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Missouri 41, Georgia 26: Beyond the box score

Pressure is cumulative, turnovers aren't entirely lucky, and Andrew Wilson plays grown man football.

Kevin C. Cox

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 41, Georgia 26

Missouri Georgia Missouri Georgia
Close % 100.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 50.0% 43.4% Success Rate 40.0% 49.0%
Leverage % 66.2% 67.1% PPP 0.51 0.59
S&P 0.911 1.078
EqPts 36.6 42.6 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 38.2% 47.4% Success Rate 34.8% 44.0%
Close PPP 0.54 0.56 PPP 0.59 0.51
Close S&P 0.921 1.034 S&P 0.940 0.946
EqPts 17.4 16.2 Number 0 4
Close Success Rate 39.4% 48.3% Turnover Pts 0.0 19.6
Close PPP 0.53 0.56 Turnover Pts Margin +19.6 -19.6
Close S&P 0.922 1.041
Line Yards/carry 3.50 3.45 Q1 S&P 0.947 0.837
Q2 S&P 1.043 1.318
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.540 1.087
EqPts 19.2 26.4 Q4 S&P 1.046 0.870
Close Success Rate 37.1% 46.8%
Close PPP 0.55 0.56 1st Down S&P 0.806 0.991
Close S&P 0.920 1.030 2nd Down S&P 0.987 1.290
SD/PD Sack Rate 6.9% / 0.0% 4.8% / 21.4% 3rd Down S&P 1.093 0.500
Projected Pt. Margin: Missouri +13.6 | Actual Pt. Margin: Missouri +15

1. Pressure. Is. Cumulative

That sounds familiar, doesn't it? The Fran Fraschilla basketball mantra also works in the pass rush department. On the stat sheet, Georgia's pass rush was more effective than Missouri's -- the Dawgs got to James Franklin four times in 31 attempts, far more than Mizzou was used to allowing; meanwhile, Mizzou only sacked Aaron Murray twice: once on Shane Ray's sack-and-strip in the second quarter (which resulted in the Michael Sam touchdown) and once via "Markus Golden emasculates the right tackle" in the fourth quarter.

But how many times did Aaron Murray have a clean, fixed pocket from which to throw? It seems like you could count them on one hand. Most of the time, Murray was forced to pause from his progression to either move up in the pocket or move around the pocket. Mizzou's ends were consistently buzzing the tower, and I think we saw the effects of that late in the game. Murray is great, and he was mostly error-free, but his final two possessions both ended in mistakes and interceptions. He was forced to throw on the run and didn't see Randy Ponder cheating off of his man for the easy pick, and he was running around and desperate to make something happen when he was picked off by Kentrell Brothers. Mizzou's pass rush wasn't incredibly successful in terms of the actual number of sacks, but it defined Mizzou's defensive performance, and it helped to ice the game late.

2. "And the third quarter started ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... so then the fourth quarter was pretty awesome."

In the third quarter, Gary Pinkel caught all sorts of hell on the Internets for "choking" or "not showing a killer instinct" or whatever your derisive "I disagree with this coach's decision!" cliché of choice might be. And to be sure, punting twice on fourth-and-4 inside your opponent's 40 does not grade out very well from an Underdog Tactics 101 standpoint. I didn't hate either call, even though I knew he would get mocked for them as they were happening. Two reasons for that:

A) Pinkel did not coach that game like his team was the underdog. Punting didn't scream "I'm scared" to me as much as "I think my defense can stop them if they have to go the length of the field." Mizzou was more than keeping up athletically, and the Tigers had built an 18-point lead without help from trickeration or fluky plays. (Okay, the fumble recovery late in the second quarter was at least a little fluky, in the sense that it's hard to rely on that to succeed, but that's about it.) He was coaching that game like he had a 15-point lead on an evenly matched team.

(And he was basically right. Mizzou pinned Georgia at the 3 on the first punt, and the Dawgs went three-and-out. And even though the second punt was a touchback, Georgia still needed two penalties, including a pass interference call I hated on a third-and-2 incompletion, to get all the way down the field.)

B) I was also okay with punting because I wasn't sure Mizzou could convert. First of all, this is fourth-and-4 we're talking about here, not fourth-and-1. You should basically always go for it on fourth-and-1 in your opponent's territory unless a field goal basically wins you the game. But not only are the percentages quite a bit lower on fourth-and-4, but ... the Mizzou offense just had no edge whatsoever. Franklin seemed to be making decisions too slowly -- it's randomly been a problem of his throughout his career -- and the line was getting beaten up pretty badly. If "Go for it or punt it?" was a 50-50 call, I think that might have pushed it over the line to "Yeah, just punt."

In all, the third quarter stunk. And then the fourth quarter was awesome. Analysis!

3. Find what works, milk it

Intended Touches (Carries + Targets)
Henry Josey: 13 for 49 (3.8 per IT)
James Franklin/Maty Mauk: 11 for 55 (5.0)
L'Damian Washington: 10 for 115 (11.5)
Marcus Murphy: 8 for 73 (9.1)
Marcus Lucas: 5 for 39 (7.8)
Dorial Green-Beckham: 5 for 35 (7.0)
Russell Hansbrough: 5 for 17 (3.4)
Darius White: 2 for 0 (0.0)
Bud Sasser: 1 for 21
Jaleel Clark: 1 for 4

Or, to put it another way...

