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Alabama 42, Missouri 13: Beyond the box score

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Mizzou needed luck, nearly perfect execution, and some Alabama lapses in the SEC Championship game. The Tigers got none of the three.

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama 42, Missouri 13

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Alabama Missouri Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 76 57
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 89.5%
Avg Starting FP 29.4 21.7 30.0
Possessions 12 11
Scoring Opportunities*
7 3
Points Per Opportunity 6.00 4.33 4.65
Leverage Rate** 77.9% 54.9% 68.3%
Close S&P*** 0.626 0.422 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?) Alabama Missouri
Total 37.1 14.7
Rushing 19.6 1.3
Passing 17.5 13.4
Success Rate (what's this?) Alabama Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 58.8% 29.4% 41.8%
Rushing (close) 53.9% 19.1% 43.2%
Passing (close) 65.5% 36.7% 40.3%
Standard Downs 64.2% 32.1% 47.0%
Passing Downs 40.0% 26.1% 30.6%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Alabama Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 0.78 0.93 0.86
Rushing (close) 0.65 0.28 0.74
Passing (close) 0.92 1.17 0.99
Standard Downs 0.76 0.65 0.77
Passing Downs 0.92 1.35 1.13
Line Stats Alabama Missouri Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 2.94 0.90 2.92
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 0.0% 4.7%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 25.0% 0.0% 7.7%
Turnovers Alabama Missouri
Turnovers 0 1
Turnover Points (what's this?) 0.0 4.0
Turnover Margin Alabama +1
Exp. TO Margin Alabama +0.37
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Alabama +0.63
TO Points Margin Alabama +4.0 points
Situational Alabama Missouri
Q1 S&P 0.578 0.246
Q2 S&P 0.654 0.425
Q3 S&P 0.547 0.560
Q4 S&P 0.822 0.330
1st Down S&P 0.658 0.311
2nd Down S&P 0.658 0.268
3rd Down S&P 0.642 0.615
Projected Scoring Margin: Alabama by 26.5
Actual Scoring Margin: Alabama by 29

The dam did eventually break after the game reached garbage-time status. Derrick Henry scored on a 26-yard run to make the score 35-13 (and trigger the garbage-time alarm), then he ripped off a 45-yard run to set up a short touchdown and a 42-13 final. But while the game was in question, Missouri did a strong job of keeping big plays to a minimum -- T.J. Yeldon averaged 3.4 yards per carry, Amari Cooper averaged 5.5 yards per target -- and forcing Alabama to consistently gain four to six yards at a time to move the football. The problem was, Alabama was able to do just that. From David Morrison's Game Rewind:

Alabama came into the SEC title game against, statistically, the best defense in the conference in league play and just shredded it. The Crimson Tide didn't put up the video-game numbers that Auburn did against Missouri last year. Largely, it didn't have to. What it did do was gain at least four yards on 60.5 percent of its plays which, if you can do math, tells you it was doing a good job just clicking off those first downs and methodically gaining ground. The Tide got a first down every 2.7 plays. They converted 9 of 13 on third down -- the best for a Missouri opponent since Texas A&M's 12 of 16 in 2012 -- and 8 of 10 after the first quarter. The ground game played rope-a-dope, basically, for the first three quarters (108 yards, 3.1 a carry), then exploded on a tenderized Missouri defense in the fourth (134 yards, 9.6 a carry). It was a masterful plan from Lane Kiffin executed with brutal aplomb by his players.

Keys revisited

From Friday's preview:

1. Standard downs success

The defense always holds the overall advantage on passing downs, and ... well, Alabama already holds enough defensive advantages. If Missouri can keep the Tide off-balance between run and pass, the Tigers might be able to find ways to consistently gain six yards here and seven there. But there will be only so many rabbits in Maty Mauk's hat in this game. Conserve them.

Similarly, if Alabama is finding Amari Cooper for solid gains on first down, and if T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are gaining six or seven yards instead of three or four, there's really no way Mizzou wins this game. Mizzou must win on standard downs.

Key Stat: Standard downs success rate.

Standard Downs Success Rate: Alabama 64.2%, Missouri 32.1%

Well that tells a pretty clear story, doesn't it? Alabama's SD success rate was perfectly double Missouri's. And that was how the Tide won. That Missouri was able to get to within 21-13 in the third quarter says a lot about defensive resiliency (and Jimmie Hunt), and power to the Tigers for winning the third quarter, but Bama's game plan was strong and its execution was stronger.

2. Turnovers

Turnovers are stolen possessions. Whatever Alabama scores per possession, Mizzou will probably need more possessions to match. If Mizzou gets some bounces and creates some easy points (or prevents some), the Tigers can absolutely stick around. If the bounces are going Alabama's way, however...

Key Stat: Turnover margin and turnovers luck

Turnover margin: Alabama +1
Turnovers luck: Alabama +0.63 (which is about 3.2 points)

Bama's TO luck wasn't as high as I thought, mainly because the Tide defensed four passes and ended up with zero interceptions (while Missouri defensed zero passes). But Alabama still recovered four of five fumbles; the Tide got exactly the fumbles luck that Missouri needed, especially when you factor in the Jalston Fowler fumble that was neither called nor reviewed. This alone wouldn't have been enough for Missouri to win the game, but it hurt in the exact way it needed to help.

3. Little Things™

I've said it for basically all of conference play, and for the beginning of Mizzou's six-game win streak, the Tigers were among the best LIttle Things teams in the country. Over the last three weeks, they've done Big Things better and completely lost ground in terms of field position and finishing drives. The upset script all but mandates a Tiger win in at least one of these two categories.

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

Points per Scoring Opportunity: Alabama 6.0, Missouri 4.3
Average Starting Field Position: Alabama 29.4, Missouri 21.7

Yeah. Missouri won none of the categories it needed to win.

