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Colorado: Beyond the Box Score

Photo via Bill Carter.
Photo via Bill Carter.

Apologies for the tardiness on this post.

Confused?  Catch up with the BTBS Primer.



Close % 49.6%
Field Position %
48.6% 41.3%
Leverage %
58.3% 60.3%
EqPts 10.5 19.4
Close Success Rate 25.9% 37.5%
Close PPP 0.13 0.34
Close S&P 0.391 0.718
EqPts 0.8 5.2
Close Success Rate 28.6% 18.8%
Close PPP 0.05 0.12
Close S&P 0.340 0.312
Line Yards/carry
1.38 2.34
EqPts 9.7 14.2
Close Success Rate 23.1% 50.0%
Close PPP 0.22 0.49
Close S&P 0.446 0.987
Std Downs/
Pass. Downs
Sack Rate
10.7% / 4.6% 5.3% / 0.0%
Success Rate 42.9% 29.0%
PPP 0.18 0.17
S&P 0.608 0.456
Success Rate 23.3% 48.0%
PPP 0.10 0.52
S&P 0.334 1.002
Number 2 2
Turnover Pts 15.4 11.0
Turnover Pts Margin
-4.4 +4.4
Q1 S&P 0.471 0.381
Q2 S&P 0.292 0.920
Q3 S&P 0.643 0.252
Q4 S&P 0.496 0.815
1st Down S&P 0.538 0.556
2nd Down S&P 0.405 0.762
3rd Down S&P 0.754 0.642
Projected Pt. Margin
Actual Pt. Margin

First Impressions

Because of Mizzou's third-quarter stagnation (after the game was out of "close" range, which is 24 points in the first quarter, 21 in the second, and 16 in the third and fourth quarters) and Colorado's own inability to move the game back into "close" range, the stats end up looking kind of weird.  While the game was close, Mizzou statistically dominated, even though their first quarter offensive effort was quite poor.  But once the game left close range, Colorado dominated ... even though Mizzou was the only one scoring.

From all we knew about the Mizzou offense this year, and all we've learned about Blaine Gabbert in his 18 games as starter (he's now 13-5 as a starter, by the way ... not bad), this game was a complete and total oddity.  To date, Mizzou had made its living as an early-half, early-downs team.  They've been decent in the first quarter and outstanding (potentially the best in the country) in the third.  They've been outstanding (potentially the best in the country) on standard downs, but Gabbert has never been able to make a lot of noise on passing downs.  Against Colorado, however, that all got flipped around.  Mizzou killed itself repeatedly on standard downs, but they got bailed out on passing downs.  Meanwhile, they were iffy in Q1, outstanding in Q2, and barren in Q3.  Luckily, the occasional struggle didn't matter, as the defense completely shut down while the game was competitive.

Run-Pass Ratio

One thing I've begun to dive into more this season is the good old run-pass ratio.  Looking at how teams split between runs and passes -- on both standard downs and passing downs -- tells us quite a bit.  It shows us just how much Saturday's early deficit changed Alabama's gameplan against South Carolina, for instance, and it is interesting enough that we have been including it in the Seventh Day Adventure preview columns at Outsiders this season.  If I were able to keep track of the distances of passes for all teams -- splitting things into a run-short pass-long pass ratio -- I would be able to do so much work in styles and gameplans.  It would be great.  Alas.

Anyway, here's the run-pass ratio for each team, broken into their season as a whole, the game as a whole, and the first half (while the game was "close"):

All of 2010
First Half
All Game

60% Run
39% Run
71% Run
33% Run
33% Run
27% Run
50% Run
26% Run
44% Run
29% Run
50% Run
40% Run

This tells us a few interesting things.  First, Colorado clearly saw more opportunity on the ground than in the air.  (This makes sense when you consider Mizzou's lack of success against run, as compared to their stellar performance against the pass thus far.)  They've been a reasonably run-heavy team all season, especially on standard downs (1st-and-10, 2nd-and-5, 3rd-and-3, etc.); against Mizzou, however, they were even more run-heavy, at least in the first half.  They ran 71% of the time on standard downs, as compared to their 60% season average.  They felt comfortable taking a few more chances on passing downs, but those didn't work out very well.  In the second half, the Buffs gave up on the run after basically the first drive, and it significantly drove down their overall numbers.  It was clear, though, that the Buffs felt their avenue to success was on the ground.  Aside from a couple of nice Rodney Stewart runs, Mizzou prevented them from doing what they were hoping to do.

Mizzou, on the other hand, went to the pass, primarily because they had to.  The first four times they faced a 1st-and-10, they ran the ball.  Those four rushes gained a total of four yards.  After a first-down pass to T.J. Moe, they went to the run again ... and got two yards.  They would never give up on the run, and they deserve praise for that, but it was clear early that running the ball wasn't going to be as successful as they hoped.  By the end of the first half, Mizzou had passed more than normal on standard downs, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort.

The Hosses Get Their Share of the Blame

Does Blaine Gabbert bail out of the pocket too soon?  Absolutely.  Are we still waiting for his instincts to catch up to his physical abilities?  Of course.  But against Colorado, the offensive line was as much to blame for Mizzou's offensive issues as Gabbert was.  Colorado rarely blitzed -- for the most part, they dropped seven or eight into pass coverage -- and basically dared Mizzou to run the ball.  Mizzou obliged ... and got stuffed.  Colorado was able to hold Mizzou to 2.3 line yards per carry (season average: 3.0), and their linebackers closed on Mizzou backs very quickly.  A couple of different times, I thought Henry Josey had broken into the clear, only to have a linebacker quickly close and make the tackle.

