We’ve got some year-end stat stuff to dive into, some bowl speculatin’ to do, etc., but first we should take one more look back at Friday’s wacky regular season finale. TO THE STAT MACHINE.
I joked about it to myself (really the only person I talk to during games) early in the contest, and it at least sort of played out this way:
Early on, it was like Mizzou was baiting Arkansas into getting sucked into a shootout, a big-play contest.
Obviously that wasn’t completely true — Arkansas sucked itself into that by going deep on its first two plays of the game. Regardless, this game became about big plays and explosions, not five yards at a time between the tackles.
Strangely enough, Missouri ended up winning by being the more composed, consistent team. The Tigers trounced the Razorbacks in the success rate category (49 percent to 38) and proved far more capable of extending drives (7.3 plays per drive to 4.1) and catching back up to the chains (42 percent to 24 percent in passing downs success rate). If this was Hagler-Hearns, Mizzou was Marvelous Marvin.
(Of course, this was a full 12-round fight, so Hagler-Hearns doesn’t really apply.)
As success rate goes, so goes the scoreboard
It doesn’t always work like this, but the efficient team was the one that won each quarter. With one exception.
- Q1: Arkansas 21, Missouri 7 (Arkansas was plus-16% in success rate)
- Q2: Missouri 24, Arkansas 7 (Missouri was plus-33%)
- Q3: Arkansas 7, Missouri 0 (Missouri was plus-12%)
- Q4: Missouri 17, Arkansas 10 (Missouri was plus-16%)
Mizzou nearly let this game slip in the third quarter. That’s where Henre’ Toliver stepped in front of Drew Lock’s pass at the 5 and returned it to near midfield, and that’s where Arkansas converted a fourth-down to set up that gorgeous 28-yard cutback run by Devwah Whaley*. When the fourth quarter began, efficiency began to rule the day again.
* When I talk about sucking Arkansas into a big-play fight, part of what I mean is ... it felt like that cutback, which worked twice for touchdowns, would have worked like eight more times. Instead, they kept having Austin Allen look downfield, with diminishing returns.
Not giving up ground, but not gaining it either
Mizzou was crazy-efficient on the ground this year, mainly because even when the Tigers weren’t moving forward a ton, they were never moving backwards. Only about one in eight Mizzou rushes (not including sacks) were stuffs, a.k.a. run stops at or behind the line.
And that was a huge part of Mizzou's stretch-run success. The stuff rate went from 21 percent against Georgia to 17 percent against Idaho to 13 percent against UConn to nine percent against Florida to six percent against Tennessee. From there, it was 10 percent against Vandy and nine percent against Arkansas, too.
Translation: Mizzou gave up probably fewer stuffs than anyone in the country over the last half of the year. That's incredible.
They didn't really move forward all that far the last two weeks, though.
After posting an absurd, unsustainable 58 percent opportunity rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards) against Tennessee, it was 31 percent against Vanderbilt and 32 percent against Arkansas, a few percentage points below the national average. And Vandy and Arkansas don't exactly have amazing run defenses.
Still, simply gaining two or three yards and never moving backwards sets the Missouri passing game up for success. Mizzou's passing success rate was a huge 53 percent, and Arkansas' was 34 percent. The Hogs nearly made enough big plays to make up the difference (with help from the turnover margin) but couldn't.
Again, it came down to efficiency. Including sacks, Missouri averaged 9.56 yards per pass attempt to Arkansas’ 9.53. But Drew Lock completed 60 percent of his passes (impressive considering the drops), and Austin Allen was at 48 percent.
After starting the game a torrid 6-for-9 for 209 yards, Allen went just 8-for-20 for 104 thereafter. Lock, meanwhile, was off-and-on:
Drew Lock by quarter:
- Q1: 3-for-8 for 36 yards, an INT, and a sack for minus-14 (yards per attempt including sacks: 2.4)
- Q2: 10-for-16 for 218 yards and 3 TDs and a sack for minus-3 (12.6)
- Q3: 5-for-9 for 67 yards and an INT and a sack for minus-1 (6.6)
- Q4: 7-for-9 for 127 yards and 2 TDs (14.1)
It’s best to be hot in the second and fourth quarters, I guess.
Hail to the backups
Nice to see Nate Brown and Dominic Collins both stepping up in the second-half absence of Emanuel Hall (and J’Mon Moore’s brief absence as well). Brown caught five of six passes for 49 and played a possession role well, while Collins did all of his work on one drive late in the first half: two targets, two catches, 41 yards, plus a defensive pass interference penalty.
They've now combined to catch 19 of 26 balls for 218 yards (8.4 per target), a touchdown, and a healthy success rate of 58 percent.
Brown will obviously have a chance to expand his role after Moore is gone. It’s kind of a shame we didn’t see more of Collins, though. Blame Hall and Moore for being quite good, I guess.
I had to look it up.
Most havoc plays in a single game this season (linemen in bold):
- Khaleke Hudson, Michigan (9 vs. Minnesota)
- Jayd Kirby, Kansas State (8 vs. Kansas)
- Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama (7 vs. Idaho)
- Bradley Chubb, NC State (7 vs. BC)
- David Long Jr., WVU (7 vs. Oklahoma State)
- Donnie Lewis Jr., Tulane (7 vs. East Carolina)
- Marcell Frazier, Missouri (6.5 vs. Arkansas)
- Brian Burns, Florida State (6.5 vs. Clemson)
- Gelen Robinson, Purdue (6.5 vs. Nebraska)
- Mat Boesen, TCU (6.5 vs. Baylor)
November Marcell is one of the best players in the country. Two years running.
Can you imagine how that game would have turned out without him?