4. Maty vs. Blake

In a lot of ways, Maty Mauk and Blake Sims are pretty similar quarterbacks. They have both shown one-read-and-scramble tendencies at times, and they can both do damage to your defense with their legs. Neither is a run-heavy QB, but they pick their spots well.

Sims has been quite a bit more efficient than Mauk this year, and while the reason for that could be as simple as "He has Cooper, and Mauk doesn't," I also think Sims has underrated accuracy and, when his line is protecting him, solid, quick decision-making ability. I've been talking about Sims as a pretty underrated guy all season ... and here's where I hope I'm wrong about him. If Mizzou wins the first three keys on this list, then in theory the Tigers can win even if Sims plays quite a bit better than Mauk. But Mauk probably needs to at least break even here.

Key Stat: Passer rating, I guess? INT and sack rates? Really, the eyeball test will work. Just ask yourself who played better at the end of the game. #stats

Passer Rating: Sims 191.1, Mauk 124.0

I actually thought Maty Mauk played pretty well. He had no receivers open, and he had guys dropping catchable passes early on. He had a couple of bad throws, sure, but he threw some gorgeous deep balls and minimized mistakes for the most part. He took no sacks and threw no picks, and his 124.0 rating (due mostly to said deep balls) was actually his third-highest in nine SEC games.

Mauk was fine, but Sims was great. The game plan gave him a lot of clean, easy passes, but when he needed to make tough passes, he did. His sidearm sling around a rushing Markus Golden was awesome, and when Missouri cut Bama's lead to 21-13, Sims put together one of the best drives you'll ever see. He rushed for six yards on third-and-2, then he hesitated perectly and found Christion Jones for 17 yards on second-and-9. Jones did the work for him on a 17-yard screen pass two plays later, then Sims found Jones again in the flat for what was basically the game=icing touchdown.

Sims had a couple of shaky moments in the first half, but only marginally so. He fed Amari Cooper early and often, and whenever Missouri's attention would drift, he would find Jones or DeAndrew White for bigger gains. He was almost perfect, and there was nothing Missouri could do about it, especially after Shane Ray got sent off.

Havoc

Havoc Rate: Alabama 19.3% (11 in 57 plays), Missouri 7.9% (6 in 76 plays)

Pretty sure that's a season low for Missouri.

Missouri
Lucas Vincent 2 (1 sack, 1 non-sack TFL)
Michael Scherer: 1 (1 FF)
Josh Augusta: 1 (1 TFL)
Matt Hoch: 1 (1 TFL)
Harold Brantley: 0.5 (0.5 sacks)
Shane Ray: 0.5 (0.5 sacks)

DL 5, LB 1, DB 0

Again, the game plan was strong and well-executed. Alabama negated Missouri's pass rush with a steady stream of quick passing and screens. Missouri had no chance of defensing any of those short passes, and the cumulative effect of those passes was that receivers could occasionally find more open space downfield. And Sims' accuracy assured that Missouri had no Havoc effect whatsoever beyond the line of scrimmage.

Alabama
A'Shawn Robinson: 3 (3 TFL)
Landon Collins: 2 (1 TFL, 1 FF)
Jarran Reed: 2 (2 TFL)
Geno Smith: 1 (1 PBU)
Trey DePriest: 1 (1 PBU)
Eddie Jackson: 1 (1 PBU)
Nick Perry: 1 (1 PBU)

DL 5, LB 1, DB 5

Alabama's and Missouri's respective front sevens produced the same amount of havoc (though, granted, Bama's did it in fewer plays). The difference was the secondary. The only separation Mizzou receivers could find was 40 yards downfield. And because A'Shawn Robinson was a monster at the line of scrimmage, that left the Tigers with no easy options.

Targets & Catches

Missouri
Jimmie Hunt: 6-for-9, 169 yards (18.8)
Bud Sasser: 5-for-9, 31 yards (3.4), 1 TD
Darius White: 3-for-7, 56 yards (8.0)
Marcus Murphy: 1-for-3, 11 yards (3.7)
Sean Culkin: 1-for-4, 5 yards (1.3)
Russell Hansbrough: 0-for-1
J'Mon Moore: 0-for-1

WRs: 14-for-26, 256 yards (9.8)
TEs: 1-for-4, 5 yards (1.3)
RBs: 1-for-4, 11 yards (2.8)

The receivers weren't efficient (54 percent catch rate), but thanks mostly to Hunt, they did their part to some degree. But eight passes to tight ends and running backs gained 16 yards. Meanwhile...

Alabama
Amari Cooper: 12-for-15, 83 yards (5.5)
DeAndrew White: 4-for-5, 101 yards (20.2), 1 TD
Christion Jones: 3-for-3, 40 yards (13.3), 1 TD
O.J. Howard: 2-for-2, 20 yards (10.0)
Jalston Fowler: 1-for-1, 13 yards
Brian Vogler: 1-for-1, 5 yards

WRs: 19-for-23, 224 yards (9.7)
TEs: 3-for-3, 25 yards (8.3)
RBs: 1-for-1, 13 yards

...four Alabama passes to tight ends and running backs gained 38 yards. Alabama had the big plays and the bailout options. Oh yeah, and the best receiver in the country. That adds up.

***

Missouri made mistakes and got some unlucky bounces. This result could have been closer had the Tigers held onto passes, not committed a stupid late hit/targeting penalty, and actually fallen on loose balls. But Alabama was just better. Obviously. The Tide have been the most consistently good team in the country this year, and they played like it on Saturday. Mizzou needed luck, nearly perfect execution, and some Alabama lapses. The Tigers got none of the three.