Confused? Catch up with the BTBS Primer.
As always, it is much more fun to analyze a win, isn't it?
|Field Position %
|Close Success Rate||55.6%||41.8%|
|Close Success Rate||50.0%||29.4%|
|Close Success Rate||59.3%||61.9%|
|SD/PD Sack Rate
||0.0% / 0.0%||5.3% / 0.0%|
|Turnover Pts Margin
|1st Down S&P||1.639||0.574|
|2nd Down S&P||0.692||0.622|
|3rd Down S&P||0.757||0.506|
|Projected Pt. Margin
|Actual Pt. Margin
- Kansas State can thank special teams for keeping this game at a smaller margin (26 instead of the projected 34). With solid kick returns and only decent Mizzou punting, they ran well over half of their plays from Mizzou's side of the field, which put a lot of pressure on Missouri's defense not to break down, especially considering how KSU thrives on the "geology" style of offense (pressure + time). Eventually, Mizzou could have worn down, given in, and allowed a couple of killer touchdowns, but they did not. Meanwhile, barely over one-third of Mizzou's plays were run from KSU's side of the field, but thanks to Danario Alexander, that didn't really matter. With #81, Mizzou was more capable of scoring touchdowns from their own side of the field than KSU was in Mizzou territory, and that clearly made the difference in the game.
- This game really was decided by explosiveness. Missouri had it, K-State didn't. Mizzou was content to allow a ridiculously high passing success rate to KSU in exchange for not giving up any big plays and making KSU drive the length of the field. How many times did KSU convert a 3rd-and-6 with exactly a 6-yard pass? Plenty. And how many touchdowns did KSU score? Zero. Watching Mizzou allow huge cushions on opposing wide receivers, especially on third down, is amazingly frustrating to watch. But in the last two weeks, we've seen why they do it. Without two long bombs, Baylor doesn't beat Missouri no matter how many short passes they complete. If Missouri can make you drive the length of the field without bombs or missed tackles, their run defense will make it very hard for you to convert those drives into touchdowns instead of field goals.
- Missouri's 1.639 S&P on first downs really tells you all you need to know about how well David Yost and company did in their offensive game-planning last week. They nailed it. Mizzou was only decent on second and third downs, but first downs are the most likely "straight from the script" down, and Mizzou was wonderfully successful there. Meanwhile, they completely stuffed KSU's offensive gameplan as well, limiting them to a 0.574 S&P on first downs. Think about that--Mizzou was almost three times more successful on first down than KSU. That's how you win road games by 26.
- That, and winning the turnover battle by 17 points certainly helps, huh?
"This Team Can't Score in the Second Half"
Football's the funniest sport to analyze because we are dealing with such laughably small sample sizes. Take any team from the NBA (or Major League Baseball). With a 12-game sample I could show you a squad that is great in the first half, or terrible in the second half, or terrible on the boards, or great shooting. Then, with a different 12-game sample, I should show you a team that is terrible in the first half, great in the second half, great on the boards, or terrible shooting. Figuring out what is true and what is within the margin of error is a crap shoot when the margin of error is gigantic.
What this means is, narratives form and disintegrate in less than a month's time. The first month of the season, Missouri had a slow-starting offense that was impeccable in the second half. A month later, they were outstanding in the first half and horribly inept in the second ("HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS!!!!"). We all saw the graphic Versus threw up in the third quarter, showing how Missouri had not yet scored a touchdown in the second half of a conference game. And then they scored three touchdowns in the second half. And like that, the narrative died. At this point in the season, Mizzou has had three major letdowns in the second half (OSU, Colorado, Baylor...Nebraska and Texas don't count, as they were no worse in the second half as in the first half) and four games in which the second half offense was as good as (Illinois, Nevada, KSU) or better than (Bowling Green) the first half offense. Rest in peace, "No Halftime Adjustments" narrative.
(Major disclaimer: I half-mock the "halftime adjustments" meme, but I don't want to pretend that there wasn't something going on to send the team into a second-half funk. Gary Pinkel was worried enough about it that he brought in Lorenzo Williams to give a Thursday pep talk and let Sean Weatherspoon do all the talking at halftime in Manhattan. He knew something needed to be done, and he deserves to be commended for trying to address the issue. Did those pep talks have anything to do with the team's better performance? Possibly, possibly not. We obviously don't really know, but it certainly didn't hurt, huh?)
So now that we're done with five-sixths of the season, we can see the true narrative for this offense: 1) they've got a sophomore quarterback whose pocket presence is improving by the week, but still has plenty to learn, 2) they've got an All-American caliber receiver who can score from any point on the field at any time, and 3) they are LOADED with youth, and therefore maddeningly inconsistent. Blaine Gabbert? Sophomore. Derrick Washington, De'Vion Moore, and Kendial Lawrence? Junior, sophomore, true freshman. Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson, and (yes) Andrew Jones? Sophomore, sophomore, sophomore. Elvis Fisher, Austin Wuebbels, and Dan Hoch? Sophomore, sophomore, sophomore. Heading into this season, Missouri's offense had about roughly 101 career starts (Kurtis Gregory 28, Jared Perry 20ish, Derrick Washington 14, Tim Barnes 14, Elvis Fisher 14, Danario Alexander 11, and I may be forgetting some here and there). Now? 211 career starts. They will lose Alexander, Gregory, and Perry ... and that's it. Yes, we're leaning heavily on Danario right now, and justifiably so, but it's amazing what experience can do. For no single reason, you just become more consistent (and your offensive coordinator becomes a lot smarter) over time with this little turnover.