The Texas A&M game on Saturday is now a huge test for both Gabbert and the offensive line.  Gabbert hasn't handled three-man lines very well, but Mizzou attacked Colorado's smaller sets exactly how you are supposed to -- they showed a willingness to run the ball more than normal to take advantage.  Only ... it didn't work.  A&M doesn't vary their attack as much, at least in terms of how many guys they bring (CU consistently alternated between three and four men on the rush, and the mind games worked), and quite frankly, their line just isn't as good as A&M's.  I have called Colorado's line underrated in the past, and they certainly proved themselves Saturday night.

If A&M has as much success as Colorado in infiltrating the line and stopping the run without stacking the box, Mizzou could be in a lot more trouble offensively than I once thought.  ATM's line is (statistically speaking, at least) not as strong as Colorado's, and if Mizzou can't run the ball on Saturday, it's going to be very hard to fend off what is still an improving A&M pass rush and overall pass defense.  Blaine Gabbert has his own set of issues, but no quarterback is going to succeed at a high level if a defense can stop the run while dropping 7-8 men into coverage.

The Mizzou Offense: Updated Rankings

Overall S&P+
Success Rate+
Rushing S&P+
Passing S&P+
Standard Downs S&P+
Passing Downs S&P+

Not a lot of drastic change here, primarily because things are still evaluated only on "close" plays.  In other words, the dreadful third quarter was not taken into account.  Rankings are odd at this point -- Mizzou fell a decent amount in both success rates and PPP+, but their overall ranking did not significantly change.  That's just what happens sometimes.

As a whole, the running game is still being powered primarily by explosiveness -- the big runs from the Miami game are inflating the ranking, to be sure.  Meanwhile, all the other rankings are powered by strong success rates.  The passing game is hurt by a lack of explosiveness, actually.

The Mizzou Defense: Updated Rankings

Overall S&P+
17th 17th
Success Rate+
32nd 19th
8th 5th
Rushing S&P+
60th 62nd
Passing S&P+
4th 5th
Standard Downs S&P+
4th 4th
Passing Downs S&P+
75th 85th

Despite dominating on passing downs, Mizzou's ranking actually fell a bit here, both because Colorado's not very good on passing downs and because of results from other games.  As a whole, these rankings are still outstanding ... almost as good as those from 2007.  The rankings suggest that passing downs breakdowns could still be an issue (a mighty concern considering A&M's boom-or-bust potential on passing downs), but they are still one of the best in the country at preventing big plays.  If we can still say that after the trip to College Station, I'll be thrilled.


Targets and Catches

With only six receivers targeted, this data is pretty easy to plow through.  Not at all happy with the five "N/A" passes (in the box score, it simply said "Pass incomplete" instead of "Pass incomplete to _____"), however.  Hopefully when we get to the charting, we can clean that up a bit.

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
T.J. Moe 10 7 70.0% 30.3% 85 8.5
Michael Egnew 9 6 66.7% 27.3% 52 5.8
Wes Kemp 4 4 100.0% 12.1% 38 9.5
Jerrell Jackson 3 3 100.0% 9.1% 51 17.0
Brandon Gerau 1 0 0.0% 3.0% 0 0.0
L'Damian Washington 1 0 0.0% 3.0% 0 0.0
N/A 5 0 0.0% 15.2% 0 0.0
TOTAL 33 20 60.6% 100.0% 226 6.8
TOTAL (WR) 19 14 73.7% 57.6%
174 9.2
TOTAL (RB) 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
TOTAL (TE) 9 6 66.7%
27.3% 52 5.8

Obviously the position-specific data looks great with the removal of five incompletions.  Like I said, hopefully we get that cleaned up.

As a whole, there's not a ton to complain about here.  Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson caught all seven passes thrown at them -- a very welcome development -- and provided a bit of big-play capability.  Kemp/Jackson combined to average 12.7 yards per target.  Moe and Egnew made quite a bit of their opportunities now.  The bigger problems against Colorado came from, as mentioned above, Gabbert and the offensive line.  If Gabbert got off a semi-accurate pass, it was probably caught.  The receiving corps gets at least a B+ in this one.

One qualm, however...

Do Not Fear the Dump-Off, Blaine

Running backs have now been the target of eight of 196 passes this season: De'Vion Moore 3, Kendial Lawrence 2, Marcus Murphy 2, and Henry Josey 1.  Granted, the passes to Moore were somewhat epic failures, but the other three have caught four of five passes.  They have only gone for 14 yards, but ... I think we're all in agreement that we would like to see guys like Josey and Murphy with the ball in open space.  No matter how this has come about -- the coaches haven't drilled it into Gabbert that dumping the ball off to a back is alright, Gabbert panics and runs instead of finding the back, or whatever -- Mizzou is missing an opportunity by not going to the backs.  Even if it doesn't work for yardage ... it's better than an incompletion, a sack, or an unnecessary hit on Gabbert after a short gain.  This is a missed opportunity for the Mizzou offense, and I once again have to wonder if it would be more of an emphasis if Derrick Washington were around.  Not that we can (or want to) do anything about that now.


Between this post and Monday's Diary, I have probably written plenty about this game by now.  Mizzou not only survived, but they doubled up Vegas' expectations -- they were favored by 11, and they won by 26.  This goes down as a nice, easy win even if it wasn't a flawless, ridiculous 58-0 win.  Mizzou's 5-0, and it's time to turn our attention to Texas A&M.