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Missouri 33, Minnesota 17: Beyond the box score

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri 33, Minnesota 17

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Minnesota Missouri Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 66 64
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 100.0%
Avg Starting FP 27.3 33.1 30.0
Possessions 12 14
Scoring Opportunities*
5 8
Points Per Opportunity 3.40 4.25 4.65
Leverage Rate** 68.2% 70.3% 68.3%
Close S&P*** 0.505 0.542 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?) Minnesota Missouri
Total 21.2 29.4
Rushing 7.2 22.3
Passing 14.0 7.1
Success Rate (what's this?) Minnesota Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 45.5% 34.4% 41.8%
Rushing (close) 45.2% 31.0% 43.2%
Passing (close) 45.7% 40.9% 40.3%
Standard Downs 51.1% 33.3% 47.0%
Passing Downs 33.3% 36.8% 30.6%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Minnesota Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 0.71 1.34 0.86
Rushing (close) 0.51 1.72 0.74
Passing (close) 0.87 0.79 0.99
Standard Downs 0.71 0.92 0.77
Passing Downs 0.70 2.23 1.13
Line Stats Minnesota Missouri Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 2.27 2.91 2.92
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 5.3% 7.1% 4.8%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 6.3% 25.0% 7.6%
Turnovers Minnesota Missouri
Turnovers 3 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 12.2 3.3
Turnover Margin Missouri +1
Exp. TO Margin Missouri +2.77
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Minnesota +1.77
TO Points Margin Missouri +8.9 points
Situational Minnesota Missouri
Q1 S&P 0.576 0.289
Q2 S&P 0.376 0.611
Q3 S&P 0.680 0.434
Q4 S&P 0.406 0.758
1st Down S&P 0.544 0.474
2nd Down S&P 0.466 0.684
3rd Down S&P 0.527 0.431
Projected Scoring Margin: Missouri by 17.2
Actual Scoring Margin: Missouri by 16

Takeaways = wins

Missouri won the turnover battle, both in quantity and quality. Both of Maty Mauk's early interceptions were proverbial armpunts, and two of Minnesota's three fumbles lost were recovered inside the Gopher 40 and created immediate scoring opportunities for Mizzou.

Almost anytime you recover three fumbles, that's a pretty good sign that you were the beneficiary of turnovers luck. That wasn't really the case for Mizzou, however. First, Minnesota fumbled five times to Mizzou's zero -- that Mizzou recovered three of five wasn't as big a deal as, say, three-of-three would have been. Beyond that, Missouri was a bit unlucky in terms of passes defensed. Typically, you intercept one pass for every four or so that you break up. Mizzou had five break-ups and no picks, and Minnesota had two break-ups and two picks. Now, Minnesota's first interception was teed up perfectly; it would have been really difficult for Derrick Wells not to pick it off. Still, using general tendencies, Missouri should have come closer to one interception than Minnesota did to two. So while Mizzou did still win the turnover battle, the Tigers could have won by even more.

(And it would have been a damn crime for Mizzou not to snare at least two or three takeaways in Dave Steckel's last game as defensive coordinator.)


Havoc Rate: Mizzou 25.8% (17 in 66 snaps), Minnesota 20.3% (13 in 64)
* Q1: Minnesota 27.3%, Mizzou 14.3%
* Q2-Q4: Mizzou 31.1%, Minnesota 18.9%

Markus Golden had a sack, a forced fumble, and a tackle for loss in the first quarter. He was virtually the only good thing about the first 15 minutes for the Tigers. But when they survived only down seven points, they were able to slowly tighten the screws. Minnesota dominated on both lines in the first 15 minutes, which had me pretty concerned, but Mizzou got stronger as each half progressed. And that was with the normal starting left guard, Brad McNulty, playing only a few series because of injury. Mitch Hall filled in and did well.

Markus Golden: 5 (4 TFL, 1 FF)
Aarion Penton: 3 (3 PBU)
Shane Ray: 2.5 (1.5 TFL, 1 FF)
Donavin Newsom: 2 (1 TFL, 1 FF)
Marcus Loud: 1 (1 TFL)
Braylon Webb: 1 (1 TFL)
Ian Simon: 1 (1 PBU)
Harold Brantley: 1 (1 PBU)
Michael Scherer: 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

Hell of a way to go out, Markus.

DL: 9.5 (6.5 TFL, 2 FF, 1 PBU)
LB: 2.5 (1.5 TFL, 1 FF)
DB: 5 (1 TFL, 4 PBU)

This went according to type. Missouri had the second-most disruptive defensive line in the country behind Clemson this year. The dominance of Golden, Ray, and company allowed for the linebackers to worry more about cleaning up messes than making plays themselves. Meanwhile, the secondary was relatively active but not incredibly so.

