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Alabama 42, Missouri 10: Beyond the box score

Mizzou's SEC initiation is complete. Now the second season begins. Hopefully the second season has a passing game that makes a little more sense.

Jamie Squire - Getty Images

Let's go ahead and pick the scab ... let the bye week healing begin...

338. Yards gained in 38 touches by Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. They were incredible. And as we'll discuss below, they got pretty far downfield before having to actually do anything. Mizzou's front seven has been good enough recently that a performance like this was pretty jarring.

53. Percent of Missouri's failed passes that were the result of either an interception or a pass broken up. Corbin Berkstresser completed just 12 of 29 passes, and of the 17 misses, two were picked off by Alabama (one on a drop and dive, one via incredible closing speed) and seven others were broken up. Dee Milliner was particularly impressive, not that that's anything new. Milliner broke up passes to Marcus Lucas and Bud Sasser, and he deflected one to teammate Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix for an interception. (Milliner also stuck Kendial Lawrence for no gain and forced a Marcus Murphy fumble. He was as good as advertised. Safety Vinnie Sunseri also threw in a pick and a PBU.

22.2. Alabama's third-down conversion rate (2-for-9). There were certainly silver linings to be found. While big plays gave Alabama all the offense it needed, Mizzou stepped up at times. Alabama faced nine third downs and passed on all nine (strangely enough); but while McCarron completed six of eight passes on these downs, only two passed the chains; he was also sacked once.

11.0. Tackles by Sheldon Richardson. He, too, was as good as advertised.

6.4. Alabama's yards per pass attempt in plays other than the 44-yard flea flicker from A.J. McCarron to Kenny Bell. Again, it is difficult to find much to complain about with Missouri's pass defense.

4.0. Average yards per play for Missouri on first down. Corbin Berkstresser was 3-for-7 passing for 37 yards, and Mizzou carried 15 times for 52 yards. Against Alabama, this is actually pretty damn good. Mizzou was balanced and avoided disasters on first-and-10. The problem, of course, was that third downs were comical. Corbin Berkstresser on third downs: 6-for-13 for 38 yards, two interceptions and three sacks. Total pass attempts (inc. sacks): 16. Total yards on those 16 attempts: 19.

3.65. As you'll see below, that's Alabama's average line yards per carry. We have learned this season that Missouri's front seven is strong and physical enough to handle SEC offensive lines. But that doesn't mean it is strong and physical enough to handle Alabama's. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon habitually got to the second level of Mizzou's defense, where their 220-pound frames were able to inflict extra damage on smaller defenders (when defenders touched them at all).

0.02. PPP (Points Per Play) allowed by Alabama's pass defense this season. Missouri's 0.09 PPP average was actually well above what other opponents have accomplished. A 0.09 average is still terrible (and a sure sign that you have no chance), but it's nice to keep a bit of perspective; as bad as Berkstresser and the passing game looked at times, it was just looking bad against a defense that makes most pass offenses look like a horror show. That is a bit of a backhanded compliment, but it is a compliment nonethelesss!

Alabama 42, Missouri 10

Alabama Missouri Alabama Missouri
Close % 75.2% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 54.4% 24.6% Success Rate 50.9% 20.7%
Leverage % 77.9% 50.9% PPP 0.37 0.12
S&P 0.881 0.332
EqPts 35.2 3.6 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 48.0% 22.7% Success Rate 53.3% 17.9%
Close PPP 0.50 0.08 PPP 1.04 0.00
Close S&P 0.982 0.309 S&P 1.569 0.178
EqPts 27.4 2.0 Number 2 3
Close Success Rate 53.3% 21.1% Turnover Pts 9.5 11.5
Close PPP 0.62 0.08 Turnover Pts Margin +2.0 -2.0
Close S&P 1.158 0.286
Line Yards/carry 3.65 1.11 Q1 S&P 1.650 0.205
Q2 S&P 0.817 0.282
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.393 0.424
EqPts 7.8 1.6 Q4 S&P 1.174 0.078
Close Success Rate 40.0% 24.0%
Close PPP 0.32 0.09 1st Down S&P 0.958 0.392
Close S&P 0.718 0.326 2nd Down S&P 1.400 0.336
SD/PD Sack Rate 12.5% / 0.0% 10.0% / 9.1% 3rd Down S&P 0.508 -0.026
Projected Pt. Margin: Alabama +33.6 | Actual Pt. Margin: Alabama +32

What Mizzou Must (Have) Do(ne)

In last week's BTBS preview, I outlined five things that absolutely must happen for Mizzou to have any chance of an upset. You probably already know how well those things went, but let's walk through them.

Part 1: Hold Alabama To A 30 Percent Success Rate On Passing Downs.

Alabama's passing downs success rate: 53.3%. Mission: failed.

Mizzou did pretty well on third downs. The problem was that Alabama owned -- owned -- second-and-long. McCarron was 1-for-2 for 17 yards on second-and-8 or more, and Alabama carried 10 times for 162 yards on second-and-7 or more.

Part 2: Force Field Goals.

Alabama's eight trips inside Mizzou's 40: six touchdowns, one fumble, one punt, no field goals. Mission: failed.

It wouldn't have mattered, obviousy; that Alabama crossed Mizzou's 40 eight times was about 3-4 too many. If Bama had kicked field goals on all eight drives, they'd have won by 14. But still ... total failure to stop Bama here. The closer the Tide got to the Mizzou end zone, the better the offense looked.

Part 3: Avoid Catastrophe.

