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Missouri-Georgia: Tempo Tales, Fertile Ground and the Nickel is Nigh

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Deep diving into the snap counts from Missouri’s game against Georgia

Georgia v Missouri
Georgia tried Aarion Penton often and mostly came up wanting. Except...you know...for at least one notable exception...
Photo by Ed Zurga/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’ fairly gutting SEC-opening loss to No. 16 Georgia 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...

Offense

Quarterback

Drew Lock – 75

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Tailback

Ish Witter61

Damarea Crockett -- 12

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H-Back

Sean Culkin7

Kendall Blanton6

Tyler Hanneke5

Jason Reese -- 2

Josh Augusta -- 1

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Tight End

Kendall Blanton – 19

Jason Reese – 7

Sean Culkin -- 6

Tyler Hanneke -- 1

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Wide Receiver

J’Mon Moore – 71

Emanuel Hall – 68

Johnathon Johnson -- 34

Chris Black26

Ray Wingo -- 14

Jason Reese -- 12

Kendall Blanton -- 7

Sean Culkin – 7

Dimetrios Mason – 4

Eric Laurent3

Justin Smith -- 2

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Line

Paul Adams – 75

Kevin Pendleton -- 75

Alec Abeln74

Tyler Howell – 74

Samson Bailey – 72

Adam Ploudre4

Tre’Vour Simms -- 1


Defense

End

Charles Harris54

Spencer Williams – 46

Marcell Frazier – 20

Jordan Harold -- 19

Rickey Hatley -- 4

A.J. Logan3

Josh Augusta -- 1

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Tackle

Rickey Hatley – 47

A.J. Logan – 46

Terry Beckner -- 42

Josh Augusta – 40

Charles Harris4

Spencer Williams – 3

Jordan Harold -- 1

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Rush End

Charles Harris16

Spencer Williams – 15

Marcell Frazier -- 10

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Linebacker

Michael Scherer – 93

Donavin Newsom -- 80

Joey Burkett62

Brandon Lee10

Eric Beisel -- 8

Terez Hall – 4

Cale Garrett -- 2

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Nickelback

Thomas Wilson15

Aarion Penton13

Cam Hilton -- 10

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Cornerback

John Gibson -- 81

Aarion Penton – 79

DeMarkus Acy – 10

Thomas Wilson -- 2

Logan Cheadle -- 1

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Safety

Thomas Wilson -- 74

Anthony Sherrils72

Ronnell Perkins – 20

Cam Hilton -- 19


Offensive Set Success

4-WR/1-RB

Run: 5 for 11 (2.20 avg.)

Pass: 12-of-21, 154 yards (7.33 avg.), INT, 2 fumbles lost

Bad Snap: 1 for -14

Total: 27 plays, 151 yards (5.59 avg.), INT, 2 fumbles lost

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3-WR/1-TE/1-RB

Run: 21 for 78 (3.71 avg.)

Pass: 3-of-4, 29 yards (7.25 avg.), TD

Total: 25 plays, 107 yards (4.28 avg.), TD

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3-WR/2-RB

Run: 7 for 14 (2.00 avg.)

Pass: 4-of-8, 155 yards (19.4 avg.), TD, 2 INT

Total: 15 plays, 169 yards (11.3 avg.), TD, 2 INT

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2-WR/1-TE/2-RB

Run: 2 for 5 (2.50 avg.)

Pass: 1-of-2, 6 yards (3.00 avg.), TD

Total: 4 plays, 11 yards (2.75 avg.), TD

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5-WR

Pass: 2-of-2, 15 yards (7.50 avg.)

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2-WR/2-TE/1-RB

Pass: 1-of-1, 17 yards

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JUGGERNAUT

Run: 1 for 1

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Avg. Seconds off the Play Clock: 15.46

10 or Fewer Seconds Off

Run: 9 for 30 (3.33 avg.)

Pass: 5-of-6, 73 yards (12.2 avg.), TD

Total: 15 plays, 103 yards (6.87 avg.), TD

11-19 Seconds Off

Run: 7 for 28 (4.00 avg.)

Pass: 7-of-15, 78 yards (5.20 avg.), 2 INT

Total: 22 plays, 106 yards (4.82 avg.), 2 INT

20+ Seconds Off

Run: 6 for 7 (1.17 avg.)

Pass: 3-of-5, 75 yards (15.0 avg.), INT

Total: 11 plays, 82 yards (7.45 avg.), INT

Off Live-Ball

Run: 22 for 65 (2.95 avg.)

Pass: 15-of-26, 226 yards (8.69 avg.), TD, 3 INT

Total: 48 plays, 291 yards (6.06 avg.), TD, 3 INT

Off Dead-Ball

Run: 14 for 44 (3.14 avg.)

