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Missouri 21, Arkansas 14: Beyond the box score

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Mizzou's offense has mastered the art of Just Good Enough, and the Tigers split the Little Things™. Progress!

Paul Halfacre

Missouri 21, Arkansas 14

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Arkansas Missouri Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 60 83
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 100.0%
Avg Starting FP 36.7 21.8 30.0
Possessions 10 11
Scoring Opportunities*
5 5
Points Per Opportunity 2.80 4.20 4.66
Leverage Rate** 58.3% 65.1% 68.3%
Close S&P*** 0.441 0.465 0.506
* 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?) Arkansas Missouri
Total 17.4 21.3
Rushing 8.1 9.7
Passing 9.3 11.7
Success Rate (what's this?) Arkansas Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 33.3% 43.4% 41.8%
Rushing (close) 30.0% 48.7% 43.3%
Passing (close) 36.7% 38.6% 40.3%
Standard Downs 31.4% 44.4% 47.0%
Passing Downs 36.0% 41.4% 30.6%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Arkansas Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 0.87 0.59 0.86
Rushing (close) 0.90 0.51 0.74
Passing (close) 0.85 0.69 0.99
Standard Downs 0.79 0.45 0.77
Passing Downs 0.96 0.88 1.14
Line Stats Arkansas Missouri Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 3.09 2.98 2.93
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 3.9% 4.7%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 5.6% 7.6%
Turnovers Arkansas Missouri
Turnovers 2 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 8.0 7.8
Turnover Margin +0
Exp. TO Margin Arkansas +0.59
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Missouri +0.59
TO Points Margin Missouri +0.3 points
Situational Arkansas Missouri
Q1 S&P 0.687 0.347
Q2 S&P 0.506 0.343
Q3 S&P 0.365 0.436
Q4 S&P 0.290 0.674
1st Down S&P 0.437 0.419
2nd Down S&P 0.381 0.482
3rd Down S&P 0.478 0.509
Projected Scoring Margin: Missouri by 4.2
Actual Scoring Margin: Missouri by 7

Chunks at a time

There have been times over the last couple of weeks when my anti-social tendencies almost get the best of me. Obviously a lot of analysts have had more nice things to say about Missouri in recent weeks as the Tigers put together the pieces of a surprising division championship. But part of the narrative that has emerged is that the Tigers became a much better running team. That's only sort of true.

Mizzou has certainly run more frequently in recent games. The run-pass ratios that originally aimed for balance on standard downs and nearly all passing on passing downs shifted back toward last year's rates, when Missouri ran frequently more than the national average on all downs. But there have only been certain instances when Mizzou was particularly good at doing it.

Opponent Running backs rushing Maty Mauk rushing (non-sacks)
Florida 23 carries, 63 yards (2.7), 1 TD 6 carries, 45 yards (7.5)
Vanderbilt 36 carries, 189 yards (5.3), 1 TD 5 carries, 49 yards (9.8)
Kentucky 30 carries, 82 yards (2.7) 12 carries, 93 yards (7.8)
Texas A&M 44 carries, 321 yards (7.3), 3 TD 3 carries, 18 yards (6.0)
Tennessee 35 carries, 153 yards (4.4), 2 TD 6 carries, 49 yards (8.2)
Arkansas 33 carries, 156 yards (4.7), 1 TD 4 carries, 26 yards (6.5)

In terms of per-carry averages, Mizzou's backs have had one great game, three decent to good games, and a couple of stinkers. Really, looking at things in this way, the biggest advancement Missouri has made on the ground has been Maty Mauk learning to move up into and through the pocket in scrambling situations instead of spinning backwards into Maty Make a Play Mode.

The success rates above, however, tell you how the running game has improved, however. Mizzou backs may have averaged a wholly mediocre 4.7 yards per carry against Arkansas, but the Tigers also ended up with a nearly 50 percent success rate running the ball. There were no big run plays of which to speak, but Mizzou's ability to avoid passing downs against a defense really good at forcing them was key in this one. It allowed the Tigers to rack up a pretty impressive snap count. There was nothing spectacular about Missouri's offense on Friday -- nor has there been for any game other than A&M -- but the key to winning with defense, as Missouri has this year, is being just good enough on offense. Mizzou's offense was, and Arkansas' offense wasn't.

