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Missouri created some big pass plays against Tennessee, but it was too little, too late

Derrick Forsythe / Rock M Nation

The Trib: For Pinkel, final home game is a cold, hard dud
Post-Dispatch: No fond farewell in Pinkel's home finale
PowerMizzou: An Ending Gone Wrong

Tennessee 19, Missouri 8

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 59 79
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 91.3%
Avg Starting FP 19.4 38.8 29.7
Possessions 14 13
Scoring Opportunities*
1 7
Points Per Opportunity 8.00 2.71 4.74
Leverage Rate** 58.3% 62.8% 68.2%
Close S&P*** 0.396 0.510 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?) Missouri Tennessee
Total 17.9 31.9
Rushing 7.1 23.6
Passing 10.8 8.3
Success Rate (what's this?) Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
All (close) 22.9% 32.1% 41.7%
Rushing (close) 30.0% 32.1% 42.6%
Passing (close) 17.9% 32.0% 40.7%
Standard Downs 28.6% 38.8% 46.9%
Passing Downs 15.0% 20.7% 30.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
All (close) 1.06 1.27 1.26
Rushing (close) 0.86 1.38 1.07
Passing (close) 1.31 1.03 1.48
Standard Downs 1.00 1.19 1.11
Passing Downs 1.24 1.52 1.77
Line Stats Missouri Tennessee Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 3.20 2.62 2.88
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 12.5% 0.0% 4.9%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 0.0% 7.5%
Turnovers Missouri Tennessee
Turnovers 2 0
Turnover Points (what's this?) 7.2 0.0
Turnover Margin Tennessee +2
Exp. TO Margin Tennessee +0.22
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Tennessee +1.78
TO Points Margin Tennessee +7.2 points
Situational Missouri Tennessee
Q1 S&P 0.311 0.614
Q2 S&P 0.437 0.534
Q3 S&P 0.531 0.497
Q4 S&P 0.539 0.363
1st Down S&P 0.414 0.544
2nd Down S&P 0.529 0.543
3rd Down S&P 0.351 0.439
Projected Scoring Margin: Tennessee by 21.1
Actual Scoring Margin: Tennessee by 11

High standards

University of Missouri Athletics - @MizzouFootball Falls to Tennessee, 19-8
University of Missouri Athletics - #MIZvsTENN Post-Game Quotes

Mizzou S Anthony Sherrils

On Mizzou's Defensive Play:

"We were just missing tackles. It was very uncharacteristic but they are a great team."

That quote actually made me laugh out loud.

Missouri held Tennessee to a dreadful (for them) 32% success rate -- 32% rushing, 32% passing, 39% standard downs, 21% passing downs, all well below the national average -- and didn't give up an abnormal number of big plays. The Tigers' Def. S&P+ actually moved up to 10th. But Sherrils was talking like the Tigers got gashed. That's how high the bar is for this defense ... and how well it has to play to keep a game within reach.

Another example is this headline from the Post-Dispatch: Tennessee's Hurd runs wild on Mizzou.

Hurd averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and again, UT's rushing success rate was 32%. He had some key carries, to be sure, but the defense did what it could have reasonably been expected to do.

Targets & catches

(Derrick Forsythe / Rock M Nation)

First things first: STAY ON YOUR DAMN FEET.

The Trib (David Morrison): Game Rewind: Tennessee 19, Missouri 8

A Bang: Missouri started from its own 8 with 1:47 to go in the third. The situation seemed dire, yet again. Until Josh Henson decided to open up downfield. Tennessee brought Randolph down into the box to guard against the run. A play-action fake held him there. His absence freed up Leftwich downfield. Lock reared back and fired deep to Leftwich, who had about two steps down the right hash on corner Justin Martin. Leftwich gathered the ball in at the 44 and couldn't keep his feet, falling forward to finish off a 44-yard gain to the Tennessee 48. Things were looking up, yet again.

I felt guilty that I was mad at Leftwich for falling down -- for getting a big play but asking for a bigger one -- but ... STAY ON YOUR DAMN FEET. As with the Georgia game, when Nate Brown got behind the defense and fell down after making a big catch (in a drive that did not end up resulting in a touchdown), Mizzou was desperate for not only a big play, but a game-turning play. Leftwich indeed had steps on his defender and very well might have gone 92 yards for a score. There's nothing saying that would have changed the game, but considering Mizzou scored on the next drive, it could have made the fourth quarter infinitely more interesting ... and would have dredged up a lot of bad memories of blown leads on the Tennessee sideline.

Name Targets Catches Yards Notes
Wes Leftwich (WR) 8 2 41
Nate Brown (WR) 5 2 10
J'Mon Moore (WR) 3 1 22 Starting WRs: 5-for-16, 73 yards
Sean Culkin (TE) 3 0 0
Cam Hilton (WR) 2 2 41 Backup WRs: 3-for-4, 62 yards
Jason Reese (TE) 2 2 5 plus a nice 2-point conversion catch
Russell Hansbrough (RB) 2 2 -2
Keyon Dilosa (WR) 1 1 21
Emanuel Hall (WR) 1 0 0
Ish Witter (RB) 1 1 -3
WRs 20 9 115 5.8 yards per target
TEs 5 2 5 1.0 yards per target
RBs 3 3 -5 -1.7 yards per target

Tennessee did its scouting, I would say. Granted, the secondary got beat a few times late and could have gotten really beaten if Leftwich kept his feet. But Mizzou's tight ends and running backs have been far more successful of late than its WRs, and against UT, eight passes to the RBs/TEs gained zero yards.

