Missouri won a football game. That’s the most important part! It doesn’t matter how incompetent or ineffective or unquestionably bad a team is: if they have more points than the other team once the game has concluded then they have won that game. And that’s the most important part.
There is, of course, other aspects of following a sport outside the wins and losses. And while its fair to question the whole hog when it comes to following your favorite college football team, it’s also important to appreciate the wins when they come as we as look to the long-term build the team is going through. Otherwise, you’d cease to appreciate anything and get burned out on following the team over so many weeks and months of your life.
I will openly admit that I am looking forward to this season concluding because the flaws on this team just make it so hard to enjoy. However, I (and I encourage you all as well) am focusing on consuming the whole hog as there are plenty of things to analyze and follow and look forward to, even if (and especially if) your team isn’t very good.
HEY, REMEMBER WHEN LUTHER BURDEN COMMITTED TO MIZZOU? THAT WAS AWESOME.
Ok, let’s talk about Vanderbilt:
It might not have felt like it at the time but Missouri was better than - or at least equal to - Vanderbilt on almost any stat, standard or advanced, that you can think of. That is obviously a good thing but should also be an expected thing when you’re playing the second-worst P5 team in the country. However, ask the 2019 team if they were able to do that and the answer would be a resounding “no”. So, see? Progress!
When Missouri Has the Ball
After their worst offensive performance of the year against Texas A&M, Missouri’s offense bounced back with...well...a good performance against Vanderbilt. 50% success rate through the air, 42% success rate on the ground, and that was with a pretty simplified offense of “give it to Tyler Badie.” Seriously, the play calling was 1960s-esque: run on early downs and pass on 3rd-downs. In fact, to further the simplicity, the Tigers only ran it four times on 3rd-downs and three of those were Bazelak/Macon runs. Considering the Commodores were playing drop-8 coverage almost the entire game, it makes sense that Missouri struggled to convert 3rd-downs through the air, and also might explain why the Tigers attempted 13 of their 28 passes in the 1st quarter and 7 of their 28 in the 2nd quarter. Yes, that’s correct: 20 of their 28 passes came in the first half when they soon realized that they had a Tyler Badie who could take advantage of lighter boxes. So...thank your lucky stars that Mizzou has a Tyler Badie.
The goal here was a 65% completion rate and a 48% success rate given that the Commodore passing defense is notoriously bad. The Tigers delivered, ending up with a 78% completion rate and a 50% success rate.
Convert on 3rd-Down
I pointed out that the last road trip to Nashville involved a terrible day on 3rd-down conversions and hoped the 2021 trip would see a 55% 3rd-down conversion rate. Despite gaining an average of 8.2 yards on 1st-downs, Mizzou’s average 3rd-down distance was 6.7 yards, converting on 3rd-downs of 4, 8, 6, and 1 yards while missing on distances of 5, 6, 6, 13, 10, 7, 3, and 14 yards. That’s a 33% conversion rate.
Finish your dang drives
I wanted 6 scoring opportunities with 5 points per opportunity. Missouri finished with 8 opportunities for 4.6 per opp, mostly because Harrison Mevis gives Missouri a scoring opportunity anytime they cross the 50-yard line.
Winner: Missouri (barely)
When Vanderbilt Has the Ball
Look...I’m not going to try and gaslight you into thinking Missouri’s defense is fixed or anything. What I will say is that this was their best defensive performance BY FAR because it was the best they’ve done against an opponent’s ground game all year. Yes, even better than what they did against North Texas. Now, that bar isn’t very high, but overall, Vanderbilt gains on the ground came on four explosive rushes: gains of 19, 15, 69, and 70 made up 173 of their 265 yards on the ground, leaving their other 29 rushes going for 3.1 yards per carry. Obviously, the big gains on the ground is the issue but it was nice to see the Tigers at least wipe out a good chunk of the efficiency runs that they also tended to get beat on.
Mitigate the Success of the Running Game
I mentioned in the summary above, but my goal for the Tiger defense was keeping the Commodores under a 45% success rate on the ground and they did it! 44.1% success rate! That counts!
No Fly Zone
To pair with the above goal, I wanted the Missouri secondary to keep the Vanderbilt passing game under 42% and snag at least one interception. The secondary had a shuffled lineup thanks to some injuries but succeeded in stifling the air attack to a 39% success rate AND get a game-sealing interception. David Raih, Vanderbilt’s offensive coordinator, is a big ol’ dummy for making Mike Wright throw it 31 times in the game (including sacks). So dumb, my dude.
The Little Things
Vanderbilt scored 1 more point per scoring opportunity than Missouri did but that was the only thing the Commodores had a leg up on. Everything else went to Mizzou and was enough to sneak enough extra yardage in field position to make it a little easier for the Tiger offense. What erased all of that advantage, however, were the penalties:
I’m not sure what to say at this point. Missouri was just a better team in the penalty department last year and that advantage has completely evaporated as this season has gone on. This is the third straight game that Missouri has committed at least nine penalties and the second straight game that they’ve had over 100 penalty yards. Teams can commit this amount of penalties and still beat Vanderbilt; you cannot do that against any other team in the SEC. I’m not sure how this is fixed but it has to be done.
- Missouri’s defense was super havoc-y on Saturday. 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 5 passes defensed, and 1 interception comes out to a 34.9% havoc rate, second-best of the season (they had a 38% havoc rate against CMU) and the first time they’ve crested 20% against a P5 team this season.
- If the plan was to keep the receiver rotation tight because of injuries or game plan, I don’t know, but for a passing attack that relies on all 9 receivers contributing in a game, it was really weird to see only five guys targeted in the passing game, four have catches, and only three of those dudes being receivers. Vanderbilt was keeping eight guys in coverage most of the time so that was certainly part of it, as was the fact that it was the Tyler Badie Show for most of the second half and they needed good run blockers. But if you want to build towards the future, keeping JJ Hester and Dominic Lovett on the sideline isn’t the best idea for long-term development.
- Speaking of the Tyler Badie Show, it might not have been pretty, but once Missouri focused purely on running the ball they started seeing a lot more success. Again, that won’t work against most teams but it sure as hell works against Vanderbilt.
Missouri won their second-to-last-most-likely-win, which is good. Their actual last game that they should be favored in is against South Carolina in two weeks. Nothing of interest happens this week so enjoy the second bye in three weeks (weird scheduling, SEC!) and find something to do this Saturday as your team definitely does not play anybody at all.