clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Missouri’s run game is good and getting better. Run defense, however...

New, 5 comments
NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, we took a look at Missouri’s overall stats and the story they tell about the Tigers’ present and future. Now let’s shift to the run games.

Rushing
Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 107.3 52 90.3 102 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 45.6% 47 46.9% 103 42.9%
Rushing IsoPPP 1.00 91 1.19 109 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 96.2 95 94.1 91 100.0
Opportunity Rate 41.6% 43 41.8% 98 39.8%
Power Success Rate 76.8% 20 73.7% 96 68.3%
Stuff Rate 16.6% 31 17.3% 89 18.7%

Individual Rushing Stats

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles
(Lost)
Ish Witter RB 5'10, 200 JR 157 738 6 4.7 3.7 33.1% 0 (0)
Damarea Crockett RB 5'11, 220 FR 154 1062 10 6.9 6.2 48.7% 3 (1)
Drew Lock QB 6'4, 220 SO 40 215 1 5.4 3.7 50.0% 4 (2)
Marvin Zanders QB 6'1, 200 SO 35 198 2 5.7 4.2 51.4% 1 (0)
Alex Ross RB 6'1, 220 SR 24 71 0 3.0 1.7 20.8% 0 (0)
Nate Strong RB 6'0, 210 SO 15 85 0 5.7 5.0 53.3% 0 (0)
Josh Augusta DL 6'4, 355 SR 10 15 2 1.5 0.0 0.0% 1 (1)
Ryan Williams RB 6'0, 185 FR 9 51 0 5.7 2.5 44.4% 0 (0)
J'Mon Moore WR 6'3, 205 JR 2 37 0 18.5 29.5 50.0% 3 (3)
NOTE: Quarterback run totals above do not include sacks (which are counted toward pass averages below) or kneeldowns.

Good: Mizzou's offense ranks 52nd in Rushing S&P+ this year!! The Tigers have literally cut their ranking in half from last year's No. 124 finish.

Considering where the Tigers started this year -- Mizzou backs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry against WVU, 3 aginst Georgia, and a good-not-great 5.3 against EMU -- the improvement has been stark. And when you realize that the run game has featured only one senior (Alex Ross, who has barely touched the ball since the season opener), this is tremendous.

Bad: Actually, we'll just skip to...

Ugly: Mizzou's defense ranked 14th in Rushing S&P+ last year. They have increased that ranking by more than 7x. As efficient as the offense has been on the ground, the defense has been even more inefficient.

If we're to assume that Charles Harris is gone (less of a safe assumption than it was before, but I think the odds are good), that means the Tigers will be attempting to rebuild this run defense without Harris, Josh Augusta, Rickey Hatley, and Donavin Newsom. The return of Terry Beckner Jr. obviously won't hurt, and Mizzou got a head start in attempting to replace Mike Scherer. But of late, the offense has played like the unit with the seasoned upperclassmen, not the defense.

If Saturday's loss to Tennessee accomplished anything (beyond setting the bar REALLY HIGH for Damarea Crockett in 2017), it at least clarified that the now-notorious "read and react" scheme from the first half of the season wasn't the primary issue with the defense. Mizzou missed tackles and got pushed off of the ball just the same with the most recently aggressive scheme. (And really, a read-and-react approach to hemming in Josh Dobbs is probably the best way to go regardless.)

Standard Downs
Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Standard Downs S&P+ 118.9 13 94.9 88 100.0
Standard Downs Success Rate 50.4% 30 48.7% 81 47.2%
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1.15 47 1.15 93 1.12
SD Line Yards per Carry 3.19 38 3.41 117 2.99
SD Sack Rate 2.6% 14 4.3% 77 5.0%

It's impressive to see the similarities that have formed between the new offenses at Texas and Missouri. Both teams have young QBs, both have nice, bullish running backs. Both have a hit-or-miss receiving corps. And both are really good on standard downs and hopeless on passing downs. Mizzou ranks 13th in SD S&P+ and 92nd in PD S&P+; Texas ranks 37th and 118th, respectively.

This creates volatility. If you can stay on schedule, you can put up crazy points and yards, especially when you play at Mizzou’s and Texas’ tempo. But if you come up against an opponent that is as good at defending standard downs as you are at converting them, you’re probably toast.

Mizzou has scored 37 points or more in four games; the Tigers have also scored 14 or fewer in three. Meanwhile, Texas has put up 40-plus five times in the more tempo-and-offense-friendly Big 12 but has been held to 21 or fewer three times in its last five games, all losses.

This imbalance is better than the alternative, of course. You’d rather be good at avoiding passing downs than good at converting them. But you’d really rather be good at both if you have the option, and I’m figuring Mizzou will probably move toward that in year 2. The defense, meanwhile: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

While we’re here, let’s take a look at some situationals.

Situational
Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Q1 S&P+ 110.8 45 102.6 62
Q2 S&P+ 128.1 8 83.2 118
Q3 S&P+ 124.3 21 93.6 94
Q4 S&P+ 103.1 61 95.5 81
1st Down S&P+ 121.3 10 98.6 70
2nd Down S&P+ 108.1 45 93.2 96
3rd Down S&P+ 113.3 40 82.2 117

Mizzou's offense is mostly steady, though it experiences a downtick in the fourth quarter. The defense, meanwhile, is decent out of the gates and then mostly bad. I know our general talking points about tempo, so I guess you could use this as proof that Mizzou's offense is wearing its defense out. But I'm really not sure that applies in the SEC East.

Because no one else really employs tempo, no one is particularly capable of exhausting the Mizzou defense, at least in terms of snap counts. It was a bit of a problem early in the year -- the Tigers faced an average of 89.7 snaps per game in the first three weeks of the year.

Since Week 4, however, Mizzou has only faced 74.4 snaps per game. Against SEC East opponents not named Georgia, the average is 75.4. If you're a power-conference defense with decent depth, you can handle 75 snaps per game. So in this division, it might make quite a bit of sense to go with hardcore tempo. Zig when they zag and whatnot.

(I’m going to ignore that “117th in third down defense” tidbit above for now because I cannot mentally handle that. That’s amazingly, egregiously bad.)