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Missouri could have run more against Florida, but it wasn't going to make a difference

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Drew Lock had a lot on his shoulders against Florida, being asked to make a lot of reads and take a lot of hits. So maybe that's reason enough for why Mizzou should have run more. But it wasn't going to make a difference -- the run didn't work either.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Florida 21, Missouri 3

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Florida Missouri Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 77 65
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 76.1%
Avg Starting FP 25.5 24.8 29.6
Possessions 14 15
Scoring Opportunities*
6 3
Points Per Opportunity 2.33 1.00 4.76
Leverage Rate** 72.1% 51.1% 68.1%
Close S&P*** 0.559 0.447 0.585
* 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?) Florida Missouri
Total 30.5 21.0
Rushing 13.5 10.4
Passing 17.0 10.6
Success Rate (what's this?) Florida Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 42.6% 19.2% 41.5%
Rushing (close) 44.8% 20.0% 42.5%
Passing (close) 40.6% 18.8% 40.5%
Standard Downs 47.7% 29.2% 47.0%
Passing Downs 29.4% 8.7% 29.8%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Florida Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 1.09 1.47 1.26
Rushing (close) 0.97 1.44 1.07
Passing (close) 1.20 1.48 1.48
Standard Downs 1.03 1.11 1.11
Passing Downs 1.35 2.70 1.79
Line Stats Florida Missouri Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 3.51 2.67 2.84
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 10.5% 20.0% 5.0%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 7.7% 0.0% 7.2%
Turnovers Florida Missouri
Turnovers 0 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 0.0 10.3
Turnover Margin Florida +2
Exp. TO Margin Florida +0.66
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Florida +1.34
TO Points Margin Florida +10.3 points
Situational Florida Missouri
Q1 S&P 0.652 0.666
Q2 S&P 0.581 0.396
Q3 S&P 0.498 0.357
Q4 S&P 0.311 0.550
1st Down S&P 0.518 0.445
2nd Down S&P 0.599 0.393
3rd Down S&P 0.391 0.581
Projected Scoring Margin: Florida by 19.8
Actual Scoring Margin: Florida by 18

"Shoulda run more!"

In terms of magnitude, Missouri actually won the big-play battle on Saturday -- the Tigers' successful plays, run and pass, were bigger than Florida's. That was a big concern for me in this game.

That's pretty tenuous good news, however, when you are barely producing any successful plays. Missouri's success rate was less than half that of Florida's, and all of the efficiency we saw against South Carolina the week prior disappeared against what is probably the best defense remaining on the schedule.

That Mizzou skewed pretty pass-heavy in the face of an effective Florida pass rush (and an awesome Florida secondary) was a little bit confusing, and there have been quite a few furrowed brows in regard to the play-calling. A couple of notes about that, though:

1. As PowerMizzou's Pete Scantlebury noted on Monday, a lot of the passes probably stemmed from reads Drew Lock made on run-pass options. One can certainly question the wisdom of piling so many reads on a freshman quarterback against such a good defense, but to some degree, that's the Missouri offense. Or at least, that's what the Missouri offense is intended to be.

2. The run wasn't working either. Russell Hansbrough's line -- nine carries, 74 yards (8.2 per carry) -- was encouraging, and even with Ish Witter struggling, Mizzou RBs did still average 5.9 yards per carry. But a lot of that success came in garbage time, when Mizzou was running the ball down 18 in the fourth quarter. When the game was still deemed winnable, only one of every five Mizzou rushes was successful.

First-down rushing didn't do much in terms of avoiding passing downs.

  • 1st-and-goal (UF46, down 7-0): Hansbrough 8 yards
  • 1st-and-10 (MU33, down 7-3): Witter 2 yards
  • 1st-and-10 (MU2, down 14-3): Hansbrough 1 yard
  • 1st-and-10 (MU17, down 14-3): Hansbrough 2 yards
  • 1st-and-10 (MU31, down 14-3): Witter 0 yards
  • 1st-and-10 (MU19, down 21-3): Witter 2 yards
  • 1st-and-10 (MU34, down 21-3): Witter 1 yard
  • 1st-and-15 (MU21, down 21-3): Hansbrough 7 yards
  • 1st-and-10 (UF33, down 21-3): Witter 4 yards
  • 1st-and-10 (MU33, down 21-3): Hansbrough 3 yards

Ten first-down carries gained just 30 yards -- including eight on the first carry and eight on the next six. Running more would have gotten Lock hit less, and maybe that's enough reason to do it right there. But it wasn't actually any more successful than passing.

