I’ve added a new toy to my Football Study Hall stat profiles: box scores! You can find them by clicking on the score of a given game. It’s pretty low-fi — screen shots from Excel, basically -- but it’s another way to share a ton of info, and I hope people like it as much as I do.
These box scores basically share all of the information that I normally would in a BTBS post (more, actually), so for BTBS moving forward, I figured I would just deconstruct these box scores, so to speak. Let’s look at them component by component and see what they can tell us.
Mizzou started only one possession in EMU territory, and EMU started only one beyond its 30. That’s pretty impressive. Part of that is due to the fact that Mizzou returned a punt and interception for touchdown (if they get tackled at the 1, field position average shifts drastically), but still, for the most part this game was played on both ends of the field.
That, of course, makes it more impressive that Mizzou created eight scoring opportunities. They were only handed one opportunity by the defense (and, ironically enough, blew that one with a fumble).
Mizzou scored on drives of 75, 86, 87, 82, 78, 76, and 86 yards. Yes, EMU's defense is likely terrible, but that's a level of consistency and efficiency that requires confidence that Mizzou has not had over the last 12 months. Here's to hoping that means something when the real defenses show up again (i.e. in four days).
Nitpick No. 1: Against this run defense, I’d have hoped to see more big rushing plays. Ish Witter had a nice 19-yarder, and Damarea Crockett of course peeled off to the right for a 26-yard score on fourth-and-1. But that was pretty much it. Efficiency wasn’t an issue, but I’d have hoped for another burst or two.
Nitpick No. 2: Mizzou should have forced more turnovers. The Tigers fumbled twice and lost both of them, and while they picked off two passes, their 17 total passes defensed (!) should have, on average, resulted in about two more interceptions. Mizzou struggled to hold onto interception opportunities last year, and if Saturday’s any indication, that problem might not be alleviated. (Of course, the fact that Mizzou defensed 17 passes in one game is patently absurd. EMU only had 22 incompletions.)
EMU has its best pass rush in a while and an experienced secondary. I was curious how much damage Drew Lock would be able to do against the Eagles. Um, I’d say he did quite a bit. I don’t know what’s more exciting, really — him averaging 18.3 yards per pass attempt on standard downs or him completing four of five passes on passing downs. Again, yes, EMU’s defense is worse than any Mizzou will face aside from Delaware State (and *cough* maybe Kentucky), but this was impressive.
(Meanwhile, here’s your reminder that Todd Porter was only 5-for-16 before the game flipped into garbage time status. He was 18-for-29 thereafter, but “He was a little too successful in garbage time” is a complaint I’d love to have plenty more times this year.)
This list doesn't include Emanuel Hall (3 targets, 3 catches, 90 yards), who combined with Johnson and Wingo for 330 yards on just 14 targets. That’s crazy. (That’s two sophomores and a redshirt freshman, by the way.)
An 83% success rate in short yardage is good (especially after 100% last week). A 7% stuff rate is good. As I mentioned, Mizzou didn’t show a ton of explosiveness -- which is either on the backs or on linemen not sustaining their blocks quite long enough -- but the Tigers might have the components of an efficient run game here. We’ll obviously learn a lot this coming Saturday. (Nate Strong looked, uh, strong, by the way, albeit in garbage time.)
TFLs, passes defensed, and forced fumbles are what I call havoc stats -- because of passes defensed, Mizzou had 13 plays end up with at least one havoc play. That's very good. It's also very weird considering only three said players were defensive linemen (and one of those linemen was Josh Moore). Mizzou has more of a react-and-swarm defense this year, either by design or by accident, and I'm curious how it plays against Nick Chubb and company. I'm not doom-and-gloom, but ... I'm not amazingly confident either.
5 keys revisited
1. Mizzou vs. the chains
Rankings after one week are mostly worthless, but consider tomorrow an opportunity for reassurance. We saw a high-tempo identity in place last Saturday, and that's good -- between injuries and shaky WR and OL play, Mizzou had no identity last year.
But while we spent most of the week talking about promise and potential, there's this: Missouri ranked 126th in Success Rate+ last year (123rd rushing, 115th passing, 125th on standard downs, 110th on passing downs). And after one game in 2016, Mizzou ranks 120th in success rate (117th rushing, 116th passing, 115th on standard downs, 115th on passing downs).
No, those Week 1 numbers aren't adjusted for opponent. Yes, it's only one week. But the parallels there are ... off-putting.
Missouri now ranks 69th in success rate (70th rushing, 72nd passing). Pretty good improvement for one game, no matter the opponent.
2. Mizzou vs. the red zone
One other "no, please no" parallel with last season: In 2015, the Tigers ranked 126th in the country, averaging just 2.9 points per scoring opportunity. Through one game in 2016, Mizzou ranks ... 126th, averaging 1.8.
I actually want Missouri to attempt a couple of field goals because I want to see Tucker McCann put a couple of them through the uprights and generate some confidence. But I also want to see Missouri create between about seven and 10 scoring opportunities ... and that leaves five to eight that should finish in touchdowns. I'll settle for five.
Lock lost the fumble after Penton’s interception. Mizzou’s other seven scoring opportunities: TD, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD.
3. Mizzou vs. Shaq Vann (and Ian Eriksen)
Shaq Vann hinted at major explosiveness last season and began 2016 with confirmation. He and Ian Eriksen combined for 253 yards on 32 carries against MVSU, and while they won't average 8 yards per carry all year, they could drive a pretty solid EMU run game.
Meawhile, Missouri allowed five-yard gains on 44 percent of WVU's carries last week. That puts Mizzou at 105th in opportunity rate after one week. Michael Scherer told media that miscommunication/misunderstanding were at the heart of the problems, and that those problems should be rectified soon. Here's to hoping. In theory, Mizzou's got too much offense for EMU no matter what, but a successful EMU run game could keep this game competitive into the second half. I want to see a blowout.
Shaq Vann injured his shoulder early in the first quarter, so Mizzou got 23 carries’ worth of Eriksen instead. Four of his 23 carries gained five or more yards. That’ll do.
4. Mizzou vs. special teams
Per my special teams efficiency model, EMU attempted five returns against MVSU -- four KR, one PR -- and all five were 'successful' returns. Mizzou, meanwhile: 1-for-4, and with zero successful kickoffs to boot. Return advantage: EMU.
Not only did McCann miss two field goals (one of which was blocked, yes), but he also had zero touchbacks in two kickoffs; after what we saw in the spring, I thought super-deep kickoffs would be the norm. Not the case yet.
McCann needs a nice game on Saturday, and Mizzou needs to make sure that the return game doesn't drastically favor EMU. Special teams opportunities create upsets. Let's not.
Good news: Mizzou has a return threat again!
Bad news: Mizzou missed two PATs!
This is going to be a roller coaster.
5. Mizzou vs. opportunity
This could be the first legitimate blowout opportunity since last year’s season opener against SEMO.
First of all, this would just feel good. It should be a pretty nice evening weather-wise (which was almost never the damn case last year), and a steady, solid, easy win would give Mizzou fans a happy home experience. They didn’t provide many of those in 2015.
Second, a blowout would allow for a lot of freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and sophomores to get their respective feet wet. Most of Mizzou’s most successful players last weekend were upperclassmen — Chris Black, Aarion Penton, Scherer, Sean Culkin, maybe Anthony Sherrils; very few of the youngsters Mizzou is counting on this year made much of an impact. Now’s a chance to provide glimpses, build a little bit of confidence, etc. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity.
Opportunity: not missed.