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Missouri 29, Tennessee 21: Beyond the box score

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Neither offense was efficient, but when Missouri bailed itself out, it bailed itself out in a big way.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri 29, Tennessee 21

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 70 67
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 100.0%
Avg Starting FP 26.8 36.1 30.0
Possessions 13 13
Scoring Opportunities*
7 6
Points Per Opportunity 4.13 3.33 4.64
Leverage Rate** 55.7% 58.2% 68.3%
Close S&P*** 0.500 0.420 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 Tennessee
Total 27.2 16.7
Rushing 13.0 3.4
Passing 14.3 13.3
Success Rate (what's this?) Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
All (close) 32.9% 34.3% 41.8%
Rushing (close) 31.0% 30.4% 43.3%
Passing (close) 35.7% 36.4% 40.2%
Standard Downs 35.9% 38.5% 47.0%
Passing Downs 29.0% 28.6% 30.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
All (close) 1.18 0.73 0.85
Rushing (close) 1.00 0.48 0.74
Passing (close) 1.43 0.83 0.98
Standard Downs 0.77 0.63 0.77
Passing Downs 1.83 0.92 1.14
Line Stats Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 3.36 1.93 2.92
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 8.3% 16.7% 4.7%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 12.5% 10.0% 7.6%
Turnovers Missouri Tennessee
Turnovers 0 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 0.0 8.0
Turnover Margin Missouri +2
Exp. TO Margin Missouri +0.29
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Missouri +1.71
TO Points Margin Missouri +8.0 points
Situational Missouri Tennessee
Q1 S&P 0.423 0.264
Q2 S&P 0.564 0.534
Q3 S&P 0.293 0.283
Q4 S&P 0.810 0.485
1st Down S&P 0.411 0.427
2nd Down S&P 0.406 0.366
3rd Down S&P 0.720 0.331
Projected Scoring Margin: Missouri by 18.5
Actual Scoring Margin: Missouri by 8

As expected in a game where the two defenses were better than the two offenses, the success rates were looooowwww. I didn't expect Tennessee's to actually be higher, honestly, but the difference between 34.3% and 32.9% is obviously minimal.

The difference in this game, then, came in the big-play department: only one team had them. Tennessee had only two rushes over 15 yards and two passes over 20 (one if you don't include the fake field goal). Missouri had only one rush over 15 yards (Maty Mauk's 20-yard run from the UT 36 to the 16), but it came at a key area of the field, where the slope for equivalent points is higher. Meanwhile, the Tigers had three passes of over 20 yards, and two (a 35-yarder to Bud Sasser, the 73-yarder to Jimmie Hunt) were well over 20.

Toss in a couple of turnovers and a higher level of third-down success, and voila: road win number 10.

Four keys revisited

From Friday's preview:

1. Line play

Using the overall F/+ stats, Tennessee's defensive advantage over Missouri's offense is bigger than Missouri's over Tennessee, especially considering how much better the Vols have looked with Dobbs behind center. But dialing down to the unit matchups, Missouri might have the single biggest advantage of the game: its defensive line vs. Tennessee's young, banged up offensive line. Mizzou is as explosive and disruptive up front as it was last year, and the Tigers have shown remarkable discipline as well, not getting swayed by misdirection or sucked into over-pursuit. A&M clearly thought it could bait Missouri into over-pursuit at times last week, but the Aggies really could not.

As I wrote above, if Mizzou's defensive line is particularly disruptive, it will force Dobbs to make not a few plays with his mobility and improvisation abilities, but a ton of plays. He's been great. Can he be that great? And can Missouri's own offensive line play well enough to not just give back any advantages is defensive line creates?

Key Stats: Line Yards and Sack Rates.

Line yards: Missouri 3.36, Tennessee 1.93
Sack Rate: Missouri 13.6%, Tennessee 10.7%

I would call that "particularly disruptive."

2. Big Plays

Tennessee neither makes many nor allows many. Ditto Missouri. This game isn't going to be played at a breakneck pace, and there will likely be quite a few punts. A single big play could make a world of difference.

Key Stat: IsoPPP.

IsoPPP: Missouri 1.18, Tennessee 0.73

The biggest play of the game was also the longest: Hunt's third-and-8 touchdown catch.

3. Avoid Passing Downs

I thought this was going to be of vital importance last week until we found out that Garrett was hurt. A&M's defensive front was a shell of its (mediocre) self, and Mizzou was actually able to carve out more success on passing downs than it had since September.

That probably won't be the case this week, even in A.J. Johnson's absence. So yeah. Avoid them. And force Tennessee into them. Easy, right?

Key Stat: Leverage Rate.

Leverage Rate: Tennessee 58.2%, Missouri 55.7%

Missouri was pretty awful in this regard, but the Tigers made sure Tennessee was, too, so that was a wash.

