For Part 1 - Nathaniel Peat, click here.
For Part 2 - Cody Schrader, click here.
By now we all know that Eli Drinkwitz loves running the football. Probably too much, but he is what he is.
We also know that a pretty good ground game kept Missouri offenses alive in 2020 and 2021, when injured/limited quarterbacks struggled to move the ball through the air.
And, of course, we know the 2022 Missouri rushing offense was very bad.
When I’ve discussed Missouri’s bad ground game previously, it’s mostly been centered around “yes, both the offensive line and running backs deserve blame” but never really delved any further than that to explain it.
Today, I dive deeper to explain it.
For the entire 2022 season, three gentlemen carried the ball more than 20 times: Nate Peat (100), Brady Cook (118), and Cody Schrader (168). I’ll break down each of their performances to try and get a better idea of what the numbers say was going on*.
*as a reminder, I score each game myself so my stats might differ from what you see in other places. Whereas I have the benefit of rewinding multiple times to get the right yard line and player, NCAA “blessed” stats are just a dude with some binoculars sitting in the press box yelling to some other dude to write it down in real time with no review.
Before we dive into the stats, here’s a refresher on what some of these stats mean:
- Yards Per Carry (YPC): You should know this one. Take total yards, divide by total carries. Antiquated way of viewing the effectiveness of a rusher but a metric everyone understands.
- Line Yards Per Carry (LYPC): An attempt to credit the offensive line with some of the rushing yards. If a run is hit in the backfield that’s the line’s fault and it gets weighted at 120%. The first four yards gained are credited 100% to the line. Yards 5-10 on a rush is credited to the line at 50%. And any yard over those first 10 yards gained on the ground is 100% credited to the running back. Take that total yards run, multiply it by the appropriate percentages, and divide by total carries.
- Success Rate (SR): A common tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth down. Take the number of runs that were successful and divide it by the total carries. The national median rushing success rate in 2022 was 44.5%.
- Opportunity Rate (OR): A metric to determine an offensive line’s ability to “do their job”. Take the number of runs that gain at least 4 yards and divide it by total rushes. The national median opportunity rate in 2022 was 48.2%.
- Highlight Yards Per Opportunity (HYPO): A metric to determine a running back’s effectiveness of creating yardage for himself. Simply put, if an offensive line did its job and got the running back 4 yards, how far did the running back go after that (on average)?
Today, we look at Brady Cook.
Brady Cook - Redshirt Sophomore
Advanced Stat Breakdown
- Number of Runs on 1st-Down: 39
- Number of Runs on 2nd-Down: 33
- Number of Runs on 3rd-Down: 41
- Number of Runs on 4th-Down: 5
- Percentage of Rushes that Gained a 1st-Down: 35.4% (that’s above the national average)
- Average Yards Gained Running Outside: 6.6
- Average Yards Gained Running Inside: 6.7
- Average Yards Gained Against a 7+ Man Box: 1.8
- Average Yards Gained Before Contact: 1.5
- Average Yards Gained After Contact: 2.8
Alright, so I think I figured out why an injured Brady Cook was the guy who stayed as QB1 throughout the entire year!
It was because he was the best rusher on the team. By far.
He had the most rushing yards on the team with 734 (after removing sacks which, of course, are not rushing plays). He had a 46% success rate when running the ball, far and away the best rate on the team and the only one to eclipse the national average of 44.5%. He wasn’t as explosive at Nate Peat but slightly more explosive than Cody Schrader while also gaining at least 4 yards on 58% of his carries (Peat and Schrader were both at 44%) and got a 1st down on 35% of his carries which is insanely good, one of the highest in the nation, in fact.
He struggled against 7+ man boxes, of course. And, as a quarterback, was not nearly as effective as we wanted him to be (HELLO, LABRUM) but...the guy had the wheels to get yards necessary and was the best runner on a team with mediocre-to-bad runners.
And that was why Brady Cook was QB1 for the 2022 season. /fin
Best Game - Week 12 vs. Arkansas
- Defensive SP+ Ranking: 68th
- Defensive Season Rushing Success Rate: 45.2%
- Missouri’s Offensive Line: Foster - Delgado - Tollison - Wood - Membou
- Raw Rushing Stats: 15 rushes, 149 yards, 9.9 ypc, 1 TD
- Advanced Rushing Stats: 4.0 line yards per carry, 53.3% success rate, 73.3% opportunity rate, 8.2 highlight yards per opportunity
Picking out Cook’s best passing game was easy as most of his passing performances were merely fine and hard to differentiate. Picking his best rushing game however? Man...
