Missouri came into the game as 14.5-point underdogs and left as 4-point victors. At no point in the week leading up to the game did any of us here at Rock M, myself included, think that Missouri would pull off the upset but I did lay out a blueprint on how it could be done. I want to dive deeper into the actual keys that won the day but, first, I want to go over the keys that I laid out.
In keeping with the format, let’s take a quick look at the advanced box score first:
I’m going to dive into this a lot as we go through this piece but, until then, here it is in full form. It’s...just...beautiful.
Let’s revisit my keys for the game:
Missouri’s Offense vs. LSU’s Defense
Missouri hadn’t been the most explosive offense while playing Alabama and Tennessee; in that vein I thought it would be a huge sign of improvement - and an indicator of Mizzou’s ability to hang with LSU - if the passing game was able to generate at least 4 explosive plays.
The offense did, indeed, produced four explosive plays through the air and added two explosive runs for good measure:
- Dove’s 58-yard catch (TD)
- Knox’s 26-yard catch
- Wilson’s 41-yard catch (TD)
- Luper’s 69-yard catch (TD)
- Badie’s 29-yard run (TD)
- Rountree’s 29-yard run
I can’t remember the last time Mizzou fans had seen so many big plays from the good guys. More of that, please.
Three-Four Yards and a Cloud of Dust
Larry Rountree III has been both efficient (against Bama) and explosive (against Tennessee) this year but I postured that the success of the running game would be mostly on the Tiger offensive line. I thought that, If the offensive line is able to create four-yard opportunities 40% of the time, then the Tigers were getting enough opportunities to hold possession and keep LSU’s offense on the sideline.
Um...Missouri’s offensive line created 4-yards for Tiger backs...*cough*...on 63.3% of rushes.
For reference: the last time Missouri’s opportunity rate was over even 50% was against Ole Miss last year when the line opened up 4-yard holes 55% of the time. And that was against a piss-poor Rebel defense.
LSU’s defense might be actually bad but hitting a 63% opportunity rate is absurd, regardless of opponent quality. Bobby Lawrence/Zeke Powell, Xavier Delgado, Michael Maietti, Case Cook, and Larry Borom had themselves a mother forking day.
Finish your dang drives
I was hoping for 5 scoring opportunities with 4.8 points per opportunity which would have lead to 24 points.
The Tigers created 8 scoring opportunities and averaged 5.6 points per visit. Hell yes.
Missouri’s Defense vs. LSU’s Offense
Bring the Pressure
Two goals for this category: I needed to see LSU give up 2 sacks and have a blitz downs success rate under 20%. What happened?
LSU gave up 2 sacks and went 1 for 8 on blitz downs, which comes out to 12.5% success rate. Boom.
I humbly suggested Missouri keeps LSU’s third down percentage under 48% and generate 15 passing downs with less than 30% success rate to even have a chance of winning.
LSU went 0-10 on third down. Lmao.
And in case you were wondering, LSU’s success rate in passing down was 6 for 19, 31.5%. That’s pretty dang close so I’m counting it!
So how the $#!% did Missouri pull this off
In addition to the keys above, here are some other isolated things that keyed the upset win on Saturday:
Success Rate Per Quarter
Success Rate per quarter looks at the percentage of successful plays an offense has in a given quarter. It gives you a good idea of the flow of the game and how well each side was moving the ball.
These were the four best quarters the Missouri offense but together all season. By far. The best quarterly success rate they were able to scrap together before this game was 56% in the 4th quarter against Alabama...that was mostly helmed by Connor Bazelak.
LSU’s second quarter was a disaster in regards to moving the ball but gained an easy 10 points thanks to untimely Missouri turnovers. And while quarters 3 and 4 saw them recover a little bit, most of their yards were empty and unable to keep up with the chains. The only issue is that LSU had godly starting field position which let them hang around.
1st and 3rd Downs
I mentioned 3rd downs specifically in my preview but...seriously: if a team never converts a 3rd-down it is really hard for that team to win a game. The average LSU down and distance was 3rd-and-9, an incredible average considering they also averaged 7.6 yards on first down. What gives? Well...about half of their first down plays were incomplete passes or stuffed runs, the other half were 8/10/17/28-yard passing plays. So while the average finished relatively high the majority of their 1st-down plays went nowhere.
For Missouri, here’s an incredible stat: Missouri averaged 9.4 yards per 1st-down play and only had zero or negative yardage on two first down plays. So, unlike LSU, it was a legit 9.4-yard average. That meant that the Good Guy Tigers were converting early and getting multi-play drives going to at least move the ball and keep the LSU offense on the sideline.
Passing Success Rate
Myles Brennan attempted 48 passes with two sacks which meant LSU had 50 pass plays. Brennan had a 60.4% completion rate but a 45.8% success rate. That means that, while his receivers caught the ball 60% of the time, they were only getting enough yards to keep up with down and distance 45% of the time. That equates to a lot of meaningless yardage and wasted plays.
Connor Bazelak attempted 34 passes with one sack which meant Missouri had 35 pass plays. Bazelak had a 85.3% completion rate and 62.8% success rate. Yes, that’s incredibly difficult to do. And yes, LSU’s secondary is stinky bad BUT, as BK pointed out last week, if Missouri receivers didn’t drop so many dang balls in the Tennessee game Bazelak would have had an 81% completion rate against the Volunteers so, clearly, the kid can do that against excellent defenses as well.
Also, Bazelak had more passes go for 20+ yards (6) than incompletions (5). Lol.
LSU’s Running Game
With most of its starters out and the depth perilously thin, Missouri’s defensive line completely negated any hope of an LSU running game. And, yes, LSU is now more of an spread-ish air-raid team than the Les-Miles-smashy-smash offenses of yore, but when they needed to get yards on the ground the LSU offensive line was crumpled backwards and their running backs had no where to go. Oh, and the blocked field goal was generated by Missouri’s d-line AND that whole goal line stand that saved the game. Tip of the cap to the outgunned, outmanned Missouri defensive front.
Little things to monitor
This is less of a concern and more of an observation of a trend: Larry Rountree III only runs on 1st down.
So far this season Rountree has run the ball 50 times. 27 of those runs have come on 1st-down. Again, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, per se, but if I can figure that out after watching these games four times a piece so I guarantee a hungry GA grinding for a position coach spot will figure this out on Hour-23 of watching Missouri film.
Missouri fumbled the ball five times and lost three of them. Missouri also defensed 9 passes and got zero interceptions.
Turnovers are luck based - regardless of what some coaches might tell you - and Missouri continues to be one of the worst turnover-lucky teams in the world. In three games there have been nine fumbles and the Tigers have recovered three of them (teams usually recover 50% of fumbles); likewise, they have defensed 15 passes and picked off none of them; teams typically pick off about 20% of passes that are defensed meaning they should have three interceptions by now. Hmm.
LSU had more possessions, ran more plays, had more scoring opportunities, had a +16 yard advantage in starting field position, were +3 in turnover margin...and lost. They lost because they couldn’t convert a 3rd-down, couldn’t run the ball, and had terrible success rates, Oh, and their secondary did not know what they were doing at any given point.
It takes a lot of skill and luck to upset a team that is a 14.5-point favorite, and this exact opportunity - ranked defending national champion that is actually kind of bad but no one knows it yet - will rarely present itself again. But Missouri made the most of its opportunities, played out of its skulls, and ended the day with a statement win. Football can be fun!