Pass: 8-of-12, 150 yards (12.5 avg.), 2 TD, 2 fumbles lost

Bad Snap: 1 for -14

Total: 27 plays, 180 yards (6.67 avg.), 2 TD, 2 fumbles lost


Defensive Set Success

4-3

Run: 15 for 60 (4.00 avg.)

Pass: 9-of-18, 77 yards (4.28 avg.)

Sack: 2 for -8 (-4.00 avg.)

Kneel: 3 for -6 (-2.00 avg.)

Total: 38 plays, 123 yards (3.24 avg.)

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3-4

Run: 6 for 18 (3.00 avg.)

Pass: 6-of-8, 94 yards (11.8 avg.), TD

Total: 14 plays, 112 yards (8.00 avg.), TD

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Nickel

Pass: 6-of-13, 85 yards (6.54 avg.), TD, INT

-—

4-4

Run: 6 for 20 (3.33 avg.), TD

Pass: 2-of-3, 12 yards (4.00 avg.)

Sack: 1 for -10

Total: 10 plays, 22 yards (2.20 avg.), TD

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Dime

Run: 2 for 22 (11.0 avg.)

Pass: 2-of-8, 23 yards (2.88 avg.)

Total: 10 plays, 45 yards (4.50 avg.)

—-

3-3-5

Run: 1 for 12

Pass: 2-of-3, 15 yards (5.00 avg.)

Sack: 1 for -6

Total: 5 plays, 21 yards (4.20 avg.)

