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Missouri’s loss to South Carolina brought back a lot of 2016 flashbacks

Mizzou ran well, but when the Tigers had to pass, they couldn’t.

Football Study Hall

Tuesday is turn-the-page day. Mizzou releases its game notes and depth chart for the Purdue game this afternoon, and moving forward I endeavor to get my box score diving out of the way on Mondays. But yes, let’s dive into the data to see what else we can learn from Mizzou’s 31-13 defeat last Saturday.

South Carolina followed the South Carolina script to victory, just as it did last year against Missouri. Said script — rely on big-play prevention, turnovers, and possibly special teams to lead the way — will get the Gamecocks thumped once or twice this year when the opponent doesn’t accommodate, but it will probably also win them about eight games along the way.

  • Big play prevention: Check. Mizzou’s successful rushes were mostly of the six-yard variety, and the Tigers generated 51 percent of their pass yardage on three completions. Their other 11 completions averaged 10.8 yards each.
  • Turnovers: Check. Based on fumbles (Mizzou had one, SC none) and passes defensed (SC got hands on seven passes, Mizzou one), the Gamecocks were all but guaranteed to have a positive turnover margin. But it should have probably been plus-1 or plus-2. Mizzou needed some good luck and got bad luck instead.
  • Special teams: Check. Barry Odom said after the game that Deebo Samuel’s return touchdown came because Tucker McCann missed his spot. He also acknowledged that they were actually trying to kick it to him but pin him in in the process. NEVER. KICK. TO. DEEBO. Especially when you’ve got a guy capable of a high touchback rate. If you’re worried about him not getting it there because of wind or whatever, sky it to a damn up man.

Turnovers flipped the field position battle pretty drastically in South Carolina’s favor. Special teams handed the Cocks a touchdown. Bad recipe there. If this were a best-of-7 series, then I think we would be semi encouraged here — that many bad special teams events are probably not going to happen again, nor are quite so many Mizzou drops! But this was best-of-1. It always is in football.

SC’s Jake Bentley attempted very little in the passing game. I don’t know how much of that is because Mizzou’s secondary wasn’t suffering the breakdowns it did a week earlier and how much is ... well ... that’s not what a Muschamp team does.

Bentley averaged barely 10 yards per completion but took one sack and threw no picks. Drew Lock defeated him on the averages, but it goes without saying that those two picks were deadly.

Moore and Johnson: 10 targets, three catches, 29 yards. Guh.

This game caused all the wrong kinds of flashbacks. South Carolina has had its occasional troubles in pass defense, but the Gamecocks manhandled the Mizzou receiving corps both last year and this year.

Also, I found this tidbit interesting:

I talked a lot last week about how I felt the sideline passing game was the most important aspect of the Mizzou offense because of what it opens up if it’s successful. Apparently Will Muschamp agreed. The Gamecocks took their chances with Rashad Fenton on J’Mon Moore and evidently paid extra attention to Johnson, who was a total non-factor.

The Mizzou run game worked, and there was still one big seam pass over the middle to the tight end (Jason Reese), but shutting down the short pass hindered Mizzou’s offense quite a bit.

Boy, you hate to waste a pretty good rushing day, but while Missouri was perfectly fine on standard downs because of the ground attack, the Tigers bombed when the down and distance fell out of their favor.

(Meanwhile, if you had told me before hand that Rico Dowdle would finish with 48 yards and 3.4 per carry, I’d have assumed a 21-point Mizzou win.)