Briean Boddy-Calhoun: 2 (1 INT, 1 PBU)
Theiren Cockran: 2 (2 TFL)
Antonio Johnson: 1.5 (1.5 TFL)
Cedric Thompson: 1.5 (0.5 TFL, 1 PBU)
Derrick Wells: 1 (1 INT)
Michael Amaefula: 1 (1 TFL)
Eric Murray: 1 (1 TFL)
Jack Lynn: 1 (1 TFL)
Jonathan Celestin: 1 (1 TFL)
Alex Keith: 0.5 (0.5 TFL)
Steven Richardson: 0.5 (0.5 TFL)

DL: 4 (4 TFL)
LB: 2 (2 TFL)
DB: 7 (3 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PBU)

Minnesota's disruption was also pretty normal. The Gophers had a decent front seven and a wonderfully active, aggressive secondary in 2014. And sure enough, in this game, the secondary had four passes defensed and nearly as many TFLs as the defensive line. It didn't hurt that Jimmie Hunt was out, but Minnesota was going to have the overall edge on Mizzou's receivers regardless.

Targets and catches

Bud Sasser (WR): 9 targets, 7 caches, 68 yards (7.6), 2 TD
Darius White (WR): 4 targets, 1 catch, -2 yards (-0.5), 2 INT
Marcus Murphy (RB): 2 targets, 2 catches, 16 yards (8.0)
Sean Culkin (TE): 2 targets, 1 catch, 1 yard (0.5)
Nate Brown (WR): 1 target, 1 catch, 14 yards
Jason Reese (TE): 1 target, 0 catches

WRs: 14 targets, 9 catches, 80 yards (5.7), 2 TD, 2 INT
RBs: 2 targets, 2 catches, 16 yards (8.0)
TEs: 3 targets, 1 catch, 1 yard (0.3)

I felt bad for Darius White, who just didn't have it in his final game. The first interception wasn't his fault -- I mean, it kind of was because he wasn't open, but Mauk has to, has to, see that his guy isn't open and see the safety roaming and ready to pounce. That ball should have never been thrown. The second pick was more forgivable because it put faith in White to either catch the jump ball or make sure the defender did not. Neither of those things happened.

Meanwhile, Bud Sasser had a Bud Sasser day. He didn't dominate, and he wasn't exactly open on every route, but he caught all the balls he absolutely needed to catch.

(I see you, Nate Brown, making a nice snag of a ball thrown a little bit behind you.)

It's funny how much a single play can make a difference. On the last play of the third quarter, Mauk threw a bit of a jump ball 35 yards to Jason Reese in the end zone. He wasn't able to outmaneuver his defender for it, and when the ball hit the turf, I found myself thinking, "Man, I'd have felt so much better about the passing game in 2015 had he caught that."

That's a really, really dumb thing to think, mind you. But we're looking for hints at receiver competence, and while I think we've seen some things from Brown, and while Reese did make a lovely catch against Arkansas, when you're starving, little morsels seem like four-course dinners.

Maxx Williams (TE): 10 targets, 7 catches, 98 yards (9.8), 1 TD
David Cobb (RB): 6 targets, 4 catches, 33 yards (5.5)
Isaac Fruechte (WR): 5 targets, 3 catches, 14 yards (2.8)
K.J. Maye (WR): 4 targets, 3 catches, 75 yards (18.8)
Berkley Edwards (RB): 2 targets, 1 catch, 21 yards (10.5)
Lincoln Plsek (TE): 2 targets, 2 catches, 13 yards (6.5)
Mitch Leidner (QB): 1 target, 1 catch, 9 yards
Miles Thomas (FB): 1 target, 1 catch, 4 yards
Drew Wolitarsky (WR): 1 target, 0 catches

WRs: 10 targets, 6 catches, 89 yards (8.9)
RBs: 9 targets, 5 catches, 54 yards (6.0)
TEs: 12 targets, 9 catches, 111 yards (9.3), 1 TD

David Morrison's Snap Decisions piece is always worth a read, especially in his analysis about the way Mizzou used Jason Reese as an H-Back in this game. But the most startling piece of info in there is that Mizzou's defense lined up in a nickel about 58 percent of the time.

Now, Dave Steckel loved him some nickel defense this year. Duron Singleton was a lovely nickel back, and Stec had no problem using him. But this doesn't jive with my impression of the game in real time -- Mizzou loading up against the run and Minnesota finding some room to pass because of it. Morrison doesn't mention trends, though I assume there was a good amount of 4-3 in the first quarter with a skew toward nickel after that. I could be completely wrong. Regardless, despite Minnesota's power reputation, Mizzou actually fared much better in the nickel: 4.0 yards per play in a 4-2-5, 8.0 yards per play in a 4-3.

And regardless of the formation, Minnesota seemed to realize pretty early on that Mizzou didn't really mind giving up some passing yards. Only twice all year had Mitch Leidner thrown more than 22 passes in a game, and once was in the loss to TCU, when they were down pretty big. But he threw 31 passes, and two other Gophers (running back David Cobb, receiver K.J. Maye) threw passes, too. Meanwhile, David Cobb's 21 carries were 3.5 below his season average coming into the game; only twice in the last nine games had he carried less than that. This plays out like a game in which Minnesota fell behind early and in was in catch-up mode, but that obviously wasn't the case.

