's defensive line hurried Manziel more than A&M hurried James Franklin (the Aggies brought Franklin down more, though), and Mizzou's offensive line paved the way for about 0.5 extra yards per carry. That adds up.

In the end, Mizzou's defensive line did a little better than I thought it would, and Mizzou's offensive line did worse. But you still have to probably give the Tigers a slightly win overall here.

Passing Downs

Again, A&M doesn't fall behind schedule very often. When the Aggies do, it's imperative that Missouri make stops. And when Missouri doesn't make a stop, it's imperative that the Tigers bounce back and get ready to make a stop the next time. A&M is going to gain a lot of yards and score quite a few points. But a stop here and there, a field goal attempt here and there, will make all the difference in the world.

(And at the same time, as long as Missouri's offense converts more passing downs than A&M, that could be enough, too.)

Passing Downs Success Rate: A&M 35%, Mizzou 29%
Passing Downs PPP: Mizzou 0.63, A&M 0.49

So A&M converted on passing downs a hair better than Missouri, but a) Missouri made more big plays, and b) A&M was still almost 15 percent below its season average. Win.

Big players making big plays

This one's pretty obvious, but it's obvious for a reason. Texas A&M has Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. Missouri has James Franklin/Maty Mauk, a three-headed running back, a three-headed receiver, Michael Sam, etc. If Manziel has 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards ... if Evans goes crazy for 225 receiving yards ... A&M could very well score enough to win. It's not hard to imagine that happening. But if Missouri's big players play bigger -- if Henry Josey (or somebody) breaks away for 120 yards ... if a Mizzou receiver, any Mizzou receiver, comes up big ... if James Franklin completes 70 percent of his passes with 90 rushing yards ... if Great Michael Sam has another breakout ... it's going to be hard to beat Missouri, too.

James Franklin: 7.5 yards per pass attempt, 5.6 yards per carry. Pretty good.
Johnny Manziel: 5.0 yards per pass attempt, 3.6 yards per carry. Bad.

Henry Josey & Russell Hansbrough: 21 carries, 144 yards (6.9 per carry). Good.
Brandon Williams, Trey Williams, & Tra Carson: 18 carries, 144 yards (8.0 per carry). Really good.

Dorial Green-Beckham: 11 targets, 7 catches, 93 yards (8.5 per target). Pretty good.
Mike Evans: 4 targets, 4 catches, 8 yards (2.0 per target). Horrendous.

L'Damian Washington: 9 targets, 6 catches, 97 yards (10.8). Good.
Derel Walker: 6 targets, 4 catches, 60 yards (10.0). Good.

Tackles for loss: Mizzou 8, A&M 4

The big plays went Missouri's way for the most part. That made the difference.

Little Things

Always. As with all reasonably tightly matched games, turnovers, field position, and finishing drives will probably tell you who won this game.

Turnovers: A&M 1, Missouri 0. Advantage: MU.
Average Starting Field Position: Missouri 27, A&M 19. Advantage: MU.
Trips Inside 40: Mizzou 7, A&M 4. Advantage: MU.
Points per Trip: A&M 5.3, Mizzou 4.0. Advantage: A&M.

That's 3-1 in Mizzou's favor. Win.

Intended touches

Player Rushes Targets/Catches Intended Touches & Yards
James Franklin (QB) 16 for 89
16 for 89 yards (5.6)
Henry Josey (RB) 13 for 99
13 for 99 yards (7.6)
Dorial Green-Beckham (WR)
7-for-11, 93 yards 11 for 93 yards (8.5)
L'Damian Washington (WR)
6-for-9, 97 yards 9 for 97 yards (10.8)
Russell Hansbrough (RB) 8 for 48
8 for 48 yards (6.0)
Marcus Murphy (RB) 2 for 9 1-for-1, 5 yards 3 for 14 yards (4.7)
Marcus Lucas (WR)
1-for-3, 5 yards 3 for 5 yards (1.7)
Jimmie Hunt (WR)
1-for-2, 5 yards 2 for 5 yards (2.5)
Eric Waters (TE)
1-for-1, 16 yards 1 for 16 yards
Bud Sasser (WR)
1-for-1, 15 yards 1 for 15 yards
Darius White (WR)
1-for-1, 1 yard 1 for 1 yard
QBs 16 for 89
16 for 89 yards (5.6)
RBs 23 for 156 1-for-1, 5 yards 24 for 161 yards (6.7)
WRs
17-for-27, 216 yards 27 for 216 yards (8.0)
TEs
1-for-1, 16 yards 1 for 16 yards

The heroes of the Ole Miss game, Bud Sasser and Marcus Lucas, combined for just 4 targets and 20 yards, but Mizzou's multitude of weapons paid off here. Five different players got at least eight intended touches, and all five averaged at least 5.6 yards per touch. That's impressive considering how slowly things began.

And I felt like putting Eric Waters' 1-for-1 stat line in giant, bold, header font with fireworks exploding on both sides. What a freaking play-call, and what a freaking catch.

Player Rushes Targets/Catches Intended Touches & Yards
Johnny Manziel (QB) 9 for 32
9 for 32 yards (3.6)
Travis Labhart (WR)
7-for-8, 81 yards 8 for 81 yards (10.1)
Trey Williams (RB) 6 for 48 2-for-2, 11 yards 8 for 59 yards (7.4)
LaQuvionte Gonzalez (WR)
5-for-8, 26 yards 8 for 26 yards (3.3)
Tra Carson (RB) 6 for 39 1-for-1, 4 yards 7 for 43 yards (6.1)
Ben Malena (RB) 6 for 19 1-for-1, 5 yards 7 for 24 yards (3.4)
Derel Walker (WR)
4-for-6, 60 yards 6 for 60 yards (10.0)
Brandon Williams (RB) 6 for 57
6 for 57 yards (9.5)
Mike Evans (WR)
4-for-4, 8 yards 4 for 8 yards (2.0)
Ja'Quay Williams (WR)
0-for-1 1 for 0 yards (0.0)
QBs 9 for 32
9 for 32 yards (3.6)
RBs 24 for 163 4-for-4, 20 yards 28 for 183 yards (6.5)
WRs
20-for-27, 175 yards 27 for 175 yards (6.5)

Just looking at the distribution of touches is a win for Missouri. Evans and Walker were only open/available enough to target 10 times; either because of his thumb or the openness of options, Manziel went short to Travis Labhart and LaQuvionte Gonzalez 16 times for 107 yards. Labhart had a solid game, but in all, only three of A&M's six most frequent targets averaged 6.0 yards or better, and Evans was only targeted four times. Big win there. A&M's offense was still good enough to move the ball at times, but the attack was disjointed and inconsistent.

Summary

If you had told me A&M would only score 21 points and average only 5.4 yards per play, I'd have assumed Mizzou would win by 24 points. Meanwhile, if you had told me Mizzou would start the game with four punts (three three-and-outs), I'd have assumed the Tigers would be down 20 by the time they got the ball a fifth time. This was a game of defensive resilience (and stamina) and offensive perseverance. It was also a story of a team built to reach the SEC title game.

I like stories like this. We should write them more often.

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