Reviewing the preview

Here are the game keys I listed in last Wednesday's preview, brilliantly conveniently titled "First team to 21 wins."

1. Passing downs efficiency

This game begins when an offense falls behind schedule.

Arkansas is efficient but not explosive on passing downs, and the Razorbacks render you inefficient but explosive on such downs on defense. If Mizzou's own PD success rate is higher -- it shouldn't be, but it's not out of the realm of possibility -- it's probably going to be difficult for the Hogs to win, especially if a couple of Missouri's successes go for long gains.

Key Stat: Passing downs success rate

Passing Downs success rate: Missouri 41.4%, Arkansas 36.4%

Along with better avoiding passing downs, Missouri was better at converting them, however slightly.

2. HAVOC

Both Arkansas and Missouri play active, exciting defense, and both rank really high in the Havoc Rate measure mentioned above. These offenses aren't the most explosive in the world, and big defensive plays might be as or more important. So let's track those.

Key Stats: Havoc rate

Havoc Rate: Arkansas 18.1% (15 in 83 plays), Missouri 16.7% (10 in 60 plays)

Arkansas had a clear advantage in this regard as it was building a 14-3 lead in the first half. That advantage dissipated as the game progressed.

3. Little Things™

This was the biggest thing in the world for Missouri until two weeks ago, when it became nothing but a hindrance. And hey, if Mizzou wins the first two items on this list, maybe the Tigers can overcome field position and drive-finishing disadvantages once again. But I wouldn't advise it. Arkansas already wants to lean on you; tilting the field in the Hogs' favor only gives them a better chance of making you collapse.

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

Average Starting Field Position: Arkansas 36.7, Missouri 21.8
Points Per Scoring Opportunity: Missouri 4.20, Arkansas 2.80

Here might be a) the biggest reason why Arkansas scored 14 of the game's first 17 points and b) the biggest reason why Missouri scored the last 18. The Hogs did a brilliant job of tilting the field in their favor, particularly in the first and third quarters. But their nearly complete inability to turn chances into points -- five scoring opportunities resulted in two touchdowns, a turnover on downs, a punt, and a fumble, and three other drives moved into Mizzou territory and stalled -- gave the Tigers time to find their legs on offense. And then they did, the Hogs were more or less punched out. The teams split these two categories, and if either team won both, it would have won the game handily.

4. Special teams

Mizzou managed to win last week with one of the worst special teams performances we'll ever see. Let's not try that again.

Key Stat: The basics (place-kicking, net kicking/punting averages).

Place-kicking: Mizzou 2-for-3 FG (m35, 50, 52), Arkansas 0-for-0
Net Kickoffs: Arkansas 38.3, Mizzou 36.3
Net Punting: Arkansas 42.0, Mizzou 24.7

In the end, we'll call this a draw. Christian Brinser's punting was terribly subpar, and Andrew Baggett had a 35-yard field goal blocked in the third quarter. But Baggett's two 50+ yard bombs both bought Missouri time and won him the SEC's special teams player of the week award.

Havoc

Mizzou
Markus Golden: 3 (2 TFL, 1 FF)
Kentrell Brothers: 1 (1 FF)
Shane Ray: 1 (1 TFL)
Matt Hoch: 1 (1 TFL)
Donavin Newsom: 1 (1 FF)
Kenya Dennis: 1 (1 PBU)
Braylon Webb: 1 (1 PBU)
John Gibson: 0.5 (0.5 TFL)
Ian Simon: 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

By Unit: DL 5, LB 2, DB 3

Seeing how good Markus Golden has been of late, I'm actually feeling cheated that we didn't get to watch a completely healthy Golden all year. Not only would he have probably turned the tide in the woeful Indiana loss (you can't tell me he doesn't make one extra play that leads to a stop) ... but he also just would have been fun as hell to watch. I said it last week, but nobody plays with such brutality and joy. I'm going to miss watching him. Shane Ray, too, of course, but we've gotten a full season of a mostly healthy Shane Ray. We missed on some Golden moments, even if he only actually missed one game.