Passes to Mizzou's first-string receivers, by the way, averaged 4.6 yards per target, and that was with Leftwich's 44-yarder. Passes to the second stringers averaged 15.5 yards per target.

If nothing else, we've been given reason to believe that Cam Hilton, Keyon Dilosa, and Emanuel Hall could all turn into viable, potentially high-quality receivers. Ray Wingo has impressed in practice, as well. If two of the four become strong WRs in 2016, along with either J'Mon Moore or Nate Brown and either Johnathon Johnson, Justin Smith, or Richaud Floyd, then suddenly you've got a deep receiving corps. It has taken epic lumps this year, but the combination of experience and maybe a little bit of new energy from a new coaching staff could work wonders.

(And while we're talking about youngsters, Josh Moore and Spencer Williams were both in on some tackles. You know, because Missouri doesn't already have enough exciting young defensive linemen...)

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: MU 3.20, UT 2.62
Standard downs sack rate: UT 0.0%, MU 12.5%
Passing downs sack rate: UT 0.0%, MU 0.0%

That Mizzou actually averaged 3.2 per carry seems like a glitch. I was guessing about 2. That said, Ish Witter had a sneaky-decent night, gaining at least four yards in four of six carries. (The fumble obviously made it a less decent night.) I guess you could make the case that the early passing issues -- short passes going nowhere -- were less of an issue than the run.

2. Field position (and turnovers, and special teams)

Special teams is such a roll of the dice. It only makes up about 12-15% of a given game, and the good special teams units don't get that many opportunities to separate themselves from the bad ones -- a lot of kickoffs are touchbacks or returns to about the 20-25; a lot of punts are in the 40-yard range and are fair caught; a lot of field goals are high-percentage efforts that most college kickers will make; etc.

For Mizzou to win this game, this has to be a special teams-neutral game. Because if special teams matters, it's probably going in Tennessee's favor. The Vols rank second in the country in Brian Fremeau's special teams efficiency, and despite Corey Fatony and Andrew Baggett, Mizzou ranks 108th. UT's returns have been that good, and Mizzou's have been that bad.

Missouri probably isn't going to win the special teams and field position battles in this one, but it is imperative that the Tigers either break even or come close.

Average starting field position: UT 38.8, MU 19.4 (+19.4)
First 3 quarters: UT 39.6, MU 17.5 (+22.1)

Turnovers ... three-and-out ... awful returns ... this was a field position perfect storm. To say the least, Mizzou did not come close to breaking even.

3. Finishing

Two things are nearly guaranteed in Missouri games: Mizzou's offense is going to be awful at finishing drives in the end zone, and Mizzou's opponent will be equally awful. Missouri averages 3.10 points per scoring opportunity, an egregious 127th in the country; Mizzou's defense allows just 3.27 points, third. Tennessee, meanwhile, is decent in both categories -- 46th on offense, 50th on defense.

Missouri's last two scoring opportunities against BYU (not including kneeldowns), however, both resulted in TDs. That was either an encouraging sign or pure randomness. Regardless, Mizzou faces more disadvantages than advantages overall, and doing a worse job of finishing drives probably won't work out very well for the Tigers on the scoreboard.

Points per scoring opportunity: MU 8.00, UT 2.71


(I guess this is a reminder that creating chances still matters in addition to finishing them, huh?)

4. The first quarter

This is important for two distinct reasons:

A. It is Gary Pinkel's final Senior Night. Emotions will be off the charts, and that can work out in two distinct ways. Either Mizzou is particularly inspired and comes up with a couple of huge plays to build an early advantage before emotions return to their normal state, or they come out numb and flat and give up a couple of early big plays. It can go either way.

B. Tennessee is an elite team in the first quarter and very, very mortal thereafter. As mentioned above, the Vols rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense in the first quarter. They are outscoring opponents by 55 points in Q1 and by 111 in the first half. But the returns diminish. The offense has become staid and predictable, and UT's advantages tend to wither over the game's final 45 minutes. I guess this means that Missouri doesn't have to fear an early deficit, but if that early deficit doesn't even exist, that would be preferable, yes?

Q1 points: UT 6, MU 0
Q1 yards: UT 98, MU 19
Q1 field position: UT 51.0, MU 17.3

It could have been worse -- UT could have scored touchdowns early. The Vols' red zone struggles allowed Missouri to kinda-sorta stay in the game late, but there's no question that this game started about as the numbers would have predicted.

5. Big plays

Tennessee's offense doesn't generate a ton of them but can pull some rabbits out of its hat on passing downs. Meanwhile, Tennessee's defense is willing to risk some big plays in the name of efficiency. Whoever is able to break more big ones -- say, 15-yard rushes or 20-yard passes (or whatever your favorite definition is) -- is going to be in good shape.

15-yard rushes: UT 4, MU 0
20-yard passes: MU 4, UT 1

Because of long pass plays, Mizzou actually nearly broke even in the big-play department (by these definitions). The problem: three of Missouri's four big passes came after the Tigers went down 19-0. Four of UT's big plays came before that.


Stats kind of trumped emotion on this one. We may have wanted to talk ourselves into Missouri definitely winning this game because it was Pinkel's last game and whatnot, but it doesn't tend to actually work that way. Virginia Tech lost to North Carolina in Frank Beamer's last home game, too. (Granted, VT made a harder late charge than Missouri did. But UNC's defense is also worse than UT's.) That made it awkward as players still carried Pinkel off of the field, but ... this was just one memory. Pinkel's provided plenty of good ones already. This was a just result for a team that is good at one side of the ball against a team that is good on both sides.