The stats in games like this are basically going to tell you “your team good, their team bad.” But let’s see i there’s anything worth noting from Mizzou’s 52-12 win over UConn before we turn the page.
1. Mizzou finished drives!
I talk a lot about how your Little Things weaknesses don’t bite you in every game, how a shaky place-kicker still makes kicks (or isn’t asked to make any), how a bad field position team can randomly get some breaks due to a turnover or something, how the turnovers fairy doesn’t always frown or smile on you, and how, even if you’re bad at finishing drives, sometimes you’re not.
Missouri was not on Saturday. Points Per Scoring Opportunity (first downs inside the opp’s 40) is my go-to finishing drives measure, and if you take Missouri’s and UConn’s averages in this game and apply them to, say, the South Carolina game, Missouri wins about 33-15, even with a Deebo Samuel kick return. Apply it to the Kentucky game, and Mizzou wins 65-14. (No, that’s not a typo. Mizzou created 10 chances to UK’s eight.)
By the way, Mizzou’s offense is now 18th in points per scoring opp for the season. The Tigers have been pretty much perfect at it for the last three weeks. The combination of long bombs and Albert O has been quite potent.
When you finish your chances in the end zone and prevent your opponent from doing the same, it can cover up a lot of other issues.
Mizzou indeed dominated in these situations, to a patently unsustainable degree. It was nice to see, but it did distract us from the fact that UConn was able to create quite a few chances. The Huskies’ first drive ended via punt from the MU 40, the second a missed field goal, the third a turnover on downs from the MU 20, and the fourth a field goal.
Mizzou was never going to be particularly challenged in this game because of the way the offense was playing — if UConn gets some early points, it just means Drew Lock’s still in the game into the fourth quarter — but this probably wasn’t as good a defensive performance as we are led to believe by looking at UConn’s point total.
Granted, the defense figured things out. After those first four possessions, UConn proceeded to punt on seven of its next eight possessions. Six of those were three-and-outs. And the Huskies’ second quarter success rate was almost as low as Idaho’s 7% in the first quarter the week before. But between their ability to create chances and the fact that they had open receivers dropping a few passes, I’m thinking the Idaho game was still a better performance by this defense than the UConn game.
2. Look at Drew Lock being patient!
I mention the words “Plan B” a lot when talking or writing about Mizzou’s offense. As in, Mizzou doesn’t really have one sometimes. That was very much the case early in the season, but seeing Lock go 19-for-24 on standard downs (which doesn’t include when garbage time settings took over) was impressive considering UConn was bound and determined not to get beat deep.
Connecticut was way scared of Missouri throwing deep on it. How scared, you ask? Well, on the 37 Tiger pass plays that didn’t involve something in the backfield (touch pass to a jet sweeper/running back screen) or a blocker releasing (once), the Huskies player who was guarding the guy who got the ball for Missouri was giving an average of seven yards of cushion.
With all that room, Drew Lock basically sat back and picked at them all day, completing 25-of-31 passes for 357 yards (Micah Wilson also completed 3-of-6 for 31). Lock was more than happy to throw to the stop route to the wide side of the field and give his receiver time to put in a move or two against a backpedaling corner.
On the two most successful passes of the day — a 72-yard touchdown to Johnathon Johnson and a 35-yard loft to Johnson -- the receiver had nine and eight (respectively) yards of cushion at the time of the snap. J’Mon Moore had nine on his 23-yard gain, and Ish Witter turned four yards of cushion from the middle linebacker into a 22-yarder on a little out route.
Patience hasn’t always been Lock’s thing. Maybe it’s his thing now.
3. Johnathon Johnson isn’t just catching screen passes anymore!
No. 12 has caught 14 of 25 passes for 302 yards over Missouri’s four-game offensive renaissance. He was a heavy target against Kentucky and UConn, and he’s being used in far more versatile ways than we had previously seen. It has long been a fan complaint that Mizzou doesn’t utilize the middle of the field enough beyond the random tight end seam pass. That is becoming less and less the case, and both the tight ends and Johnson are benefiting from it.
Speaking of the tight ends...
4. First-team All-SEC Alsondall Reestonbunam
Last year, I joked that if you mashed all of Mizzou's slot receivers together, you'd have the best slot man in the country. Johnson, Chris Black, Ray Wingo, and Richaud Floyd combined to catch 50 passes for 929 yards and five touchdowns.
This year, I'm going to make the same comment, only about the tight ends. Obviously Albert Okwuegbunam has taken over the No. 1 role, but when you add in Jason Reese's and Kendall Blanton's production, you get a tight end who has caught 24 of 40 passes for 437 yards and eight scores. Stretch that pace out for 12 games (I'm not going to start optimistically using 13 games just yet), and you get 36 catches, 656 yards, and 12 scores. That'll play.
5. Run efficiency: check
I’m still not particularly excited about taking on a good Florida run defense without Damarea Crockett, but it’s hard to deny that Ish Witter and Larry Rountree III did everything they could to assuage those worries over these last two weeks.
I asked for more efficiency after the all-or-nothing Idaho game — the duo averaged 6.6 yards per carry thanks in particular to a 50-yard Rountree burst, but only 29 percent of their carries gained at least five yards — and I got it. Mizzou rushing success rate was a ridiculous 83 percent pre-garbage time, and 56 percent of the pair’s carries gained five-plus yards. That’s what I was hoping for. And if they manage 40 percent against Florida, I’ll be pretty excited.
6. Aggressive DBs
Even including this game, Missouri still ranks just 91st in Havoc Rate and 119th in DB Havoc Rate. But you have to start somewhere, and Logan Cheadle and Adam Sparks combining for three passes defensed and a sack was nice. We saw Mizzou getting more aggressive in blitzes and stunts, and it added a little more oomph to the typically feckless nickel formation. And once the Tigers were dialed in a little bit in this regard is when the three-and-outs began to flow.
Again, we’ll see how much that translates to better opponents (and yes, technically Florida and Tennessee qualify). But the simple fact that they were willing to do it was a step forward.