Tight ends are supposed to be efficiency options

In two starts, Drew Lock has leaned on the tight end position pretty significantly, at least compared to what we've gotten used to over the last few years. He targeted TEs with 32 percent of his passes against South Carolina and 21 percent against Florida. They were a solid efficiency option against the Gamecocks -- Jason Reese and Clayton Echard caught seven of nine passes, and while they only gained 53 yards (5.9 per target), a 78 percent catch rate means the ball is moving forward. Plus, passes to WRs only averaged 4.6 yards per target.

Against Florida, passes to the tight end were nightmarishly bad: 2-for-7 for 17 yards and two interceptions. These seven passes averaged 2.4 yards per target and resulted in seven points for Florida.

Name Targets Catches Yards Notes
Wesley Leftwich 6 3 39 19-yarder on first snap
J'Mon Moore 5 1 32 32-yarder on third snap
Jason Reese 5 1 9 2 INTs targeting Reese
Ish Witter 4 4 29
Nate Brown 3 1 8
Emanuel Hall 2 1 13
Clayton Echard 2 1 8
Chase Abbington 2 1 5
Russell Hansbrough 2 1 1
DeSean Blair 1 1 4
Keyon Dilosa 1 1 3
Ray Wingo 1 0 0
WRs 19 8 99 5.2 yards per target
TEs 7 2 17 2.4 yards per target
RBs 8 6 35 4.4 yards per target

We saw against SC that Reese can at least be a decent weapon. An average of 5.9 yards per target is still well below average, but it's not awful, and Missouri's offense in 2015 is still geared around "not awful." More consistently reach that level, and you can eventually start to worry about "good."

Florida dominated Reese, both in terms of the athletes they had covering him and the scouting they did (which told them that Reese was Lock's favorite target the week before). He was almost never open, he dropped one of his catchable passes, and Lock twice tried to force the issue and threw picks.

Reese has the potential to be decent, but I think it speaks volumes that he's been Lock's most frequent target in two starts (13 targets for him, 10 for Wes Leftwich, 10 for Nate Brown, eight for J'Mon Moore).

Speaking of Brown ... I haven't watched much of the DVR'd version of the game yet, but I assumed that either he or Moore would be pulling a bit of a disappearing act, depending on who Vernon Hargreaves III spent the most time covering. He caught an eight-yard pass, couldn't reel in two third-and-long targets in the third quarter ... and that was it. Hargreaves'd.

Hmm ... then again ... Moore caught a 32-yarder on Mizzou's third snap, then saw just four more targets, all incompletions. So maybe we just go with "Florida'd" instead.

Five Keys Revisited

Let's look back at the keys from last Friday's preview.

1. The trenches ... always the trenches

Spoiler alert: This is probably going to be the No. 1 key all season. Missouri's offensive line was between bad and terrible for most of four games, and Mizzou had one of the least efficient offenses in the country. Last week, Boehm looked healthy and the line opened some holes, and poof, Missouri was relatively efficient.

This key is for both sides of the ball, of course. If Mizzou's defensive line wins its battle, and the Missouri offensive line can either fight to a draw or only occasionally lose, the Tigers might be able to position themselves to win. But this has to be a net win for Mizzou, and preferably a large one.

Line Yards per carry: UF 3.51, MU 2.67
Standard Downs sack rate: UF 10.5%, MU 20.0%
Passing Downs sack rate: MU 0.0%, UF 7.7%

Honestly, I thought Missouri's line stats would be worse than this, though giving up a sack on 20% of your standard downs pass attempts is pretty wretched, and only so much of that can be written off because of good coverage or the QB taking too long. In key instances, Missouri's line, particularly the interior, got whooped in pass protection. Because of Missouri's defensive line success, this category wasn't a huge win for Florida, but it was a win.

2. Field position

Last week Missouri was incredibly conservative when in the shadow of its end zone, and considering the two near-disasters that still managed to almost occur (the all-but-a-safety sack in the first half, the telegraphed throw and near-pick six in the second), I don't assume that will change. But in drives that started in Mizzou-friendly field position, the Tigers thrived. That is another happy sign for the future, and it's imperative that some combination of defense and special teams do Missouri some field position favors. That means forcing a few three-and-outs, winning the turnovers battle, and maybe breaking off a good return or two.

Average starting field position: UF 25.5, MU 24.8

Once again, thanks in part to Corey Fatony, Missouri was able to pin its opponent at or inside the 25 constantly. And once again, opponents were able to do the same, making a potential advantage a push.

