Man oh man, is it more fun to write stat recaps of actually fun games. Missouri should keep trying this “winning streak” thing. It beats losing 19 of 25.
Yes, Missouri really lost 19 of 25 at one point. Anyway. STATS TIME.
1. ZERO. POINT. ZERO.
That’s Florida’s passing downs success rate. Now, part of that is a technicality — passing downs are a non-garbage time thing, I’m working on expanding my definition of garbage time a bit.
Once I’ve expanded that definition, plays like Malik Zaire’s 37-yard pass to Dre Massey late in the second quarter will count as successes. Regardless, Florida was down 28-3 at the time of that completion and didn’t have any passing downs successes until then. That’s good enough, Mizzou.
Based on the current definition, here are Florida’s passing downs attempts:
- 2nd-and-13: 3-yard run
- 3rd-and-10: INC pass
- 2nd-and-10: 6-yard run
- 2nd-and-9: 3-yard run
- 3rd-and-6: 2-yard run
- 2nd-and-8: INT pass
The moment Florida went off-schedule, the Gators’ early drives ended. Meanwhile, Missouri laid the hammer down. The Tigers failed to score on their first two drives — one was stopped via red zone interception, and the other was a punt (that was ultimately muffed) after flipping the field — but then went TD, TD, TD, TD, punt, TD, TD. Good teams put games out of reach as quickly as possible. Mizzou was a good team on Saturday.
2. Always be closing (drives)
Albert Okwuegbunam’s emergence, plus some awesome play-calling and execution, have done incredible things for Missouri’s drive-finishing ability. Mizzou lost the Kentucky game in part because of bad field goal snaps, but since then the Tigers have elected to just avoid field goals altogether and score touchdowns. Pretty sound strategy in my opinion.
- vs. Missouri State: 12 scoring opportunities (first downs inside the opponent’s 40 ... or TDs from outside the 40), 72 points (6.0)
- vs. South Carolina: 5 opportunities, 13 points (2.6)
- vs. Purdue: 3 opportunities, 3 points (1.0)
- vs. Auburn: 3 opportunities, 14 points (3.7)
- vs. Kentucky: 10 opportunities, 34 points (3.4)
- vs. Georgia: 4 opportunities, 28 points (7.0)
- vs. Idaho: 10 opportunities, 62 points (6.2)
- vs. UConn: 8 opportunities, 52 points (6.5)
- vs. Florida: 8 opportunities, 45 points (5.6)
You see two different trends developing there, both of them positive for Mizzou.
- Mizzou is creating more opportunities. The Tigers averaged just 3.7 scoring chances per game against their first three FBS opponents. Since then: 8 per game. Yes, opponent quality had a role to play in that. Mizzou did, after all, only create four such chances against the only really good defense in that “since then” sample. But creating more than twice as many chances per game doesn’t just reflect on the opponent.
- Mizzou is finishing those opportunities with aplomb. Mizzou averaged a ghastly 3.0 points per opportunity in its first four games against FBS teams. Last four games: 6.2. Again, more than double the production. Again, not all on the opponent. And besides, even if it were all about the quality of opponent, well, the quality of opponent isn’t going to improve much down the stretch. Tennessee is a healthy 39th in Def. S&P+, but Vanderbilt is 58th, and Arkansas is 106th. And Tennessee’s bottom-10 offense offsets the quality of the defense.
3. Witter and Rountree > Perine and Thompson
If Mizzou backs can hit the 4.5 yards per carry mark, I’ll be pretty happy. That might be all it takes to open the big-play spigot in the passing game. But some amount of run success will be a requirement.
If you had told me that Ish Witter and Larry Rountree III would average 5.2 yards per carry, and Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson would average 3.1, that probably would have been all I needed to know. It was going to be very difficult for Florida to beat Mizzou with either one of those averages.
Both of those averages (plus drastic advantages in stuff rate and power success), plus some Mizzou play-calling focused on pounding away with this successful run game? Blowout material.
4. I still have no idea why Randy Shannon started Malik Zaire
And he evidently is again this week. Zaire was 4-for-7 for 44 yards before the game got out of hand. The Gators moved him into the lineup and then did absolutely nothing creative with him — they didn’t run him (five carries), they didn’t throw in any trick plays, they didn’t do him any favors whatsoever. They just asked him to go in and fix the same bad Florida offense that existed without him. Feleipe Franks is better and younger than him.
Shannon also called for a field goal on fourth-and-1 down 14 points. He knows he’s an interim coach, right?
But I digress. Drew Lock was awesome on Saturday, btw.
5. Emanuel Hall has just been a damn godsend
Hall’s last five games: 30 targets, 21 catches, 500 yards. That’s an average of 16.7 yards per target. Usually if someone’s averaging 16.7 yards per catch, a) that’s quite good, and b) it’s usually accompanied by a bad catch rate (because he’s obviously an all-or-nothing receiver). Hall is averaging nearly 24 yards per catch. With a 70-percent catch rate.
By the way, I don’t want to turn this into another “Why the heck wasn’t he playing more in September???” gripe. He’s playing now. And it’s awesome.
6. Terez is getting help
Even while Missouri’s defense was getting constantly torched through the first six games, Terez Hall was performing as one of the best linebackers in the conference. He was registering run stuffs for a bad run defense and consistently grading out as one of the best SEC linebackers, week for week, per the PFF grades. (He did it again this week, in fact.)
He does stuff like this pretty frequently:
Mizzou LB 24 Terez Hall playing at a high level. Nice seat & spin on a blitz to get to the QB. pic.twitter.com/g974m1U9dq— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) November 7, 2017
And as long as we’re talking run defense instead of pass defense, Cale Garrett was doing a lot, too, early on. (Yes, he had two interceptions earlier in the year. No, pass defense is still very much not his forte.)
Now these two are getting help up front. It doesn’t really matter what the chicken-and-egg relationship is between Terry Beckner Jr.’s sudden destructive tendencies and the return of A.J. Logan from suspension. Logan is racking up almost no stats whatsoever, but his presence undeniably correlates with Missouri’s improving run defense. (Yes, again, so does a series of lackluster opponents. I know. Constant disclaimer.)
Over the last three games, opposing tailbacks have rushed 65 times for 231 yards, a paltry 3.6 yards per carry average. Hall is still making havoc plays, but now he’s being joined by Beckner, Marcell Frazier, and others. And better yet, the massive positioning errors that constantly befell this offense in the first six games seem to have subsided. That, in theory, doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the opponent.