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Missouri-Tennessee: Terrible Tackling, TEs Moving People and a Busted Base

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MU’s defense missed fewer tackles than Tennessee’s. The Tigers’ were just more costly.

Missouri v South Carolina
Sean Culkin, underappreciated in his time.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you were familiar with my work at the Columbia Daily Tribune you knew that, as part of my in-season coverage, I endeavored to provide snap counts for every Missouri player for every offensive and defensive snap that counted during the season.

If you were not...well, I just explained what this is in the last graf. You should have paid attention.

Anyway, I pored over the film of the Tigers’ 63-37, Bizarro World track meet loss to Tennessee to see who Missouri used on offense and defense, how often and in what ways. Then I tried to gather it in a way that wouldn’t bore you too terribly.

Did I fail? Did I succeed? I suppose that’s up for history to decide.

Here we go...

Drew Lock – 110
Ish Witter59
Damarea Crockett – 39
Nate Strong -- 12
Sean Culkin – 48
Kendall Blanton19
Jason Reese -- 2
Josh Augusta1
Tyler Hanneke -- 1
Tight End
Sean Culkin – 17
Kendall Blanton – 14
Jason Reese -- 1
Wide Receiver
J’Mon Moore103
Dimetrios Mason – 66
Johnathon Johnson59
Emanuel Hall – 42
Chris Black30
Richaud Floyd – 20
Eric Laurent -- 6
Jason Reese -- 5
Kendall Blanton -- 4
Sean Culkin -- 2
Paul Adams110
Jonah Dubinski -- 110
Kevin Pendleton110
Adam Ploudre110
Tyler Howell – 109
Tre’Vour Simms -- 1

Charles Harris42
Marcell Frazier – 20
Spencer Williams19
Jordan Harold – 7
Nate Howard -- 1
Rickey Hatley – 40
A.J. Logan34
Josh Augusta – 26
Josh Moore -- 13
Jordan Harold – 7
Markell Utsey -- 7
Nate Howard – 3
Marcell Frazier -- 1
Rush End
Marcell Frazier – 24
Charles Harris16
Spencer Williams -- 3
Jordan Harold – 2
Donavin Newsom -- 50
Eric Beisel43
Joey Burkett -- 30
Brandon Lee26
Cale Garrett – 24
Terez Hall -- 13
T.J. Warren – 11
DeMarkus Acy -- 7
John Gibson -- 67
Aarion Maxey-Penton – 67
Cam Hilton – 59
Ronnell Perkins – 54
Anthony Sherrils13
Thomas Wilson -- 8

Heres and Theres

  • Missouri got the most out of Crockett when he was in the game, shoving the ball into his breadbasket on 61.5 percent of his plays (24 of 39). Witter, by contrast, got a carry on 52.5 percent of his (31 of 59). Both were very, very busy. And, with Crockett winded and fighting an ankle issue, Strong saw his most usage of the season.
  • The Culkin/Blanton dynamic becomes more “1” and “2” than “1a” and “1b” as the season progresses. Culkin saw 67 snaps to Blanton’s 37, with Reese getting in for eight (the majority coming split wide on the Tigers’ final drive of the first half). Culkin is still, disproportionately, an H-back for Missouri while Blanton is disproportionately an attached tight end.
  • Saw what you will about J’Mon Moore (and I think many Missouri fans say much more ill about him than I...) but the dude plays, like, all game every game. It looked like Mason was trending toward that lately as well, but Emanuel Hall reasserted himself into the rotation this week. And, for the first time since the Kentucky game, Johnson actually proved the depth chart right and played the most snaps in the slot. And Black was actually his backup. Wingo, though, quietly exited the picture after a one-game, five-snap renaissance.
  • If Missouri hadn’t gone JUGGERNAUT (I won’t call it “Bone”’s just not as fun) for one play, than it would’ve had its line stay intact for a whole game for the first time since the opener. Instead, Simms got one of Howell’s snaps.
  • The Tigers went with a bunch of stand-up end this week and, more often than not, it was Frazier doing the standing. Frazier had 53.3 percent of his snaps standing, compared to 27.6 percent for Harris. The Harris/Harold split was 87-13, while Frazier/Williams was 67-33.
  • On the interior, Augusta crept up on Logan’s snap count and Josh Moore got the Hatley backup snaps after Utsey went down in the first half. That’s the first time Moore has played since Kentucky. He has as many tackles this year as J’Mon Moore. Not sure I saw that coming.
  • And the Cheetah showed its spots (get it?) four times, although Frazier and Howard switched roles on one of them. Harold also played nose tackle in a sort of three-front Cheetah line Dime three times during the game.
  • The Tigers pretty much sat in their base personnel (which...didn’t go so hot) the entire game, meaning lotsa linebacker snaps to go around. Again, it was mostly Lee/Beisel, Burkett/Garrett series (with some exceptions) and Newsom working outside that framework. He enjoyed a 79-21 split over Terez Hall, Beisel 64-36 over Garrett and Burkett 54-46 over Lee.
  • The back end didn’t change much at all throughout the game. Hilton remains ahead of Wilson and Perkins took back his starting spot from Sherrils. Who probably didn’t help himself much with that cover bust on Josh Malone.

