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Mizzou committed to the run against BYU, and it was just effective enough

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Derrick Forsythe / Rock M Nation

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Top 5 Plays

Play Number

Offense

Down

Distance

Spot

Quarter

Play Description

Home Team Win Probability

Home Team Win Probability Added

1

134

Missouri

3

4

4

4

Drew Lock Pass to J'Mon Moore for 4, TOUCHDOWN

0.457

0.224

2

137

BYU

1

10

78

4

Tanner Mangum Rush for -6, FUMBLE

0.623

0.202

3

107

Missouri

1

10

64

3

Drew Lock Pass INTERCEPTED

0.670

-0.165

4

61

BYU

3

11

44

2

Tanner Mangum Pass to Francis Bernard for 35, FIRST DOWN

0.567

-0.151

5

104

BYU

3

2

15

3

Adam Hiné Rush for -2, FUMBLE

0.477

0.147

Missouri 20, BYU 16

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics BYU Missouri Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 56 83
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 100.0%
Avg Starting FP 26.2 28.8 29.7
Possessions 10 10
Scoring Opportunities*
4 6
Points Per Opportunity 4.00 3.33 4.73
Leverage Rate** 71.4% 68.7% 68.1%
Close S&P*** 0.557 0.559 0.586
* 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?) BYU Missouri
Total 26.7 40.1
Rushing 4.6 17.7
Passing 22.1 22.4
Success Rate (what's this?) BYU Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 39.3% 38.6% 41.7%
Rushing (close) 42.9% 29.1% 42.7%
Passing (close) 38.1% 57.1% 40.7%
Standard Downs 45.0% 38.6% 46.9%
Passing Downs 25.0% 38.5% 30.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) BYU Missouri Nat'l Avg
All (close) 1.21 1.25 1.26
Rushing (close) 0.76 1.11 1.07
Passing (close) 1.38 1.40 1.48
Standard Downs 1.07 1.17 1.11
Passing Downs 1.87 1.44 1.77
Line Stats BYU Missouri Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 2.89 2.24 2.88
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 3.5% 0.0% 4.9%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 0.0% 7.6%
Turnovers BYU Missouri
Turnovers 2 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 9.6 8.2
Turnover Margin +0
Exp. TO Margin Missouri +1.17
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) BYU +1.17
TO Points Margin Missouri +1.5 points
Situational BYU Missouri
Q1 S&P 0.474 0.573
Q2 S&P 0.674 0.493
Q3 S&P 0.537 0.598
Q4 S&P 0.494 0.611
1st Down S&P 0.600 0.621
2nd Down S&P 0.586 0.413
3rd Down S&P 0.526 0.554
Projected Scoring Margin: Missouri by 14.8
Actual Scoring Margin: Missouri by 4

Drew Football

The improved run game got most of the attention during and after the game, and to be sure, Missouri's run game has improved. But it's still not very good. Mizzou started and finished mostly well on the ground, but in between it was dire. BYU's allowing a 39% rushing success rate for the season. Missouri's was 29% on Saturday.

That said, Saturday showed us the strength that comes with identity. Missouri committed to running the ball and was just good enough at it to force BYU to pay attention. Once you've created a routine and an identity -- and Mizzou hadn't been able to all year (mostly for "can't run and can't pass" reasons) -- you can play off of it. At one point in the first and second quarter, Mizzou ran the ball on eight consecutive first-down snaps. If you can get away with that (and Mizzou just barely did), then you can start catching defenses wrong-footed.

Whether the run set up the pass, or whether Drew Lock was just in his best headspace in weeks, the pass worked. And after a third-quarter setback, it worked even better.

  • Drew Lock, first half: 12-for-20 passing, 128 yards; 1 carry, 3 yards
  • Drew Lock, second half: 7-for-8 passing, 116 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 2 carries, 23 yards

The official stats ignore the awful, desperate pass he threw to Wes Leftwich in the third quarter, one that would have gone down as an interception if not for a defender committing a really dumb (and clear) pass interference penalty. So Lock got a mulligan. But on plays that counted, he was 6-for-6 passing after his early-Q3 interception. And his zone read keeper on third-and-19 in the fourth quarter was probably the play of the game, setting up the game-clinching touchdown.

Mizzou wasn't very efficient on the ground, but the Tigers' dedication to the run game either helped the passing game significantly ... or at least didn't hurt it. And on passing downs, Mizzou was fearless in committing to screen passes. It got predictable after a while, but it kept Lock upright and, on occasion, helped to open up downfield passing lanes.

This was offensive coordinator Josh Henson's best game of the year from a play-calling perspective, but a lot of Missouri's success probably just came from actually executing for once. Regardless, Lock was awesome and played a nearly perfect fourth quarter.

Targets & catches

It stands to reason that if the QBs had a good day, the pass catchers also did, huh? It had been a while. And while we've talked about both Lock and the running backs, the receivers did their part ... mostly. Both Nate Brown and Desean Blair had costly second-quarter drops as the offense began to lose the plot a bit. But the Tigers rallied. And the timing of the passes to the TEs and RBs was impeccable.

