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Missouri 20, Kentucky 10: Beyond the box score

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Missouri followed the Missouri recipe to a 20-10 win over Kentucky: finish drives better, win field position, win passing downs.

Paul Halfacre

Missouri 20, Kentucky 10

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Kentucky Missouri Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 72 78
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 92.0%
Avg Starting FP 28.0 31.5 29.8
Possessions 14 14
Scoring Opportunities*
5 4
Points Per Opportunity 2.00 5.00 4.69
Leverage Rate** 51.7% 61.5% 68.2%
Close S&P*** 0.292 0.407 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?) Kentucky Missouri
Total 12.6 19.7
Rushing 5.3 8.7
Passing 7.2 11.0
Success Rate (what's this?) Kentucky Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 21.7% 29.5% 41.8%
Rushing (close) 30.8% 25.6% 43.4%
Passing (close) 14.7% 34.3% 40.1%
Standard Downs 32.3% 31.3% 47.1%
Passing Downs 10.3% 26.7% 30.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Kentucky Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 0.59 0.86 0.85
Rushing (close) 0.51 0.79 0.73
Passing (close) 0.73 0.92 0.99
Standard Downs 0.40 0.59 0.77
Passing Downs 1.26 1.35 1.14
Line Stats Kentucky Missouri Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 2.08 2.75 2.92
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 7.1% 5.3% 4.7%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 10.0% 6.3% 7.6%
Turnovers Kentucky Missouri
Turnovers 1 0
Turnover Points (what's this?) 1.3 0.0
Turnover Margin Missouri +1
Exp. TO Margin Missouri +0.88
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Missouri +0.12
TO Points Margin Missouri +1.3 points
Situational Kentucky Missouri
Q1 S&P 0.226 0.354
Q2 S&P 0.507 0.609
Q3 S&P 0.256 0.273
Q4 S&P 0.385 0.355
1st Down S&P 0.389 0.298
2nd Down S&P 0.356 0.518
3rd Down S&P 0.298 0.508
Projected Scoring Margin: Missouri by 8.5
Actual Scoring Margin: Missouri by 10

Check the keys

Here are what I determined were the keys to the game in last Friday's preview:

1. Big Plays

Kentucky lived off of big plays last week against Mississippi State but hasn't always gotten them. Missouri, meanwhile, has allowed fewer big plays than anybody in conference play. If UK can get a couple of 40-yard passes and create a couple of easy scores, it will put a lot of pressure on Missouri to keep up. Key Stat: IsoPPP.

IsoPPP: Missouri 0.86, Kentucky 0.59

Kentucky had three 20-yard gains, including a 32-yarder to Boom Williams out of the backfield. But that was pretty much it. The Wildcats were rendered inefficient and couldn't generate big plays to bail themselves out. (Missouri didn't have many big plays either, but ... that wasn't exactly an unexpected development.)

2. Passing Downs

Obviously. Both defenses have pretty significant advantages on passing downs, so if one offense is able to convert a few, that team will likely generate a solid advantage overall. Key Stat: passing downs success rate.

Passing Downs Success Rate: Missouri 26.7%, Kentucky 10.3%

Missouri's identity was already shifting toward that of a conservative, run-quite-a-bit-on-passing-downs team. It's working out pretty well; or at least, it's working out better than the "Hey Maty, go make a play" approach was a few weeks ago. On second-and-7+, Mizzou ran 12 times and passed just 10 times. On third-and-5+, the Tigers ran seven times and passed seven times. That's incredibly conservative.

It was also semi-successful. Mizzou was still below the national average (30.5%) in passing downs success rate, but the Tigers were a hell of a lot better than Kentucky. And run-pass balance was able to open up some bigger plays than we've seen -- a 32-yard run by Maty Mauk on second-and-10, a 26-yard pass to Bud Sasser on second-and-8, an 18-yard pass to Russell Hansbrough on second-and-7, and 5-for-6 passing (good!) for 37 yards and a sack (meh!) on third-and-long.

Missouri hasn't suddenly cured its offensive woes, but with excellent defense and special teams, all the Tigers had to do was find some decent medicine. They've slowly figured out how to do that.

3. Little Things™

I'll probably be putting this one here every week now. Missouri is a defense-and-special-teams team this year, which means that field position and finishing drives have become even more important than usual (and they're usually very important). Missouri has to create shorter fields for itself than its opponents, and the Tigers have to finish the scoring opportunities they get. (They didn't do a particularly good job of that last week.) Key stats: points per scoring opportunity and average starting field position.

Points Per Scoring Opportunity: Missouri 5.0, Kentucky 2.0
Average Starting Field Position: Missouri 31.5, Kentucky 28.0

I had no idea Kentucky had created that many scoring opportunities watching the game in real-time. I was apparently so (justifiably) confident in Mizzou's defense that I didn't bother getting nervous.

It certainly helped that Missouri didn't waste time in snuffing out potential opportunities. Two big runs by Mikel Horton gave UK a first down at the Mizzou 32 in the second quarter, but three plays and a false start netted just two yards, and UK settled for a field goal. A first down at Mizzou's 39 in the third quarter resulted in an immediate four-and-out. A first down at the Mizzou 34 on the next drive, resulted in another four-and-out (punctuated by a Shane Ray sack).

4. The first quarter

It's been strange these past few weeks, watching Missouri play with a pretty strong fire on the road but start rather slowly at home.