Offensive Set Success

Run: 45 for 320 (7.11 avg.), TD
Pass: 10-of-23, 196 yards (8.52 avg.), TD, 2 INT
Total: 68 plays, 516 yards (7.59 avg.), 2 TD, 2 INT

Run: 17 for 83 (4.88 avg.), 3 TD
Pass: 9-of-12, 102 yards (8.50 avg.), fumble lost
Sack: 1 for -7
Total: 30 plays, 178 yards (5.93 avg.), 3 TD, fumble lost

Run: 3 for 24 (8.00 avg.)
Pass: 2-of-8, 22 yards (2.75 avg.)
Total: 11 plays, 46 yards (4.18 avg.)

Run: 1 for 0 (0.50 avg.), fumble lost


Unbalanced Line (Howell-Dubinski snapping-Ploudre-Pendleton-Adams)
Run: 13 for 51 (3.92 avg.), 3 TD
Sack: 1 for -7
Total: 14 plays, 44 yards (3.14 avg.), 3 TD

Using Motion
TE into Backfield
Run: 4 for 59 (14.8 avg.)
Pass: 0-of-4, INT
Total: 8 plays, 59 yards (7.38 avg.), INT

Slot through Backfield
Run: 5 for 33 (6.60 avg.), TD
Pass: 1-of-3, 7 yards (2.33 avg.)
Total: 8 plays, 40 yards (5.00 avg.), TD

Total Motion Plays
Run: 9 for 92 (10.2 avg.), TD
Pass: 1-of-7, 7 yards (1.00 avg.), INT
Total: 16 plays, 99 yards (6.19 avg.), TD, INT

Broken Tackles
Broken Tackles: 13 (0.20 per)
Yards After Contact: 165 (2.50 per)

Broken Tackles: 8 (0.38 per)
Yards After Contact: 78 (3.71 per)

Broken Tackles: 21 (0.24 per)
Yards After Contact: 243 (2.79 per)

MU Running…
Inside the Tackles
Howell and Pendleton: 2 for 39
Howell and Adams: 1 for 16
Howell and Ploudre: 1 for 5
Pendleton and Culkin: 5 for 24
Pendleton and Blanton: 2 for 2
Pendleton and Adams: 2 for 10
Pendleton and Dubinski: 7 for 30
Dubinski and Culkin: 2 for 8
Dubinski and Blanton: 1 for 29
Dubinski and Ploudre: 4 for 13, TD
Dubinski and Adams: 2 for 8
Ploudre and Culkin: 5 for 20
Ploudre and Blanton: 1 for 7
Ploudre and Adams: 7 for 50
Pendleton and Simms: 1 for 0, fumble lost
Total: 43 for 261 (6.07 avg.), TD, fumble lost

Outside the Tackles
Howell and Culkin: 2 for 11
Howell and Blanton: 2 for 3

Off Howell: 2 for 13, TD
Adams and Culkin: 2 for 5
Adams and Blanton: 2 for 28, TD
Off Adams: 4 for 16, TD
Off Blanton: 5 for 68
Off Culkin: 4 for 22
Total: 23 for 166 (7.22 avg.), 3 TD

Defensive Set Success
Run: 25 for 208 (8.32 avg.), 3 TD
Pass: 7-of-10, 115 yards (11.5 avg.), 2 TD
Sack: 1 for -2
Total: 36 plays, 321 yards (8.92 avg.), 5 TD


Run: 15 for 164 (10.9 avg.), 2 TD
Pass: 4-of-5, 48 yards (9.60 avg.)
Total: 20 plays, 212 yards (10.6 avg.), 2 TD


Run: 2 for 14 (7.00 avg.)
Pass: 0-of-2
Total: 4 plays, 16 yards (4.00 avg.)