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2-front

Pass: 1-of-1, 0 yards

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5-front

Pass: 1-of-1, 2 yards, TD

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5-4-3

Run: 1 for -1

Illegal Substitution Penalties: 1

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Georgia Targets…

Penton: 6-of-15, 96 yards, TD, 3 PBU

Gibson: 1-of-4, 15 yards

Cheadle: 0-of-1, Harris PBU

Acy: 0-of-1

Cornerbacks: 7-of-21, 111 yards, TD, 4 PBU

Newsom: 4-of-7, 37 yards, PBU

Burkett: 3-of-4, 20 yards

Lee: 3-of-3, 33 yards

Scherer: 3-of-3, 25 yards

Beisel: 1-of-2, 2 yards, TD

Linebackers: 14-of-19, 117 yards, TD, PBU

Wilson: 7-of-12, 80 yards, TD, Hilton INT, PBU

Hilton: 0-of-1, PBU

Safeties: 7-of-13, 80 yards, TD, INT, 2 PBU

Harris: 1-of-1, 0 yards

Throwaway: 0-of-1


Heres the Theres

  • As it says on the Morrison Family crest, “Let’s start from the bottom.”
  • I got interested after that story I wrote last week about who teams are targeting and decided to do it again for the Georgia game. The Bulldogs must not have read said article, however, because they threw at Penton FIFTEEN TIMES. For the most part, that didn’t go well for Georgia, save a 32-yard gain to Terry Godwin and...well...that unpleasantness at the end.
  • I guess it kind of make sense that teams would keep going at Penton. If Missouri’s going to put him on the other team’s best receivers, and the other team actually wants to try to get those players the ball, they’re going to have to try Penton. Georgia still completed only 40 percent of its passes at him.
  • The linebackers and safeties still hemorrhaged all sorts of yards in the middle of the field, combining to give up 21 catches for 197 yards and two scores on 32 targets. Wilson was an especially popular one to pick at, although Jacob Eason did try to thread one into Wilson’s man that Cam Hilton read and picked off once. The Nickel, which made its reappearance, was a mixed bag, which we’ll talk about in, oh, 35 words or so. But be it outside linebacker, safety or whatever, slot receivers, tight ends and their ilk are still an issue for the Tigers.
  • OK, the Nickel. Missouri trotted out a true Nickel look (4-2-5) 13 times in obvious passing situations, and Georgia rewarded the Tigers by throwing the ball all 13 times. The Bulldogs had a lot more success early in the game against that look — 3-of-4 for 55 yards in the first half — than it did late — 3-of-9 for 30 yards, a touchdown and a pick in the second. In the 4-2-5, Wilson played nickelback 10 times and Penton played it three. On Penton’s turns, Wilson actually split out as a corner twice (including the game-winning touchdown play) and played safety once while Cheadle subbed in as a corner...his only snap of the game.
  • Then the Tigers played a 3-3-5. I think we’re allowed to call it that now that Stec’s not around to yell at us. Missouri sacrificed a down lineman for a linebacker on five plays and it ended up working out well. Harris even got one of his three sacks from that look. Wilson manned the Nickel on all five of those snaps.
  • Then there was the Dime, where Scherer’s linebacker friends left him all alone on the field, Penton and Hilton played nickelback, and Acy came in as an extra corner. Missouri first showed that look on the final play of Georgia’s penultimate drive, then on all but one play (you know which one...) of the Bulldogs’ final drive. That look held Georgia to only two completions on eight attempts but was susceptible to the well-timed run (two for 22 yards) and was also the unwilling recipient of a Gibson pass interference call.
  • All in all, when the Tigers had at least one true nickelback on the field, Georgia completed 10-of-24 passes for 123 yards, a pick and the game-winning touchdown. Mixed bag, I guess?
  • Missouri also tried an innovative 5-4-3 set to stop Nick Chubb and it worked. The Tigers stuffed him for a loss of a yard on a 3rd-and-1. Of course, that’s too many men, and the refs flagged them as such. Which begs the question, doesn’t that nullify the play result, statistically speaking? Oh well, we’ll keep the snaps in there as long as that play’s still registered in the stat book...
  • OK, so here’s what I was going for on that confusing tempo metric. On live-ball downs, Missouri snapped the ball -- on average -- a little over 15 seconds into the 40-second clock. Their best per-play averages in those situations came, somewhat paradoxically, when the Tigers snapped the ball before the clock hit 29 and after the clock hit 20.
  • Here’s what interested me most, though: the difference in success between dead- and live-ball situations. There were 48 plays in which Missouri ran a play off a 40-second clock in the rhythm of the offense. There were 27 more (at the start of drives, after penalties, off injuries and reviews) that the Tigers ran. The per-rush averages didn’t really budge. The passing efficiency did. Lock posted a 120.32 rating off live-ball downs and a 226.67 rating on dead-ball ones. All three of his picks? Live ball, in the flow of the offense. Both of his touchdown passes to Moore? Dead ball, coming off a break. Yeah, Missouri coughed up two fumbles in those situations, but those weren’t Lock’s fault.
  • Against Georgia, at least, if you wanted to get Lock at his best, it was when he didn’t yet have a chance to worry about setting up tempo.
  • Josh Heupel got all geeked up and trotted out seven different offensive sets against Georgia, and that’s not counting all the different places he put those receivers in once he got them out there. The 3-0-2 was feast or famine (19 yards an attempt...two interceptions), and the 4-0-1 and 3-1-1 were just OK. Also: way predictable. Missouri was an 84-percent run team with a tight end attached, three wide and a back, and a 78-percent pass team with four wide and a back.
  • Holy, Ish Witter! The junior played 83.6 percent of the available tailback snaps, which used to be a bad word on a team that’s basically been tailback by committee since Devin West. Alex Ross’ ankle probably has a little something to do with that, but it’s rather interesting that, in Ross’ absence, the only two backs Heupel trusted were Witter and Crockett.
  • Kendall Blanton (32) played more snaps than Jason Reese (21) and Sean Culkin (20), with Culkin being the most equal opportunity of the three between attached, wide and H-back, Blanton attaching disproportionately and Reese splitting disproportionately.
  • Moore and Emanuel Hall barely left the field. Hall’s permanence left a surprisingly low number of opportunities for Mason (4), especially after he saw 40 snaps against Eastern Michigan and 39 against West Virginia. Johnson (34) and Black (26) outpaced Wingo (14) in the slot.
  • Ploudre subbed in at right guard and Abeln swung to center for three snaps when Bailey was nursing a sore ankle in-game. Where did the other snap come from? The JUGGERNAUT package, of course, which appears to have become Heupel’s repository for sneaking players into the game and seeing if I notice. This time, Adams moved to left tackle, Ploudre to left guard, Bailey stayed at center, Pendleton to right guard and Simms in at right tackle to work as a buffer between Augusta and INSERT NAME OF ENTIRE GEORGIA DEFENSE HERE
  • Harris was back to his iron man ways, playing 74 of 93 snaps (79.6 percent). So was Scherer, who played the whole game, and Penton, who played all but one snap. Williams is extending his lead over Harold on the other edge (64 to 20, this game), although Missouri went to Frazier on the other side of Harris on Georgia’s final drive, when the Tigers wanted to try and get pressure in the Dime.
  • Four times, DeMontie Cross got all goofy and switched the ends with the tackles, lining Harris/Williams/Harold up inside and Hatley/Logan/Augusta on the outside for four snaps. We saw this against Arkansas last year. This time, that look yielded 2-of-4 completions for 13 yards.
  • The four interior linemen’s counts were basically identical: Hatley 51, Logan 49, Beckner 42, Augusta 41. Well, 42 if you count his offensive excursion.
  • Eric Beisel was the fifth linebacker in Missouri’s 5-front (as he has been) but also replaced Hall as the fourth linebacker in the 4-4 after the first quarter. Cheadle and Hall both went out due to injuries during the game, according to Dave Matter.
  • Hilton’s stock is on the rise. He played 29 snaps against Georgia after combining to play 24 in the first two weeks.