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Missouri’s defense bent but rarely broke against Florida. The offense couldn’t take advantage.

Football Study Hall

Once again, revisiting the previous game’s stats feels like picking at a scab. But we’re going to do it anyway. (You should be able to click on any of these images to enlarge them.)

Mizzou vs. Florida Football Study Hall

Bad: Missouri averaged 4.3 plays per possession. That’s what happens when you start the game with six three-and-outs and a pick six. The combination of tempo and three-and-outs is deadly, but when you’re failing so comprehensively, it doesn’t really matter how fast you’re moving — it’s all bad.

Good, maybe: Florida’s success rate in the first half was under 40 percent. The Gators were at 44 percent for the season heading into the game and hit at least 40 percent against Vandy (with a backup QB), Tennessee (ditto), and Kentucky. So maybe that’s a good sign of where the Missouri defense could be headed.

Of course, the second half was a disaster; after picking off a pass on the third play of the third quarter, Missouri proceeded to allow at least 30 yards in each of Florida’s final five possessions and at least 49 in three. If you want to pin that to the offense’s struggles, you can. Your view of the defense’s performance could simply come down to whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist; you can see whatever you want.

One interesting note to think about: Florida’s offense is almost 180 degrees different than Middle Tennessee’s. MTSU is pass-happy and will test Mizzou’s secondary far more than the Gators did (while potentially testing the front 6-7 less).

Mizzou vs. Florida
Mizzou vs. Florida — rushing stats

Bad: Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine, and Mark Thompson combined to average 8.2 yards per carry. Yes, a lot of that came in the second half, when potential demoralization set in. But they still rushed 15 times for 81 yards (5.4 per carry) in the first half, too.

Mizzou’s pass defense looked excellent after the early 46-yard bomb to Tyrie Cleveland (which ended up resulting in zero points). The run defense, though, was tenuous from the start and awful late.

Good: Mizzou’s running game also got going as the game progressed. The first seven carries for Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter generated only 18 yards (2.6 per carry); the next 22 gained 209 (9.5). Starting the game so horribly had an obvious effect — when Witter burst through the line for 36 yards in two carries to really get the ball rolling, Missouri was already down 20-0. Still, if you’re looking for hope moving forward, that’s two games in a row in which the Witter/Crockett combination was able to generate some momentum. Even if it had little effect on the final scoring margin.

Or, to put this all another way:

Mizzou vs. Florida
Mizzou vs. Florida — passing stats

Luke Del Rio’s second pass of the game went for 46 yards. After that, he went 17-for-36 for 190 yards, three interceptions, a sack, and an average of 5 yards per pass attempt. That’ll play. Mizzou’s secondary did well, and the ability to prevent big gains via pass allowed the Tigers to go into bend-don’t-break mode, stiffening and preventing too many touchdowns.

Florida generated six scoring opportunities (first downs inside the opponent’s 40) but scored only 19 points offensively. In an alternate universe, the defense’s ability to stiffen could have made the difference in the game. Instead, a) Florida scored three return touchdowns, b) Mizzou created only four scoring opportunities, and c) Mizzou wasn’t very good at turning those chances into points either.

Mizzou vs. Florida
Mizzou vs. Florida — receiving stats

1-for-4 for 15 yards. J’Mon Moore desperately needs a good game this coming Saturday.

Mizzou vs. Florida
Mizzou vs. Florida — defensive stats

Missouri was able to hurry Del Rio a decent amount (five times, per the stat sheet) but only sacked him once. Meanwhile, the Tigers made just one other tackle for loss. That’s horrendous. The line has almost completely lacked disruptiveness this year; that’s a mind-blowing things to say.

That said, I thought the new linebacker alignment — Cale Garrett in the middle, Michael Scherer on the outside — worked pretty well. The trio combined for 17.5 tackles and both of Mizzou’s TFLs.

Keys to the game, revisited

From Friday’s preview.

1. Who starts well?

I was already leaning toward listing the first quarter as one of the keys to the football game in today's Mizzou-Florida preview. The rationale there was that we should know what we need to know about whether Mizzou's offense has a chance of clicking within just a couple of possessions -- is the offensive line getting a push? Are Mizzou's receivers able to fight off of Florida's coverage to get into their routes? Et cetera.

I hadn't really considered the "Del Rio's ready to make an impact" variable, though. That could make the early going even more interesting. Del Rio is still a pretty young guy despite having already transferred twice in his career, and if he's a little bit too "juiced up" and plays too aggressively in the early going, that could give Mizzou's defense an opportunity to make a big play. (That, or he completes a bomb, and Florida takes an early lead.)

It always feels like putting "first quarter!" on a keys-to-the-game list is always a bit of a cop-out -- the first quarter is always important -- but ... it's going on the list.

Q1 success rate: Florida 38%, Mizzou 8%

This was definitely a key to the game. And it worked out drastically in Florida’s favor.

2. Who's on schedule?

Passing downs might be deadly for Florida's offense and will almost certainly be deadly for Missouri's. Therefore it stands to reason that the team that avoids them the best will have created quite the advantage for itself. That's probably going to be Florida, but Mizzou could surprise.

Standard downs success rate: Florida 44%, Mizzou 22%

This was also a definite key to the game. And it worked drastically in Florida’s favor.

3. Who's getting to the QB?

Florida's got an outstanding pass rush. Mizzou had one but hasn't put the pieces all together this year. Whoever creates negative plays, particularly in pass situations, will give themselves a huge leg up in the field position department and will be more likely to create turnovers. Again, this is probably Florida, but Missouri has potential.

Sack rate: Mizzou 2.6%, Florida 0.0%

Both quarterbacks got hit a decent amount, but there was only one sack. But Mizzou would have needed a ton of sacks to make up the damage of the first two keys here.

4. Who's finishing?

This only matters if one team isn't dominating the three other categories here -- if Mizzou, for instance, only creates two scoring opportunities to Florida's six or something, then this doesn't make much of a difference. But if Missouri is fighting well in the first three categories, this could turn the tide one way or the other. Florida's offense appears to have a strong advantage in these situations.

Points per scoring opportunity: Mizzou 3.50, Florida 3.33

Mizzou’s defense succeeded enough to buy the Tigers some time. Mizzou’s offense couldn’t take advantage.

Again, MTSU will test Missouri’s defense in a completely different way, but the Tigers should still be in good shape as long as they’re able to play with confidence on offense. I guess you could say the beatings will continue until morale improves.