Run: 1 for 3
Pass: 3-of-3, 50 yards (16.7 avg.), TD
Total: 4 plays, 53 yards (13.3 avg.), TD


Run: 1 for -1
Pass: 1-of-2, 10 yards (5.00 avg.)
Total: 3 plays, 9 yards (3.00 avg.)


Broken Tackles
Broken Tackles: 13 (0.30 per)
Yards After Contact: 248 (5.64 per)

Broken Tackles: 2 (0.13 per)
Yards After Contact: 34 (1.55 per)

Broken Tackles: 15 (0.25 per)
Yards After Contact: 282 (4.78 per)

  • OK. Lot to digest here. Let’s start with the broken tackles.
  • Tennessee was actually pretty much just as bad at tackling as Missouri was on the game. The Volunteers missed 21 tackles in 87 non-sack rushes or passes, or 0.24 per. The Tigers missed 15 in 59 such plays, or 0.25 per. Missouri’s misses were much more costly, though, as Tennessee averaged 4.78 yards a play after contact while Missouri averaged 2.79.
  • Dobbs, for instance, broke seven tackles and gained 153 yards after contact on his nine rushes. That included two plays in which he was first hit behind the line and broke free. Plus, the Wilson whiff a yard past the line on his 70-yard touchdown scamper. That’s 69 yards after contact. That’s the Tibetan Plateau (whole lotta YAC).
  • You’ll notice something about Missouri’s yards after contact on rush plays, though: it’s only 2.5 per. Meaning the Tigers’ backs were getting an average of 3.97 yards past the line before a Tennessee player even touched them. Meaning the line (and Culkin and Blanton) were blowing. People. Up.
  • I tried to arrange all those different blocking combinations from left to right on the line so you could kind of see it. The big takeaway (for me at least) is just how frequently the Tigers used Culkin and Blanton as a lead blocker, be it pulling from one end of the line to the other to help out a tackle or running right up the back of a guard or center as H-back. Missouri ran 33 times for 227 yards (6.88 per) with either Culkin or Blanton serving as a lead blocker. When it got a back to the edge with just Culkin or Blanton, it ran nine times for 90 yards.
  • Special kudos to Ploudre and Adams on the right side as well. That gap gained 50 yards on seven rushes.
  • Two more things. While Josh Heupel went pretty formulaic set-wise (89 percent 3-wide, 62 percent H-Back look), he did a lot more with unbalanced lines and motion than he had been doing. The unbalanced line was a basically all run set (save for a sack) and did well in short-yardage situations. Pre-snap motion separated into three categories: tight ends motioning from wide into the backfield; slot guys motioning through the backfield at snap for a fake end around look; and that H-back motioning wide play that got Tennessee to jump twice and Adams to jump once. Mixed results on the motion plays. Really good running (play fake to Black through the backfield on Crockett’s 22-yard TD), really bad passing (1-of-7 with the Micah Abernathy pick).
  • The four-wide, at this point, is basically what Missouri runs at the end of the half or when it’s really far behind and trying to catch up. Quite striking how much of a backseat it has taken, given recent history.
  • On defense...let’s start with the good news. The Cheetah worked again. Tennessee went 1-of-4 on third downs against it, the only conversion coming on Dobbs’ escape from the clutches of a Frazier sack. Odd personnel sets, in fact, yielded a modest (for this game) 7.09 yards a play (78 on 11). Take out the 49-yard Jajuan Jennings touchdown past a bewildered Penton in the Nickel and it’s only 29 yards on 10 plays.
  • Now the bad news. And there was plenty of it to go around. The Tigers’ base personnel (four linemen, three linebackers in any sort of array) gave up 533 yards on 56 plays (9.52 per) and seven touchdowns.
  • The rush end look was worse against the pass, four-down look worse against the run. And, really, by the end it wouldn’t have mattered if Missouri put 11 players in Tennessee’s backfield. Dobbs had a 40-yard, 3rd-and-2 run in which he pulled off the zone read so flawlessly that nobody touched him until he was 38 yards downfield. That was with Harris up as a rush end. The next play, John Kelly ran over the right side of the line for a 27-yard touchdown. A Missouri player has still yet to touch him. That was against the 4-3.
  • This defense had/has/will have issues. I don’t know that “going back to the old system” is necessarily going to address all of them.