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Missouri 34, Texas A&M 27: Beyond the box score

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One factor weighs more than the other four, and that's a very good thing for Mizzou.

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Missouri 34, Texas A&M 27

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Missouri Texas A&M Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 89 66
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 100.0%
Avg Starting FP 23.2 35.2 29.9
Possessions 12 12
Scoring Opportunities*
9 5
Points Per Opportunity 3.78 5.40 4.67
Leverage Rate** 67.4% 69.7% 68.2%
Close S&P*** 0.569 0.489 0.505
* A scoring opportunity occurs when an offense gets a first down inside the opponent's 40 (or scores from outside the 40).
** Leverage Rate = Standard Downs / (Standard Downs + Passing Downs)
*** When using IsoPPP, the S&P formula is (0.8*Success Rate) + (0.2*IsoPPP)
EqPts (what's this?) Missouri Texas A&M
Total 35.7 24.1
Rushing 24.5 6.9
Passing 11.1 17.2
Success Rate (what's this?) Missouri Texas A&M Nat'l Avg
All (close) 51.7% 34.9% 41.8%
Rushing (close) 55.1% 37.0% 43.4%
Passing (close) 47.5% 33.3% 40.2%
Standard Downs 58.3% 41.3% 47.1%
Passing Downs 37.9% 20.0% 30.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Missouri Texas A&M Nat'l Avg
All (close) 0.78 1.05 0.85
Rushing (close) 0.91 0.69 0.74
Passing (close) 0.59 1.32 0.98
Standard Downs 0.81 0.86 0.77
Passing Downs 0.66 1.96 1.14
Line Stats Missouri Texas A&M Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 3.79 3.16 2.92
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 0.0% 4.7%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 17.7% 7.5%
Turnovers Missouri Texas A&M
Turnovers 1 1
Turnover Points (what's this?) 5.0 2.4
Turnover Margin +0
Exp. TO Margin Missouri +0.87
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Texas A&M +0.87
TO Points Margin Texas A&M +2.6 points
Situational Missouri Texas A&M
Q1 S&P 0.414 0.311
Q2 S&P 0.542 0.562
Q3 S&P 0.768 0.599
Q4 S&P 0.375 0.538
1st Down S&P 0.546 0.466
2nd Down S&P 0.564 0.603
3rd Down S&P 0.635 0.295
Projected Scoring Margin: Missouri by 9.0
Actual Scoring Margin: Missouri by 7

Almost a year ago, I came up with my Five Factors idea to talk about the most important aspects of winning football games: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers. As I have unpacked (or attempted to) each one of those, it's become very clear that efficiency is far and away the most important of the bunch.

That's a very good thing because that's the only one of the five factors Missouri won on Saturday. The Tigers lost 12 yards of field position for every exchange of possessions, they struggled to convert scoring opportunities into points, their big plays weren't as big as A&M's, and in terms of both turnovers luck and the significance of each team's turnover, they lost that battle, too.

If you found yourself wondering how the game was so close when it felt like Mizzou had been far and away the better team, there's your answer. Missouri had more successful plays than A&M, and it won the Tigers the game. But the other four factors almost allowed A&M to stay even.

Targets & catches

Bud Sasser: 14 targets, 6 catches, 83 yards (5.9 per target)
Jimmie Hunt: 8 targets, 5 catches, 85 yards (10.6)
Darius White: 6 targets, 6 catches, 55 yards (9.2), 1 TD
Marcus Murphy: 7 targets, 5 catches, 23 yards (3.3)
Sean Culkin (TE): 2 targets, 1 catch, 6 yards (3.0)
Ish Witter (RB): 1 target, 0 catches
Nate Brown: 1 target, 0 catches

Sasser's game was kind of what I feared in this one. Without White, and with Hunt falling into a bit of a slump, Sasser has been pretty much the primary and secondary receiving weapons. But A&M has a lot of athletic DBs I figured would give him some trouble. He made a couple of huge catches and won his share of rounds, but he still caught only six of 14 balls and averaged a pretty iffy 5.9 yards per target.

Luckily, White was able to remind us what Mizzou was missing when he was down, and Hunt had his best game since either Indiana, Toledo, or the 2012 Syracuse game. That made up the difference. You can afford for your No. 1 to have a mediocre night when your No. 2 and No. 3 average 10 yards per target and make some huge third-down catches.