4. Little Things™

Tennessee is quite good at the field position battle, which is worrisome considering how bad Missouri was at it last week. That was at least a little bit of an outlier, but we'll see how much.

Meanwhile, even with last week's trouble at finishing drives, it's still an overall team strength for Mizzou this year. It very much is not for Tennessee. Win these battles, and you can probably afford a slip up in at least one of the three above.

Key stats: points per scoring opportunity and average starting field position.

Average Starting Field Position: Tennessee 36.1, Missouri 26.8
Points Per Scoring Opportunity: Missouri 4.13, Tennessee 3.33

Now, I've talked a lot about Big Things and Little Things these last couple of days, but while special teams was absolutely horrific for the Tigers, Mizzou did take greater advantage of its own scoring opportunities than Tennessee did. Thanks to the massive first-half field position advantage, Tennessee reached Missouri territory on five of its first six drives of the game. But those five trips resulted in just 13 points, and Mizzou managed to win the field position battle in the second half.

Targets & catches

Missouri
Bud Sasser: 9 targets, 4 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD
Jimmie Hunt: 6 targets, 3 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD
Sean Culkin (TE): 3 targets, 2 catches, 18 yards
Darius White: 2 targets, 1 catch, 9 yards
Russell Hansbrough (RB): 2 targets, 1 catch, 6 yards
Marcus Murphy: 1 target, 1 catch, 15 yards

Missouri WRs: 17 targets, 8 catches (47%), 191 yards (11.2 per target)
Missouri RBs: 3 targets, 2 catches (67%), 21 yards (7.0)
Missouri TEs: 3 targets, 2 catches (67%), 18 yards (6.0)

Obviously a catch rate below 50% is subpar, but big plays are a magical elixir. A couple of 30+ yarders from the receivers and no behind-the-line disasters for the RBs? Success!

Tennessee
Pig Howard: 15 targets, 8 catches, 90 yards
Jalen Hurd (RB): 7 targets, 6 catches, 40 yards
Jason Croom: 4 targets, 3 catches, 10 yards
Von Pearson: 3 targets, 3 catches, 42 yards
Alex Ellis (TE): 2 targets, 1 catch, 31 yards, 1 TD
Johnathon Johnson: 2 targets, 1 catch, 6 yards
Ryan Jenkins: 1 target, 1 catch, 6 yards
Marlin Lane (RB): 1 target, 1 catch, 2 yards
Daniel Helm (TE): 1 target, 1 catch, -1 yards
Vic Wharton: 1 target

Tennessee WRs: 26 targets, 16 catches (62%), 154 yards (5.9 per target)
Tennessee RBs: 8 targets, 7 catches (88%), 42 yards (5.3)
Tennessee TEs: 3 targets, 2 catches (67%), 30 yards (10.0, -0.5 without fake FG)

The Missouri defense has become such a complete weapon. The pass rush allows the defensive backs to be more aggressive, but on Saturday, the secondary's coverage ability forced Joshua Dobbs to wait longer than he would like to find an open man. And his pocket tended to implode pretty quickly. He threw rushed passes, his receivers in no way helped him out, Mizzou's DBs were swarming, and any dump-off in the flat was quickly met by at least two defenders. Tremendous team defense here.

Havoc

Havoc Rate: Missouri 26.9%, Tennessee 15.7%

For perspective on how good a 26.9% Havoc Rate is, I'll just note that Clemson is No. 1 this season with a 23.0% Havoc Rate. Missouri is 20th at 18.9%, and Tennessee is 31st at 18.0%. Missouri's rates went up on Saturday, and Tennessee's went down. Winner, winner. And for the season, only Clemson has a more disruptive line than Missouri.

Missouri
Kenya Dennis: 3 (1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU)
Markus Golden 2.5 (2 sacks, 0.5 other TFL)
Josh Augusta: 2 (1 sack, 1 FF)
Lucas Vincent: 2 (1 sack, 1 other TFL)
Shane Ray: 1.5 (0.5 sacks, 1 other TFL)
Ian Simon: 1.5 (0.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
Harold Brantley: 1.5 (0.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
John Gibson: 1.5 (1 PBU, 0.5 TFL)
Braylon Webb: 1 (1 TFL)
Thomas Wilson: 1 (1 TFL)
Michael Scherer: 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

The line was ridiculous, but this might have been the most aggressive, impressive game the secondary has played this season. Kenya Dennis and John Gibson combined for 1.5 tackles for loss, a pick, and two-breakups, and just about everybody tackled really well.

***

The numbers basically reaffirm what we experienced watching the game. Neither offense was efficient, but when Missouri bailed itself out, it bailed itself out in a big way. The Tigers defensive front dominated as much as it needed to, the offense pulled off a couple of huge gainers, and Mizzou played well enough on offense and defense to offset a massive, unexpected special teams advantage.

And now, in this abbreviated week, we move on to Arkansas.