Intended Touches by Position
Tailback (Joey/Hansbrough/Murphy): 26 for 139 (5.3)
Z-Receiver (Washington/White): 12 for 115 (9.6)
Quarterback (Franklin/Mauk): 11 for 55 (5.0)
X-Receiver (DGB/Clark): 6 for 39 (6.5)
Y-Receiver (Lucas/Levi Copelin): 5 for 39 (7.8)
H-Receiver (Sasser/Jimmie Hunt): 1 for 21 (21.0)

For the game, Georgia's Damian Swann had 7.5 tackles, second-most on the team. But if you're ever looking for a reason why tackles are a pretty terrible measure without context, this is a pretty good example. Five of his tackles came after his man caught a pass; on three of those, he was tackling L'Damian Washington after gains of 10, 12, and 17. He was also covering on both of Washington's touchdowns. Mizzou found a matchup it liked and milked it.

That said, the distribution was still pretty even. Four players (including the QBs as one guy, anyway) had between eight and 13 intended touches, and three others had five each. Mizzou distributes the damn ball, but it certainly found a particular matchup to exploit along the way and did so unabashedly.

4. Praise be to Andrew Wilson

Like I said yesterday, I'm really happy for Kentrell Brothers in being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. He's been great for Missouri this year -- as great as I hoped he'd be, and my expectations were pretty high. That he's a sophomore makes it all the better. But he really was the second-best Missouri linebacker on the field on Saturday.

This really might have been Andrew Wilson's best game. His stat line was fine (four solo tackles, seven assists, 0.5 tackles for loss, and a break-up), but that only tells part of the story. One of those tackles came after he straight stood up Georgia's great fullback, Quayvon Hicks. Another came as he met Hicks one-on-one on third-and-1 and knocked him straight to the ground.

For the game, Georgia's freshman running backs had a lovely day: 26 carries, 157 yards (6.0 per carry). But 57 of those yards came on one play, which means the per-carry average was otherwise 4.0 on the dot. And when Georgia got inside the Missouri 10, the Dawgs threw. They didn't trust the ground game, and while part of that was probably because of their freshman backs, don't tell me Wilson and the rest of the front seven didn't at least factor into that.

With Mizzou up 14-7, Georgia had a first down at Mizzou's 16. Two Brendan Douglas rushes gained five yards (both were stopped by defensive backs, actually), and a third down pass fell incomplete. Field goal.

With Mizzou up 28-10, Georgia had a first down at Mizzou's 18. Murray found Chris Conley for eight yards on first down, and Douglas fumbled on second down. (The box score says Lucas Vincent forced the fumble, but I actually could have sworn it was Wilson.)

On the first drive of the second half, Green's 57-yard run gave Georgia first-and-goal from the 10. Matt Hoch stuffed Green for no gain on first down, and Wilson broke up a pass to Rantavious Wooten on third down.

Mizzou's defense is predicated on bending, then making plays with its collective back near the goal line. Wilson was involved in a good number of drive-killing plays.

And seriously, you have to be a man to do what Wilson did to Hicks on those plays. My goodness. Grown man football? Grown man football.

5. Big plays on passing downs

Georgia's success rate on passing downs was quite a bit better than Missouri's, but if there were big plays to be made, Missouri was making them.

Missouri passing on passing downs: 9-for-11 for 92 yards (and three sacks)
Georgia passing on passing downs: 8-for-16 for 81 yards (and an INT)

Five of Missouri's 14 pass attempts gained at least 10 yards (36%); four of Georgia's 17 did the same (24%). Mizzou's PPP (explosiveness) countered Georgia's success rate (efficiency).

6. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers

The stats tell the same story that your eyes probably did: Turnovers were the difference. Georgia outgained Mizzou by 79 yards and 6.0 equivalent points, but Mizzou was +4 (and +19.6 equivalent points) in the turnovers department and won by basically the projected amount. (Of course, Mizzou should have won by 16, not 15, and DON'T EVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN, ANDREW BAGGETT.) The Tigers won the field position battle and, at worst, matched Georgia in terms of big plays, but turnovers were a clear, determining factor.

One more word about turnovers, though: Over the course of a season, we treat turnovers basically as instruments of luck. And as I've talked about a lot, some aspects are. You're going to recover 50 percent of all fumbles over an extended period of time, so if you recover two of two in a given game (as Missouri did), then you're perhaps a little bit lucky. And interceptions require a defensive player (who might be a defensive player because his hands are terrible) to hold onto the ball, which is a bit lucky, too. But while Mizzou recovered one more fumble than it perhaps should have, a) Georgia was still the team that fumbled twice (and fumbles are at least partially in your control), and b) the two picks were pretty legitimate considering the Tigers also broke up seven other passes. On average, you're going to have one pick for every four passes broken up; Mizzou had two to seven.

Turnovers are partially based on luck, and they are somewhere between difficult and impossible to rely on over the long haul, but Mizzou won this game because it made fewer mistakes, and turnovers were the most direct reflection of that.

What a great win. Please let me type those words again a week from now.