What does this mean for the rest of the season? Who the hell knows? With three games now remaining, odds are in favor of at least one more stinker and at least one more explosion. Figuring out the games in which those will happen is impossible.
Jeremy Maclin's single season record. At 7.3 per game, that's certainly within the realm of possibility, but he'll probably need one more big game to lock it down. And who's betting against him at this point?
You just have to hope and pray that the leadership-by-example that he is showing right now is rubbing off on guys like Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson, Rolandis Woodland, and T.J. Moe, as he will not be around to carry this offense next year.
. It's predictable, and you could have made this judgment without any statistical analysis whatsoever, but he just has to lead off this list, no? He has upped his game in the last couple of weeks, but his season-long output has just been insane. He will absolutely end up with the Mizzou single season yardage record, locking it down as soon as his first or second catch this coming Saturday, but he needs 22 catches to top
Dominique Hamilton has come up with recently. He and Jaron Baston have led what has just been a superb rushing defense over these past few weeks, and if you are ranking the North's best defensive linemen for next season, Hamilton is almost starting to make a case for the #3 slot behind Jared Crick and Aldon Smith. The future is extremely bright for the Missouri defensive line, with Hamilton and Jacquies Smith making plays as sophomores and Aldon Smith becoming an all-conference level performer as a redshirt freshman.
. Lost amid Alexander's recent surge is the performance
First Downs. I already referenced it above, but against a Bill Snyder-led coaching staff, Mizzou's staff put together virtually perfect offensive and defensive gameplans, and it shined through in the first down performance on both offense and defense. Mizzou's offensive is still only average at best on passing downs, but with such great success on first-and-10, they faced minimal awkward situations.
(And because we won, a fourth positive...)
- Offensive Line. No sacks and a 3.94 line yardage average? Wow. KSU's defensive line isn't great, but that was still a dominant performance.
Field Position. Iowa State doesn't have the return threats that Kansas State and Baylor had, and that will help, but Missouri has done itself no favors whatsoever in the field position battle this year. Mizzou is solid in a lot of special teams aspects, but kick coverage has not been one of them. Kick returns and ill-timed three-and-outs by the offense led to K-State's domination in this category last Saturday, and while the Mizzou defense responded time and again, you're just adding to the degree of difficulty by letting this happen, especially on the road. Thanks to Danario Alexander, Mizzou more than overcame their field position deficiencies, but even going back to the Oklahoma State game this has been a consistent issue.
Passing Downs (Offense). With experience should come improvement in this category, but it is certainly still a lingering issue on offense this year. We were very spoiled by Chase Daniel's proficiency on passing downs, and we should see the numbers improve as Blaine Gabbert gets more and more comfortable in the pocket and the coaching staff takes the reins off of the play-calling, but for now it is a well-defined weakness.
- Passing Downs (Defense). KSU's 40.9% success rate on Passing Downs was very frustrating, but as I mentioned above, we know why they allowed that--the coverage cushions set up a series of easy conversions, and against KSU that was fine because they were not capable of running the ball and putting the ball in the endzone, but while it made strategic sense, it was annoying to watch.
Three Keys Revisited
MU Defensive Line vs KSU Offensive Line
KSU will continue to use Daniel Thomas to pound away at opponents until they absolutely have to pass. If Missouri holds Thomas to what they've been holding other opponents, Kansas State will really struggle to move the ball. As I said, Brandon Banks has been inconsistent in the passing game, and they don't have another go-to passing weapon. If the Wildcats can't run the ball, they will face a lot of passing downs; and if they face a lot of passing downs, guys like Aldon Smith are going to have another huge day, and Mizzou will likely win.
KSU indeed couldn't run, and while Aldon Smith didn't have a Colorado-esque game, Mizzou still won easily.
Against the run or pass, KSU's defense has been below average in terms of defense on standard downs (i.e. first downs, 2nd-and-6 or less, 3rd-and-4 or less). As you would expect from a Bill Snyder team, they take advantage of mistakes, but if Missouri can generate consistent yardage on standard downs, run or pass, then they should be able to move the ball rather well. This goes for any game, but especially one that includes a Missouri offense that is talented and fast, but young and lacking confidence.
Mizzou had a 1.430 S&P on standard downs. 'Nuff said.
Quite simply, if KSU makes a big offensive play or scores an easy touchdown, the odds are good that Banks was behind it. Granted, he has only one receiving touchdown on the year (how does that happen??), but he is quick and fast, a lot like Baylor's Kendall Wright, only faster and smaller. If KSU is able to get him in the open field, then this offense becomes infinitely more dangerous. And, um, I think I've already covered how scared of him I am in the kicking game. Seriously, just kick it out of bounds.
It ended up being about a 50-50 proposition whether kicking it out of bounds would have been smarter than kicking it deep, and while it was a relief that he never broke a big return (at least, not without an illegal block bringing it back), he was still KSU's best threat for winning this game, and his presence still resulted in a massive field position advantage for the WIldcats. Again, fortunately for Mizzou, Iowa State has nobody this dangerous.
Winner, winner. Not much else to say at this point. This has been a bit of a frustrating season, simply because of the youth on the display and the inconsistency that comes with that, but Saturday's win was quite satsifying, not only because it was on the road or because it was against Bill Snyder, but because it signified that this team's long-term trajectory has not been damaged by the loss to Baylor or the overall poor performance against the Big 12 South. Missouri still looks beyond dangerous in 2010 and 2011, and "Don't screw up future seasons" really was one of the main goals for 2009.