First quarter against Indiana, Georgia, and Vanderbilt: Opponent 13, Missouri 10
First quarter against Toledo, S. Carolina, and Florida: Missouri 35, Opponent 10

The first quarter seems to be pretty important, especially for the Mizzou offense. When you lack play-makers, you might need to find some success in the game plan early on before simple talent and athleticism take over.

In addition, Kentucky is coming to town with some confidence after last week's showing. If the Wildcats are able to take an early advantage, it could portend bad things. Key stat: Q1 S&P.

Q1 S&P: Missouri 0.354, Kentucky 0.226 (score: 0-0)

Missouri didn't really win the first quarter, but more importantly, the Tigers didn't lose it either.

Havoc

Havoc Rate: Missouri 25% (18 in 72 plays), Kentucky 15% (12 in 78%)

Individuals
Kenya Dennis 5.5 (1.5 TFL, 4 PBU)
Shane Ray 3 (2.0 TFL, 1 PBU)
Aarion Penton 3 (1 INT, 2 PBU)
Kentrell Brothers 1.5 (1.5 TFL)
Michael Scherer 1.5 (1.5 TFL)
Harold Brantley 1 (1.0 TFL)
Charles Harris 1 (1 FF)
Markus Golden 0.5 (0.5 TFL)
Donavin Newsom 0.5 (0.5 TFL)
Matt Hoch 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

So basically, in one of every 13 Kentucky snaps, Kenya Dennis was doing something disruptive. That's awesome.

In all, this was the most successfully aggressive game of the season for the Missouri secondary, which has improved by leaps and bounds. Now it gets another test: life without Braylon Webb (for a half against Texas A&M).

Targets & Catches

Missouri
Bud Sasser: 12 targets, 6 catches, 67 yards (5.6 per target), 2 TD
Sean Culkin (TE): 5 targets, 4 catches, 30 yards (6.0)
Russell Hansbrough (RB): 4 targets, 3 catches, 26 yards (6.5)
Nate Brown: 3 targets, 3 catches, 27 yards (9.0)
Jimmie Hunt: 2 targets, 1 catch, 13 yards (6.5)
Marcus Murphy (RB): 2 targets, 1 catch, 1 yard (0.5)
Gavin Otte: 1 target, 0 catches
Jason Reese (TE): 1 target, 0 catches

WRs: 18 targets, 10 catches (56%), 107 yards (5.9)
RBs: 6 targets, 4 catches (67%), 27 yards (4.5)
TEs: 6 targets, 4 catches (67%), 30 yards (5.0)
(There were three passes with no target info.)

Only 60% of Mauk's targets were to wideouts, which is incredibly low for Missouri. Passes to running backs and tight ends weren't incredibly successful (57 yards in 12 passes), but they weren't unsuccessful either, which is a step forward. One way to account for the lack of a true, big-name, No. 1 receiver is to force defenses to account for all possible weapons on the field. Mauk threw to eight guys in 33 passes, which isn't amazing but is a step in the right direction.

Nate Brown is obviously the biggest story here, or at least as big as a three-catch, 27-yard story can be. Brown has seen more targets in the last two games than he had seen in the first seven, and he's caught four of five passes in that span. Plus, Jason Reese (a redshirt freshman) has been seeing more snaps and even got a pass (that he proceeded to drop) from Mauk on Saturday. The trends are pointing to more options becoming available, but ... trends are slow.

Kentucky
Stanley Boom Williams (RB): 6 targets, 5 catches, 58 yards (9.7)
Javess Blue: 6 targets, 3 catches, 29 yards (4.8), 1 TD
Ryan Timmons: 5 targets, 4 catches, 40 yards (8.0)
Dorian Baker: 5 targets, 1 catch, 6 yards (1.2)
Garrett Johnson: 4 targets, 2 catches, 12 yards (3.0)
Braylon Heard (RB): 4 targets, 3 catches, 10 yards (2.5)
Demarco Robinson: 3 targets, 1 catch, 3 yards (1.0)
Mikel Horton (RB): 1 target, 0 catches
Blake Bone: 1 target, 0 catches

WRs: 24 targets, 11 catches (46%), 90 yards (3.8)
RBs: 11 targets, 8 catches (73%), 68 yards (6.2)

Passes to receivers went nowhere, and if you take away Williams' 32-yard catch, the other eight passes to running backs went nowhere, too. Mizzou's secondary (and linebackers!) were just better than Kentucky's receivers.

***

Expectations are a funny thing right now. Missouri just beat the No. 63 team by 10 points at home, and it feels like a lovely win. It was a little bit ugly -- among other things, I thought Mizzou would rush much better than it did -- but that's Missouri football at the moment. The Tigers win with defense, special teams, and occasional offense, and teams like that tend to play in ugly games. They're pretty if you win, and Mizzou's now won three straight.

It's hard to know what to expect moving forward. Texas A&M's offense has cratered -- the Aggies averaged fewer than four yards per play against ULM this past Saturday -- and the defense is far from amazing, but A&M has enough pure athleticism to make life hard on Mizzou in College Station. Meanwhile, Tennessee's defense is salty, and its offense may have found life under a new quarterback. Mizzou ranks ahead of all three remaining opponents in the F/+ ratings, but any range of outcomes, from 3-0 to 0-3 has decent odds.

I guess we just buckle up and see what happens, huh?