So, that was fun, yeah?
Missouri thoroughly dominated a West Virginia team that might be one of the worst P5 teams in the country! And that’s no disrespect to Mountaineer faithful: If they had any inclinations of how this year was going to go beyond “full-on Year Zero total rebuild,” they certainly were fooling themselves. Listen, Neal Brown is a helluva coach and is going to be great in Morgantown, but he inherited a roster completely devoid of proven talent— the house was basically stripped down to the studs, and now he has to go plank-by-painful-plank to get West Virginia back to couch-burning levels of contention.
Knowing that, there really isn’t much we can truly glean from this game. It was fun, it was dominant, I had three beers and burned the crap out of my neck while doing the waltz in the first quarter (seriously, what was up with that?), but what we saw from Missouri will be about as useful going forward as what we’ll see from SEMO this upcoming week. I’m not saying we can’t learn anything, but performing at an elite level against over-matched competition only tells you so much about how they’ll perform against teams with a pulse. After all, thoroughly dominating teams with lesser athleticism is a trademark of Barry Odom teams and we’ve still had frustrating losses in the past.
So join me, dear readers, as I pull out three things that I saw that ultimately determined the outcome, give some regression/improvement stats for Missouri from the Wyoming game to the West Virginia game, and toss in some extra points at the end. Here we go!
Point 1: The running game
There are several stats that really hit home the differences between the two squads, but given the previous performance against Wyoming and just how dreadful the Mountaineers truly were, I picked this one as the biggest indicator. As you can see, Missouri was above the national average in every running aspect except highlight yards per opportunity (and basically right at the average for stuff rate). The Tiger o-line was plowing an extra 1.1 yards per carry, they had a 12% better success rate, and got the running backs 5 yards 9% more often than the average team as well*. That’s all very good, especially considering that the Mountaineers’ front seven was seeing some success early on.
The West Virginia running game, though? Woof. Let’s rewind the clock to 2015, shall we? Missouri had lost six starters in two years from the offensive line, but had six upperclassmen who had backup experience returning so there wasn’t anything to worry about, right?!? Well... it ended up being one of the worst offensive lines in Missouri football history; it hamstrung the entire offense and led to one of the worst offenses Columbia’s ever seen. West Virginia is in the same boat — five upperclassmen, all but one a backup last year — but the cohesion is just not there. I hope you understand just how terrible this line was on Saturday:
- 1.8 yards per carry is terrible, but the line only getting their backs 1.6 yards of space per carry? Brace yourselves: that’s worse than kansas.
- A 27.6% success rate means that — of the 29 times they ran the ball — they got more than 50% of the yards needed on first down/ 70% on 2nd/ 100% on 3rd and 4th down just EIGHT (8) times. Eight runs were successful. From a Power Five team. There is a chance that SEMO exceeds that this week against Missouri and no, I’m not being facetious.
- To add insult to injury, the five (5) times that running backs were given five yards of space, they only were able to add another yard on top of it. The o-line was historically bad and the running backs did nothing to help them out.
- Oh, and 41% of their rushes gained 0 yards or less. The Missouri d-line is good, but it’s highly unlikely they’re able to do that again.
*interesting note: Missouri’s rushing success against Wyoming and West Virginia was basically the same: 55% against the Cowboys, 55.3% against the Mountaineers; both are much better than the national average of 41%. Maybe things weren’t as bad as you thought last week?
Point #2: the passing game
There were a few more attempts downfield for Kelly Bryant, but for the most part, the Missouri passing game focused on quick sideline passes from the slot and tight end positions, which is fine— West Virginia’s secondary was its strength and to constantly test it would be tempting a Wyoming-level kind of implosion by risking turnovers and incompletions. Plus, with the aforementioned strength of the running game, there wasn’t any real point in continuously passing downfield. West Virginia tried to test the secondary downfield early and often, but coverage was sticky enough that — other than one exception late in the game — the safeties and corners were able to take away the deep ball effectively.
