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Ahead of Tennessee, let’s take a look at Derek Dooley’s Missouri tenure to date

There has been more regression than improvement for Missouri’s offense under Dooley, through 10 games.

derek dooley-missouri football-news-updates Pete Scantlebury/Rock M Nation

Derek Dooley makes his return to Tennessee this Saturday, his first time coaching in Knoxville since Nov. 10, 2012.

You might remember that day. Dooley’s final home game as the Volunteers’ head coach came against Missouri. It ended in a 51-48 four-overtime loss to the Tigers, a game that included Tennessee blowing a two-touchdown third-quarter lead and eventually ended by 35-yard Andrew Baggett field goal in the fourth overtime.

Dooley would coach one more game for Tennessee — a road loss at Vanderbilt — and that was that.

Tennessee v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Now, Dooley returns as Missouri’s offensive coordinator, six years and one week since the Tigers led his head coaching career at Neyland to the gallows.

After a long spell as the Dallas Cowboys’ receivers coach, Dooley is in his first stint as an offensive coordinator. So far, his tenure has been mixed, at least compared to the offensive output he inherited following Josh Heupel’s departure following 2017.

Brought in to produce a more consistent offense — fewer “empty calories,” as players put it over the summer — Dooley’s offense has also feasted on non-conference opponents while struggling in-conference, much like Heupel’s version.

The biggest difference, however, is the level of feasting on those cupcake foes.

Missouri’s offense, 2017 vs. 2018 to-date

Stat 2017 vs. Non-Con 2018 vs. Non-Con 2017 vs. SEC 2018 vs. SEC 2017 overall 2018 overall
Stat 2017 vs. Non-Con 2018 vs. Non-Con 2017 vs. SEC 2018 vs. SEC 2017 overall 2018 overall
Yards per rush 5.17 4.96 5.18 4.45 5.18 4.66
Yards per pass attempt 10.4 10 8.6 6.1 9.3 7.8
10+ yard plays 101 74 121 74 228 148
20+ yard plays 34 28 48 26 82 54
30+ yard plays 14 19 23 9 37 28
Scoring 42.2 49 34.6 26.5 37.5 35.5
Missouri still has two games remaining against opponents that aren’t defensive juggernauts.

The only category Missouri hasn’t decreased year-over-year was scoring against non-conference opponents.

The biggest step back in terms of consistency has been in the passing game, with Missouri’s passing offense averaging 2.5 fewer yards per attempt against SEC opponents and 1.5 yards per attempt fewer overall.

Of course, this isn’t to stay Dooley’s first year in Columbia has been a disappointment, despite regression. Missouri’s offense holds onto the ball over five minutes longer per game; it’s also converting a nearly identical percentage of third-down attempts.

Most importantly, if you look at advanced statistics, such as Bill Connelly’s S&P+, Missouri’s offense has actually been better this season (37.1 compared to 36.4), although it currently ranks 13th nationally — exactly where it finished in 2017.

So, a push?

Barry Odom brought on Derek Dooley not just for 2018, but for the long run. So far this season, we’ve seen the offense go up and down, but it seems to have found its footing over the last two weeks, and the way its down that is most promising.

In the wins against Florida and Vanderbilt, Dooley’s attack focused heavily on the ground game to open up passing opportunities. On the 99-yard drive, for instance, 11 of the 14 plays were runs.

This is a good thing — because next year, Missouri returns all of its running backs.