Name Targets Catches Yards Notes
Nate Brown (WR) 9 5 65
J'Mon Moore (WR) 4 3 49
Cam Hilton (WR) 4 3 36
Wes Leftwich (WR) 3 2 9
Ish Witter (RB) 2 2 57 Both were 3rd-down conversions
Tyler Hunt (RB) 1 1 2
Sean Culkin (TE) 1 1 16 3rd-down conversion
Jason Reese (TE) 1 1 11 3rd-down conversion
Desean Blair (WR) 1 0 0
Keyon Dilosa (WR) 1 0 0
Emanuel Hall (WR) 1 1 -1
WRs 22 14 158 7.2 yards per target
TEs 2 2 27 13.5 yards per target
RBs 3 3 59 19.7 yards per target

Running backs and tight ends were targeted five times, all on third downs. (Russell Hansbrough was also targeted on a third-down pass, but it was negated by penalty.) Four of the five passes converted the first down. Yes, the screens got predictable. They also worked.

5 keys revisited

From 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. ... 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: BYU 2.89, MU 2.24
Standard downs sack rate: MU 0.0%, BYU 3.5%
Passing downs sack rate: MU 0.0%, BYU 0.0%

Again, this paints a different picture than what we maybe expected to see. Mizzou's line yardage was pretty awful, and if not for that late 23-yard run by Hansbrough, Mizzou RBs would have averaged just 3 yards per carry. But the pass protection was infinitely better than it had been against Mississippi State. Screens and moving pockets had a lot to do with that, but not everything to do with that.

That this was an even decent performance was perhaps good news considering the shuffling. Nate Crawford went down with injury, and per David Morrison's Snap Decisions, both Alec Abeln and Kevin Pendleton (each likely starters in 2016) got quite a few reps.

Mizzou averaged 5.1 yards per play with Crawford at LG (3.9 per carry) and 5.3 with Abeln (3.3). And in the two series Pendleton served at RG, the Tigers averaged 6.2 per play and 4.7 per carry. That there was no serious drop-off here is pretty encouraging.

2. Field position (and turnovers)

Missouri did a good job with the turnovers against MSU, but three-and-outs and shaky punting (for once) doomed the Tigers to facing longer fields than the Bulldogs all the same. Three-and-outs are silent killers, as we've seen all year. So uh ... force some. And don't have any yourself.

Coaching is easy.

Avg. starting field position: MU +2.6 yards per possession
Turnover points margin: MU +1.5 points

This was basically even, but Mizzou eked ahead in both categories. Corey Fatony was asked to punt only three times (!!), which was a sign of Missouri actually controlling the field a bit. And while two of his punts were pretty shaky, his final one was a 56-yard bomb that flipped the field at a key moment in the fourth quarter.

3. Finishing

Every game preview is a rerun, isn't it? Missouri is 4-5 mostly because its offense is awful, but with just a little bit more success in the drive finishing department, the Tigers could still be about 6-3 even with the awful offense.

Mizzou's offense ranks 127th in points per scoring opportunity. Mizzou's defense ranks fourth in the same category. Almost every drive in a Missouri game stops short of the end zone -- which made it jarring when MSU actually had some success in this regard -- so any touchdown is golden.

Scoring opportunities: MU 6, BYU 4
Points per opportunity: BYU 4.00, MU 3.33

You've probably caught on that I like to flip the averages to see what kind of a difference finishing drives made on a given game. That only does so much in this game, though. Mizzou's average was tamped down by the fact that the Tigers went into victory formation from the BYU 3 to end the game. Remove that opportunity from the equation, and Mizzou averaged a healthier (but not spectacular) 4 points per trip.

Still, Mizzou created more chances and still had to work to put the game away because in five real chances, two resulted in field goals and a third resulted in a fumble. Until the fourth quarter, Mizzou was averaging 2 points per chance. Luckily, BYU also lost a fumble and settled for a field goal. In Mizzou games this year, neither offense has finished in the end zone very often.

4. Passing downs

We can, perhaps, assume with near certainty that Missouri's offense is going to be massively unsuccessful on passing downs. It's been the case all year, and it's been the case for BYU opponents for most of the year, too. Therefore the onus will be on Missouri's offense to get off the field when it gets the chance. The Tigers have been a little bit glitchy in that regard, and BYU's pass-first offense tends to operate with reasonable efficiency in those situations.

For both scoring and field position purposes, passing downs have to be death for BYU, just as they will be for Missouri's offense.

Passing downs success rate: MU 38.5%, BYU 25.0%

This one flipped the game. I didn't expect to see that. Mizzou kept a strong passing downs offense from converting and saw massive success on second- and third-and-long when it had the ball. A lot of that was receivers making nice catches (as opposed to almost making nice catches), and a lot was, again, committing to the run.

Because the run wasn't very efficient, the Tigers faced 18 second-and-longs but ran 10 times for 38 yards on them. That helped immensely: asked to pass only eight times on second-and-long, Lock completed five passes for 59 yards.

5. Russell Hansbrough

And Ish Witter. And Tyler Hunt. The run game showed signs of life against Mississippi State, and BYU's run defense has been less successful than MSU's this year. Missouri must lean on the run to succeed, and that run must be successful to some degree. Otherwise it won't matter how well Missouri's defense plays.

That hasn't mattered for a while, has it?

Hansbrough, Witter, and Hunt: 49 carries, 165 yards, 1 TD; 3 targets, 3 catches, 59 yards -- 52 intended touches, 224 yards (4.3), 1 TD

That this trio saw 52 touches was the primary takeaway here. Identity, identity, identity.