That leads to a very similar passing game box score between both teams, but the difference comes in the success rate of the teams’ respective passing games. Missouri produced a 42.9% success rate which, while not all that impressive, is way better than the putrid 22.2% success rate that the Mountaineers mustered. Again, a Power 5 college football offense only threw five (5) passes that surpassed the yardage needed on any given down. It’s incredibly hard to have that poor of a day, but alas— on Saturday, conditions were perfect.
Point #3: the turnovers
I feel super predictable in picking two of the same three categories I did last week, but sometimes, the things that a game hinges on turn out to be very similar. Last week, Missouri was incredibly unlucky to have three turnovers go against them and log none of their own. Against West Virginia, however, the magical “TURNOVERS = VICTORY” cards cast their voodoo on Mountaineer quarterbacks and the Tigers were the recipients of turnover luck. With five passes defensed, the Tigers were expected to have 1.15 interceptions (let’s call that “one”) and instead they had three. With six passes defensed, the Mountaineers were expected to have 1.38/”one” interception, and instead? They got bupkes. Football is a crazy sometimes.
Missouri Week to Week
Areas of Regression
- Yards Per Play: 6.0 -> 4.8
- Yards Per Passing Attempt: 8.5 -> 4.5
- Average Yards To Go on 3rd Down: 5.8 -> 6.1
- Average Yards Gained on 1st Down: 7.3 -> 5.0
Areas of Improvement
- Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 3.9 -> 5.4
- Average Starting Field Position: 23.9 -> 37.4
- Highlight Yards Per Opportunity: 2.7 -> 3.7
- Havoc: 6.6% -> 38.2%
- If you thought the run game stats were ghastly, check out the success rates by quarter:
If you’re going off of “garbage time stats don’t count,” then this game was over at halftime, and anything that happened during the last two quarters shouldn’t affect the overall stat sheet, but I included everything just so you could get the full picture. Regardless, Missouri was having 20% more success than West Virginia in the 1st Quarter and then thoroughly punished them in the 2nd. Less than 12% of Mountaineer plays were successful in the 2nd quarter. Read that again- LESS THAN 12 PERCENT! It got better in the 3rd and 4th, but once Missouri realized they weren’t gaining any distance with the 1s, they packed it in and started trotting out the 2s and other assorted backups. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we probably won’t see Missouri with a 60+% success rate advantage over a P5 team that many more times this year (but that Tennessee game)...
- Speaking of which, I’m not sure why Odom had the first stringers still plugging away in the middle of the third quarter. Even after taking Kelly Bryant out for heat exhaustion, Taylor Powell was getting reps with the first team well after the game was decided. Maybe I’m picking nits, but I certainly don’t want to risk our top guys on an opponent who’s already been vanquished.
- Our most successful player through two weeks continues to be my boy, Tyler Badie, logging in 100% success rate through the air, 58% success rate on his 12 rushes, and being the most explosive back with 5.3 highlight yards per opportunity. Larry Rountree III redeemed himself from the Wyoming debacle, but is definitely more of a thumper (61% success rate, 2.9 highlight yards/opportunity against WVU), while Badie is the break-away speedster.
- I was surprised to see Dawson Downing as the third-string back, but a 50% success rate with 4 HLT/OPP is a good showing. Fellow walk-on Barrett Banister getting his first touchdown catch was also very cool to see.
- Jonathan Nance didn’t have a great day (3 targets, 1 catch) but again, the passing game just wasn’t needed. Jalen Knox and Albert Okwuegbunam were the most targeted with four passes each, while Johnathon Johnson had the rare 100% catch rate/ 100% success rate day (3 targets, 3 catches, 25 yards).
- Nick Bolton is the newly crowned SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his 2 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions equaling a 57% havoc rate, and — to be clear — he absolutely earned that honor. But let’s not ignore Adam Sparks having a career day with 2.5 TFLs and a pass defensed. Dude was hitting hard and was great in coverage in his relief of Jarvis Ware.