Minnesota did indeed take the passing yards Missouri was giving, but when the field shrunk down and Minnesota created scoring opportunities for itself, there was no pathway to easy yards. The Gophers' five scoring opportunities: fumble, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, downs.

Keys revisited

Here are the four keys to the game listed in last week's preview.

1. Standard downs rushing

It's all Minnesota wants to do, and it might be all Mizzou can do well. Whoever is rushing for five or six yards on first down is probably winning, period.

Key Stats: Standard downs rushing success rate, line yards per carry

Standard Downs rushing success rate: Minnesota 53.9%, Mizzou 32.3%
Line Yards per carry: Mizzou 2.91, Minnesota 2.27

Minnesota was actually quite efficient on the ground early in the game, and Mizzou was woefully inefficient. But it changed as the game progressed. Here are the per-quarter rushing success rates (standard and passing downs):

Q1: Minnesota 50.0%, Mizzou 0.0%
Q2: Mizzou 42.9%, Minnesota 33.3%
Q3: Mizzou 33.3%, Minnesota 20.0%
Q4: Minnesota 66.7%, Mizzou 27.3%

Mizzou definitely won the trench battle in the middle quarters, and in the fourth, while only three of Mizzou's 11 rushes were 'successful,' those three went for a) three yards on third-and-2, b) 78 yards on second-and-9, and c) 69 yards on first-and-10. That'll make up for a little bit of inefficiency.

2. Havoc and disaster

Mizzou's defensive line is one of the most destructive in college football, and Minnesota's secondary gets hands on lots of passes. The offenses will have to move the ball a bit, obviously, but avoiding disaster is equally important. If one defense is creating field-flipping, havoc-related turnovers or big sacks, that team is probably going to win.

Key Stat: Turnover margin, Havoc Rate

Turnover margin: Mizzou +1
Turnover points margin: Mizzou +8.9
Havoc Rate: Mizzou 25.8%, Minnesota 20.3%

Winner, winner.

3. Little Things™

When Mizzou was getting its sea legs in October, these were incredibly important stats. Then Missouri got better down-for-down in November and got much worse at the little things. Christian Brinser's punts began to stray, and Andrew Baggett's kickoffs stopped reaching the end zone.

Minesota is a fantastic field position team; Missouri doesn't have to win the field position battle, but if the Tigers can keep things close in that regard, that might be enough. Meanwhile, in a game that will be played at a slow pace, with closer to 10 possessions than 20, finishing scoring opportunities in the end zone will be of obvious, grave importance. And Mizzou might have the advantage there.

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

Points Per Scoring Opportunity: Mizzou 4.25, Minnesota 3.40
Average Starting Field Position: Mizzou 33.1, Minnesota 27.3

Winner, winner.

4. Special teams

Let's make this its own category, even though special teams will play a huge role in field position. Minnesota has a top-10 special teams unit despite iffy place-kicking. Again, Missouri might not have to build an advantage here; the Tigers just need to prevent the Gophers from doing the same.

Key Stat: The basics -- punting, kicking, returns, etc.

Mizzou came up with a creative way to win the special teams battle: fakes! Lots of them! Harold Brantley earned himself a red zone running back position next year (allegedly) by rushing for 19 yards on a fake punt that didn't really even fool Minnesota that much. Then, to start the second half, Andrew Baggett popped up the greatest surprise onside kick you'll ever see. If it bounces back into the field, there's a chance that Ian Simon misses it and Minnesota has a chance to fall on it. If it bounces toward the sideline, it maybe goes out of bounds before Simon can corral it. But it bounced straight up into Simon's hands. It was gorgeous.

There was a third fake, too -- a fake field goal in which Braylon Webb was hemmed in short of the sticks. But hey ... two outta three...

Meanwhile, Christian Brinser (net punting average: 37.2) out-dueled Minnesota's Peter Mortell (35.2), and Marcus Murphy nearly housed one last punt return. All of that made up for Mizzou once again forfeiting swaths of field position with pooch kicks. Net kickoff average: Minnesota 39.8, Mizzou 29.7. The opponent gets one decent return, and Gary Pinkel decides to just give the ball to opponents at the 40-yard line on every kick. I'm not a fan.


In a way, this was the kind of grind-it-out game we became accustomed to seeing from Missouri this year. But the Tigers won because they were more experienced and more athletic. Minnesota's game plan was strong, and Maty Mauk looked all sorts of shaky early on, but Mizzou wore down the Gophers in each half, and they won because they had most of the best players: Markus Golden, Marcus Murphy, Bud Sasser, etc. The F/+ rankings had this one almost a tossup, and Mizzou made the plays it needed to make. That's how you get to 11 wins, of course, but I don't want this to only be remembered as a grind, or a game Mizzou won simply because of fakes. No, Mizzou won because the Tigers were a damn strong team this year, one with incredible leadership, athleticism, and the fortitude to overcome its weaknesses. The pure talent wasn't on par with the 2013 team, but the Tigers came up just one win short of 2013's total. That's incredible.