Arkansas
Trey Flowers: 3 (1 TFL, 2 PBU)
D.J. Dean: 2 (1 INT, 1 PBU)
Jared Collins: 2 (1 FF, 1 PBU)
Taiwan Johnson: 2 (2 TFL)
Rohan Gaines: 2 (1 TFL, 1 PBU)
Tevin Beanum: 1.5 (1.5 TFL)
Jamichael Winston: 1 (1 TFL)
Darius Philon: 1 (1 PBU)
Martrell Spaight: 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

By Unit: DL 8.5, LB 0.5, DB 6

I expected the stats to show that Arkansas' line was more disruptive than Missouri's, and that's what we see here. Again, though, almost all of that came in the first two to three quarters. Mizzou's offensive line owned the fourth. Meanwhile, there were some battles between Mizzou's receivers and the Arkansas defensive backfield. Both units won their fair share.

Targets & catches

Mizzou
Bud Sasser: 13 targets, 9 catches (69%), 127 yards (9.8 per target)
Jimmie Hunt: 8 targets, 5 catches (63%), 61 yards (7.6), 1 TD
Sean Culkin: 7 targets, 3 catches (43%), 25 yards (3.6)
Marcus Murphy: 5 targets, 4 catches (80%), 27 yards (5.4)
Darius White: 5 targets, 2 catches, 15 yards (3.0)
Jason Reese: 1 target, 1 catch, 12 yards
Russell Hansbrough: 1 target, 1 catch, -2 yards

Mizzou by Unit
WR: 26 targets, 16 catches (62%), 203 yards (7.8)
TE: 8 targets, 4 catches (50%), 37 yards (4.6)
RB: 6 targets, 5 catches, 25 yards (4.2)

Maty Mauk's instincts have slowly been tweaked to avoid as many spin-out scrambles, and that's been huge; he's also grown more accustomed to throwing to check down options. They didn't do just a ton for him on Friday -- tight ends and running backs gained only 62 yards in 14 targets -- but ... well, 62 yards is better than zero. And it's better than taking costly sacks. He's had to tone down his play-maker instincts while still taking a couple of deep shots in a given game; his increased conservatism has improved Missouri's efficiency just enough.

Meanwhile, this was a particularly solid game for Maty Mauk getting the ball onto the hands of his receivers. Jimmie Hunt caught five of eight passes and got his hands on the other three; at least two of them should have been caught and would have resulted in another ~40 yards. Sasser suffered a drop as well. But even with the drops, Mizzou wideouts still had a 62 percent catch rate and averaged nearly 13 yards per catch. I'll take that.

Arkansas
Hunter Henry: 7 targets, 4 catches (57%), 48 yards (6.9)
Keon Hatcher: 6 targets, 3 catches (50%), 24 yards (4.0), 1 TD
Demetrius Wilson: 6 targets, 2 catches (33%), 18 yards (3.0)
Jared Cornelius: 3 targets, 2 catches (67%), 13 yards (4.3)
Cody Hollister: 2 targets, 0 catches (0.0)
Alex Collins: 2 targets, 0 catches (0.0)
Jonathan Williams: 1 target, 1 catch, 23 yards, 1 TD
Jeremy Sprinkle: 1 target, 1 catch, 7 yards
Kendrick Edwards: 1 target, 0 catches

Arkansas by Unit
WR: 18 targets, 7 catches (39%), 55 yards (3.1), 1 TD
TE: 8 targets, 5 catches (63%), 55 yards (6.9)
RB: 3 targets, 1 catch (33%), 23 yards (7.7), 1 TD

Missouri's defense was well-drilled and understood who Brandon Allen would be looking for in specific situations. Arkansas was able to take advantage of that early in the game -- Brandon Allen's 23-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Williams came because virtually every Missouri defender turned to look for tight end Hunter Henry when they saw a play-fake, and Williams drifted out into the flat, uncovered and unseen. But that 23-yarder was Arkansas' longest pass of the game; take that out, and Allen is 12-for-29 for a brutal 110 yards.

I'll go ahead and say it: this Mizzou secondary is better than last year's. Considering the turnover -- considering the Tigers lost both cornerbacks (including E.J. Gaines) and a starting safety -- that's incredible. But ... prove me wrong. It benefits from having an even better pass rush as well, but when asked to make or prevent plays, it has done so. We'll see what happens when Amari Cooper is lining up across the way.