Turnovers: Mizzou 3, Alabama 2.
Blocked Kicks: Alabama 1, Mizzou 0

Mission: failed.

L'Damian Washington's bump of a Berkstresser pass to Vinnie Sunseri gave Bama the ball at midfield midway through the first quarter. The next possession, Landon Collins blocked a punt. Mizzou could not afford to give Alabama easy scores, and the Tide had two of them 13 minutes into the game.

Part 4: Turn DGB Into Alshon Jeffery.

Dorial Green-Beckham: 1 target, 0 catches. Mission: failed.

I'm writing a post about him later this week. I know he's still raw. I know he doesn't totally know what he's doing yet. But when the first string of the receiving corps looks this bad over a series of games, give me raw-with-potential over known-with-little-potential. It's time for him to start seeing 5-6 passes a game, minimum, not his current rate of two per game. The passing game isn't going to get any worse than it already is.

Part 5: Win Special Teams.

Mission: ...successful? Call it a draw?

Honestly, thanks to Marcus Murphy's kick return touchdown and the fact that Alabama punter Cody Mandell muffed a punt snap of his own to somewhat balance out Alabama's own blocked punt, Mizzou probably did win special teams, but not enough to matter. Mizzou got seven points directly off of special teams, and Andrew Baggett did make a 41-yard field goal in the rain. But Alabama's third touchdown came on a 15-yard drive set up by the blocked punt. That evens things out a bit too much.

So of the five things Mizzou needed to do to win, the Tigers did about 0.5 of them. Guess what: they didn't win.

Mizzou Targets And Catches

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Marcus Lucas (WR) 8 2 25.0% 27.6% 18 2.3
L'Damian Washington (WR) 5 4 80.0% 17.2% 72 14.4
T.J. Moe (WR) 4 2 50.0% 13.8% 19 4.8
Eric Waters (TE) 3 1 33.3% 10.3% 1 0.3
Kendial Lawrence (RB) 2 2 100.0% 6.9% 11 5.5
Jared McGriff-Culver (RB) 1 1 100.0% 3.4% 5 5.0
Jimmie Hunt (WR) 1 0 0.0% 3.4% 0 0.0
Dorial Green-Beckham (WR) 1 0 0.0% 3.4% 0 0.0
Bud Sasser (WR) 1 0 0.0% 3.4% 0 0.0
N/A 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 29 12 41.4% 100.0% 126 4.3
TOTAL (WR) 20 8 40.0% 69.0% 109 5.5
TOTAL (RB) 3 3 100.0% 10.3% 16 5.3
TOTAL (TE) 3 1 33.3% 10.3% 1 0.3

Marcus Lucas has had a really, really bad couple of weeks. And he is seeing far more targets than his level of play currently warrants. He looked strong on those quick slants against South Carolina. Since then, he has caught five of eight passes for 33 yards (with a couple of drops) versus UCF, four of 12 passes for 54 yards (with at least two drops and a fumble) versus Vanderbilt, and two of eight for 18 yards versus Alabama. That's abhorrent.

2012 Target Data:
Marcus Lucas: 33-for-62 (53%) for 352 yards (5.7 per target)
T.J. Moe: 26-for-43 (61%) for 250 yards (5.8)
L'Damian Washington: 13-for-27 (48%) for 239 yards (8.9)
Gahn McGaffie: 18-for-27 (67%) for 124 yards (4.6)
Dorial Green-Beckham: 6-for-14 (43%) for 119 (8.5)
Kendial Lawrence: 12-for-13 (92%) for 92 (7.1)
Bud Sasser: 5-for-10 (50%) for 124 (12.4)
Eric Waters: 4-for-7 (57%) for 27 (3.9)
Jimmie Hunt: 5-for-6 (83%) for 99 (16.5)

Nine Mizzou receivers have been targeted with at least six passes this year. The top two have the third- and fourth-worst per-target averages of the nine. The two best have been targeted a combined 16 times. Mizzou's targets are all out of whack, and that absolutely must get rectified in coming weeks. That means either Lucas and Moe earning their targets or other people getting them.

Alabama Targets And Catches

Player Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds.
Yds. Per
Kevin Norwood (WR) 5 3 60.0% 71.4% 25 5.0
Amari Cooper (WR) 4 4 100.0% 19.0% 41 10.3
Christion Jones (WR) 4 2 50.0% 19.0% 19 4.8
Kenny Bell (WR) 2 2 100.0% 9.5% 46 23.0
Eddie Lacy (RB) 2 2 100.0% 9.5% 17 8.5
Michael Williams (TE) 1 1 100.0% 4.8% 17 17.0
Cyrus Jones (WR) 1 1 100.0% 4.8% 4 4.0
Kelly Johnson (TE) 1 1 100.0% 4.8% 2 2.0
N/A 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
TOTAL 21 16 76.2% 100.0% 171 8.1
TOTAL (WR) 16 12 75.0% 76.2% 135 8.4
TOTAL (RB) 2 2 100.0% 9.5% 17 8.5
TOTAL (TE) 2 2 100.0% 9.5% 19 9.5

Alabama's passing game was perfectly efficient against Missouri, but Mizzou only really allowed one truly damaging pass. Of the four primary aspects of the game (Mizzou run, Mizzou pass, Bama run, Bama pass), this was by far the least troubling.


As I said yesterday, Mizzou's SEC initiation is complete. Now the second season begins. Hopefully the second season has a passing game that makes a little more sense.


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%.