Do you go with Tennessee? Where he shredded a pretty good defense for over 100 yards and a success rate 20% above their season average? Do you pick the bowl game against Wake Forest where his legs were basically the only reason the offense was able to move the ball? Or how about New Mexico State? A team with a surprisingly Top 50 defense that gave up 10.3 yards per carry to our beloved Red Rocket?
In the end I went with the Arkansas game. A game where he carried the ball 15 times for 149 yards and a touchdown. His 53% success rate was one of the worst given up to an individual runner by the Arkansas defense all year and Cook averaged eight yards after the line got him the first four yards. The first half, in particular, was a nightmare for the Hogs as Brady sliced and diced his way through them with ease.
It took our illustrious former head coach 30 entire game minutes for him to realize he needed to stick a 5-star, future NFL linebacker exclusively on Cook to eliminate the running threat but, by then, the damage had been done.
Given the impact of his production and the opponent in question, I’d say that was Cook’s best rushing performance.
Worst Game - Week 6 at Florida
- Defensive SP+ Ranking: 69th
- Defensive Rushing Success Rate: 46.7%
- Missouri’s Offensive Line: Foster - Delgado - Tollison - Walters - Wood
- Raw Rushing Stats: 11 rushes, 29 yards, 2.6 ypc
- Advanced Rushing Stats: 1.5 line yards per carry, 27.3% success rate, 45.5% opportunity rate, 2.2 highlight yards per opportunity
You could have gone either with Florida or Vanderbilt here - two games that happened in two consecutive weeks, mind you - but given the fact that Florida’s run defense was quite a bit worse than Vanderbilt’s I went with the Gators as Cook’s personal worst (You might also remember this was my pick for Peat’s worst game, as well).
Florida’s defense wasn’t very good but it’s rushing defense was abysmal, giving up a 46.7% success rate to opponents on the year. Cook managed a 27% success rate, 2.6 yards per carry, and only tacked on an average of 2 yards after the line got him 4 yards. Mizzou needed just a little more from the offense to pair with a masterful defensive performance and Cook couldn’t get his guys to do anything. It was a missed opportunity at a rare road win because the ground game absolutely fell apart.
Number of Games Cook’s Rushing Success Rate Exceeded Opponent’s Defensive Rushing Success Rate
Six...Louisiana Tech (57.1%), South Carolina (54.5%), Tennessee (50.0%), New Mexico State (71.4%), Arkansas (53.3%), Wake Forest (54.5%)
Number of Games Cook’s Rushing Success Rate Exceeded National Median Rushing Success Rate of 44.5%
Eight...Louisiana Tech (57.1%), Abilene Christian (60.0%), Auburn (50.0%), South Carolina (54.5%), Tennessee (50.0%), New Mexico State (71.4%), Arkansas (53.3%), Wake Forest (54.5%)
Number of Games the Offensive Line’s Opportunity Rate for Cook Exceeded National Median Opportunity Rate of 48.2%
Eight...Louisiana Tech (85.7%), Kansas State (75.0%), Abilene Christian (60.0%), Vanderbilt (62.5%), Tennessee (64.3%), New Mexico State (71.4%), Arkansas (73.3%), Wake Forest (54.5%)
Back in 2012 Louisiana-Monroe head coach Todd Berry unleashed a two-quarterback backfield for his offense, lining both his starting and backup quarterbacks in the backfield at the same time. One would take the snap and either run it or throw it, while the other quarterback could also take a handoff - or backwards pass - and then also run it or throw it. It helped the Warhawks upset Arkansas in the first week of the season and led to them finishing with an 8-5 record; ULM hasn’t won more than six games since that season.
I’m not saying El Drinkwitz and Kirby Moore need to put Garcia/Horn in a backfield with Cook at the same time. Could it be fun and quirky? Hell yeah. Reasonable for the SEC? Probably not. But Cook’s strength is clearly his mobility - we saw it with our eyes and the stats back that up - and we’re not 100% sure what his passing abilities will be once his shoulder is healed.
But until Mizzou finds another reliable running back who can perform at a similar (or better) level than what we saw from Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie, it’s going to be hard to not want to put Cook in there to supplement the ground game. His skill set is much different than what we’ve seen from Garcia (and what we perceive of Horn) and his full year of experience gives him an edge on those other two. I’m not saying Cook would be my choice for QB and I’m not saying he must be the starter; I’m just saying, this is one very clear argument in favor of him doing so.
It would be great if Brady Cook wasn’t the best rusher on the team in 2023. Whether that’s because the backs get better, the line is more consistent, or the receivers are so good that a ground game isn’t a necessity...who cares? But a second straight year of “Brady Cook: Missouri’s leading rusher” probably doesn’t mean good things for the team - and the offense specifically - in 2023.