Texas A&M
Josh Reynolds: 7 targets, 5 catches, 125 yards (17.9), 2 TD
Ricky Seals-Jones: 7 targets, 4 catches, 20 yards (2.9)
Speedy Noil: 5 targets, 3 catches, 36 yards (7.2)
Malcome Kennedy: 5 targets, 3 catches, 22 yards (4.4), 1 TD
Edward Pope: 2 targets, 2 catches, 7 yards (3.5)
Boone Niederhofer: 2 targets, 1 catch, 7 yards (3.5)
Trey Williams (RB): 2 targets, 2 catches, 2 yards (1.0)
Tra Carson (RB): 1 target, 1 catch, 10 yards
Cameron Clear (TE): 1 target, 1 catch, 1 yard
Brandon Williams (RB): 1 target, 0 catches
Kyle Allen (QB): 1 target, 0 catches

Similarly, you can afford for your opponent's No. 1 receiver to have a great game when you basically shut down everybody else. Reynolds gained 125 yards in seven targets; the next five A&M WRs gained 92 yards in 21 targets.

In this way, Missouri both did and didn't miss Aarion Penton. Reynolds has been a pretty impressive receiving option for A&M of late (32 catches for 435 yards in six conference games), and Missouri quite possibly would have put Penton on him for a good portion of the game. He may have made his big plays regardless (his 56-yard third-quarter touchdown seemed to be mostly safety Ian Simon's fault when he both misread the situation and slipped), but Penton may also have had a slightly better chance of preventing one of them. And without all three of his big catches -- his 24-yard second-quarter touchdown, his 32-yard gain that set up an end-of-first-half field goal, and his third-quarter score -- Mizzou is most likely up double digits when A&M is driving at the end of the game.

Still, with help from a couple of hurried passes and a couple of drops, Mizzou shut down everybody else. And considering the athleticism of the A&M receiving corps and the fact that Mizzou got only two quarters of play from Penton and Braylon Webb, that's pretty exciting.


Havoc Rate: Missouri 14.3% (9 in 63 plays), Texas A&M 10.1% (9 in 89 plays)

Markus Golden (DE): 3 (2 TFL, 1 FF)
Shane Ray (DE): 2 (2 TFL)
Kentrell Brothers (LB): 2 (1 FF, 1 PBU)
Ian Simon (DB): 1 (1 INT)
Marcus Loud (DE): 1 (1 PBU)
Braylon Webb (DB): 0.5 (0.5 TFL)
Matt Hoch (DT): 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

I was surprised that Charles Harris wasn't on this list. He was active and around the ball a lot, but he never actually made a tackle or got his hand on a pass. Oh well. He and Loud both had some exciting moments, which is certainly good for 2015, and Golden and Ray both looked healthy and as explosive as ever ... which is very good for 2014.

Texas A&M
Armani Watts (DB): 3 (1 INT, 2 PBU)
Shaan Washington (LB): 1 (1 PBU)
Howard Matthews (DB): 1 (1 PBU)
Otaro Alaka (LB): 1 (1 TFL)
Alonzo Williams (DL): 1 (1 PBU)
Tommy Sanders (LB): 1 (1 TFL)
De'Vante Harris (DB): 0.5 (0.5 TFL)
Daeshon Hall (DL): 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

A&M's star freshman end Myles Garrett wasn't able to play on Saturday, which was certainly a big boost for Mizzou in the passing game. Garrett wouldn't have helped much with the run -- and that was obviously Missouri's biggest strength -- but he would have likely made a havoc play or two that A&M was incapable of making without him.

Looking ahead

As we'll discuss in the coming days, Tennessee presents a challenge almost 180 degrees different from A&M. The Volunteers have a much sturdier defensive front seven and a young quarterback far more mobile than Kyle Allen. With the rumored injuries and suspensions the Vols might be dealing with, both on the offensive line (injuries) and in the defensive back seven (suspensions), they also might present far less of a challenge in terms of OL play and pass defense.

If Missouri's defense is as aggressive and active as it was on Saturday, and if the Mizzou defensive line dominates as well as it very well could, the Vols will struggle to score points. But Missouri's own offense might not be able to lean on the run and might be facing a much better pass rush than A&M was able to deliver without Garrett. Tennessee's a better overall team than A&M, which means Mizzou won't be able to get away with losing all of the Little Things™ battles, but there's a pretty clear script for a Missouri win. Let's hope we're talking about that script more on Sunday.