3. Finishing

This will also be a key in every remaining game because, again, we've seen the difference. Missouri was awful at finishing drives against Kentucky -- not only in offensive averages, but in defensive averages -- and it made the difference in the game. Missouri was awesome at both finishing and preventing finishes against South Carolina, and it made the difference in the game.

When you finish your scoring opportunities more effectively than your opponent, it offers you margin for error. If you have four chances but score three touchdowns and a field goal, and your opponent has six chances but turns the ball over and misses a long field goal or something, then you might be able to break even. In each of the last two games, the team with fewer chances won because of this. It's huge.

Scoring opportunities: UF 6, MU 3
Points per opportunity: UF 2.33, MU 1.00

One thing I like to do to see how much finishing played a role is flip the averages. Excluding Jalen Tabor's pick six for a moment, Florida's offense outscored Missouri's by a 14-3 margin. Flip the per-opportunity averages, and Missouri outdoes the Gators, 7-6. Thanks to turnovers, maybe this didn't make the difference in the game, but once again, a finishing disadvantage handicapped the Tigers' chances. In all three of MU's SEC games, the team with the better finishing average won.

4. Passing downs efficiency

Missouri's defense has suffered the occasional breakdown on passing downs -- not a big play, but the "eight yards on third-and-6" type of breakdown. And considering that Florida has proven willing to use its tight ends and underneath receivers, that might happen again. But if it does, Missouri's offense has to match. The Tigers were encouraging in both the way they avoided passing downs and the way they got out of some of them. Florida's defense isn't going to suffer that many breakdowns, but you've got to take full advantage of the ones you get. And, as mentioned above, if you can use draw plays or second-and-long rushes to keep the chains on your side, that's all the better.

Passing downs success rate: UF 29.4%, MU 8.7%

EIGHT POINT SEVEN PERCENT. Remember how I said Missouri's 40% passing downs success rate against SC was a good sign of future things to come. I guess this game was a reminder that the future isn't here yet. Mizzou couldn't avoid falling into passing downs and then had absolutely no chance of digging out once in passing downs.

5. Big plays

The dink-and-dunk thing worked pretty well for Drew Lock last week. He was able to establish a pretty good rapport with Jason Reese (who still bobbles the ball on like every catch and makes me all sorts of nervous) and Nate Brown, completing 12 of 15 passes to the two. But the 12 completions went for just 80 yards.

Lock has shown that he can do the pitch-and-catch thing awfully well. But it's going to be pretty hard to beat Florida with the dink-and-dunk unless somebody, anybody, is able to break a big play or two. We saw Missouri completing longer passes earlier in the season, and we know that a healthy Russell Hansbrough is a home run hitter (more so than an efficiency back). I don't care where the big plays come from; I just care that they come from somebody.

I don't see Florida getting many big-gainers, but they're going to get a few. Mizzou has to match, and of these five keys, this is the one I feel least confident in Missouri achieving.

IsoPPP: MU 1.47, UF 1.09
Gains of 15+ yards: UF 6, MU 4

Missouri's big plays were bigger, but Florida's were more frequent ... at least, barely. Florida's efficiency was average, and Mizzou's was awful, and big plays weren't a difference maker either way. This one was all on efficiency.

***

Obviously the big story line from the post-game here is Will Grier's PED suspension. Assuming neither Jim McElwain nor anyone else at/near that level knew about the positive test ahead of time, this win will not be vacated, and Florida will maintain its early SEC East lead.

Grier didn't matter, by the way. We can certainly craft a scenario in which Grier is already suspended and new starter Treon Harris turns the ball over a couple/few times like he did against Mizzou in Gainesville last year. And sure, there's a non-zero chance that happens. But Missouri lost this game despite already holding Florida well beneath its season offensive averages. An efficient offense was rendered mediocre, and Mizzou kept all big plays to a minimum. Outside of a Harris turnover scenario, nothing changes. Maybe Mizzou loses by less with Harris instead of Grier, but the Tigers still limp through with a hapless offense, and ... well ... they already used quite a bit of "do nothing on offense but win because of turnovers and returns" karma in last year's Florida game.

In terms of current ratings, Florida was the best team remaining on Missouri's schedule. The Tigers will face a reeling (and still heavily favored) Georgia team before the search for Two More Wins picks up steam. I'm more confident that Mizzou can find those two wins than I was a couple of weeks ago, but that remains the only goal on the table. Take your lumps offensively, figure out what you've got in Lock and all the young skill-position guys (and hopefully you've got something), get to six wins by hook or crook, and start figuring out how you're going to thrive in 2016 and beyond.