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The Derek Dooley Difference

How has Missouri’s new offensive coordinator made his influence felt in Year 1?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee
In his first year as Missouri’s offensive coordinator, Derek Dooley brought a calmer, more patient, more consistent offensive attack to Columbia.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive coordinator Derek Dooley’s first year with Missouri is in the books and, for the most part, you could consider it a success.

The Tigers won one more regular-season game than they did last year. Dooley’s line kept Drew Lock clean, Lock cut down on his interceptions and Larry Rountree gave Missouri yet another 1,000-yard back, its third different one in as many seasons.

Dooley proved willing to experiment with pace and formations, and he still fit in a Josh Heupel-style complete whuppin here and there, a feat made even more impressive by the substantial injuries to Emanuel Hall and Albert Okwuegbunam.

Now that I’ve brought up Heupel’s name, though, how do we set about quantifying the difference Dooley’s system made in this year’s offense?

I’m glad you asked.

First, we take all of the Tigers’ offensive performances against Power-5 opponents this year and last year.

Then, we look at how all those Power-5 opponents did against all the other Power-5 opponents on their schedules (yes, yes, I know, yet another “comparing to the norm” post. Deal with it).

Then, we see how far Missouri over- or undershot those norm marks under Heupel in 2017 and Dooley in 2018 and point out some differences.

Then, we do one more thing. We break each year’s opposing defenses into three quartiles of quality based on their overall points and yards per game and yards per play given up to Power-5 offenses and see if the Missouri offense’s production compared to the norm changed due to the quality of the defense faced.

Here’s how those broke down.

Q1 — 2017: Auburn, Georgia; 2018: Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky
Q2 — 2017: South Carolina, Purdue, Florida, Texas; 2018: Purdue, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee
Q3 — 2017: Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Arkansas; 2018: Vanderbilt, Arkansas

And here’s where we find that Derek Dooley made the most difference:

Time of Possession

This year’s Tigers possessed the ball for 30:51 per game against Power-5 competition, as opposed to 24:59 last year, or an increase of 23.5 percent. Missouri possessed the ball 3 percent longer than the norm against Power-5 competition this year as opposed to 18 percent shorter than the norm last year. That difference was especially felt against Quartile 2 defenses — the four most average ones the 2017 and 2018 teams faced each season — with Missouri possessing the ball 8.2 percent longer than the norm this year and 26 percent shorter than the norm last year. Which leads us to...

More Plays

Missouri ran 75.9 plays per game against Power-5 competition this year, compared to 70.0 last year, an increase of 8.4 percent. Comparing to the norm, this year’s Tigers ran 11 percent more plays than average and last year’s ran 2.23 percent more. While last year’s Tigers had this year’s in percent above the norm in yards per game (14.9 to 8.60) and yards per play (12.4 to -2.20), if we look at the Quartile 2 stats, again, this year’s Tigers stacked up better compared to the norm than last year’s in yards per game (21.5 to -2.37) and yards per play (8.34 to 8.27).

More Scoring

Dooley’s Tigers scored 31.9 points per game against Power-5 competition, a bump of 7.77 percent from the 29.6 last year. They also scored 22.9 percent more than the norm, compared to 11.2 percent last year. Again, look at the Quartile 2 games: the 2018 Tigers scored 39.8 percent above the norm in them; the 2017 Tigers scored 19.6 percent below.

Stronger Rushing

This year’s Tigers ran 11.7 percent more than the norm for 14.7 percent more yards and an impressive 26.6 percent more touchdowns. While last year’s team outpaced this year’s in yards per carry above the norm (8.98 to 2.69), it could not keep pace in carries (-2.79), yards (5.95) or touchdowns (-47.2). Dooley also ran 55.8 percent of the time this year. Which doesn’t seem like that dramatic of an increase from Heupel’s 54.4 percent last year until you realize that, while this year’s rush distribution was 0.60 percent above the norm, last year’s was 4.91 percent below. So Dooley actually moved Missouri’s offense almost 6 percentage points more toward running.

Fewer Picks

Pretty much every passing metric was healthier under Heupel last year than under Dooley this year. Except one. Lock had a 2.65 interception percentage against Power-5 teams, down 23 percent from 3.45 last year. While that rate was still 5.8 percent above the norm, it improved dramatically on last year’s 31.3 percent above the norm. And against Quartile-2 teams, again, Lock’s rating was actually 4.57 percent above the norm, improving on his 5.67 percent below the norm last year.

Starting to see a theme here? While Heupel’s 2017 Tigers stacked stats against bad defenses and prettied up the final tallies in blowouts against good ones, Dooley’s 2018 Missouri offense held up better against the average defenses.

And when most of the defenses you’re going to face in a season are pretty close to average, that’s a nice tool to have in the box.

Here’s my work: