Well...that was a nice and relaxing game, wasn’t it?
When the highest level of drama revolves around, “Will the opposing offense be competent enough to give the first P5 female kicker a shot at a field goal?,” you know that there’s nothing to worry about. And, really, this game was a snooze-fest...it was exciting to see Larry and Tyler run all over the Commodore offense and see some young guys get some action, but for all intents and purposes, this was an FBS vs. FCS beatdown.
And while those are good for experience and showing that yes, your team can handle its business, it doesn’t tell you much about this team right now.
I know that “we can’t learn much from this game” is what I said about last week’s South Carolina game, too, but it’s true: last week neither team fielded a full roster, this week Missouri was at full strength and Vanderbilt wasn’t...while also being the worst team in the country (and, now, sans head coach). But winning clunker games and “FCS matchups” are important regardless, and the fact that Missouri took care of business when it so rarely did over the past four years is an encouragement.
Here’s the advanced box score, in all it’s beatdown glory:
Missouri was so damn good, they basically just took every stat that Vanderbilt had and multiplied it by two to get their total. Missouri had one more possession than Vanderbilt but ran 21 more plays, had 418 more yards, more than doubled the Commodores’ yards per play and yards per possession all while pitching a shut out. FCS teams have had better games against FBS competition than this (as we can all personally attest to).
So even if we can’t learn much, let’s at least review my key stats for the game and see if Missouri was able to win the individual matchups:
Missouri’s Offense vs. Vanderbilt’s Defense
Vanderbilt’s defense is bad enough to let you do whatever you want so I thought it was imperative that the offense not take any big risks, play it safe, and keep their success rate over 45%. Well, they did play it safe and only had their success rate dip below 45% in the 2nd quarter...when they had a 44% success rate. All other quarters: 57%, 62%, 50%. That was easy!
Win on Passing Downs
Vanderbilt’s lone defensive strength was their performance in passing downs so I posited that the Tigers should shoot to have a passing downs success rate over 30%. Of their 81 plays, a mere 15 were passing downs - 2nd-and-8+, 3rd/4th-and-5+ - and Missouri converted 9 of them for a cool 60%, merely doubling my expectation.
Think about that for a second...not only was Missouri successful on 60% of their plays where they were far behind the chains, it means that they were in manageable down and distance on 81% of their plays, 66 in total. I tend to not track that sort of stat but I can easily say that’s incredibly difficult to do.
Finish your dang drives
Since Missouri was averaging 5 scoring opportunities per game I wanted them to produce at least 4.8 points per trip. The Tigers produced merely 4.5 point per trip (boo) but also had 9 scoring opportunities. Nearly hitting my goals while almost doubling their opportunities? Yes, that’s a win.
Also, Vanderbilt crossed the Missouri 40 one time...and then lost yardage on the subsequent two plays. I honestly felt bad for them.
Missouri’s Defense vs. Vanderbilt’s Offense
Disrupt the Passing Game
Vanderbilt’s passing game was the one thing they could do well so I wanted the Tiger defense to hold the Commodores to a passing success rate of 40% or less. Vanderbilt’s passing success rate was 34.5% thanks to some sound tackling and sticky coverage that didn’t let the receivers move at all once they caught it.
Win on Third Down
3rd-down was the other strength Vandy had - ranking in the Top 25 in the country - so I was hoping Missouri could keep their 3rd-down conversion rate of 40% or less. The ‘Dores went 3-14, good for a 21% conversion rate. That’s what happens when your average yardage to go on 3rd-down is 8.5 yards!
After being named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week, Grant McKinniss was rewarded with a game off:
Stat of the day for Mizzou: This was the first time Mizzou didn't punt since the 2008 Iowa State game. Tigers broke a string of 150 straight games with at least one punt.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) November 28, 2020
That was a fully-checked-out Gene Chizik Iowa State team that won two games for the entire year - the first two games, mind you - and was on an 8-game losing streak. And that 2008 Missouri team was the greatest Tiger team put together this millennium. I’m certainly not saying that Vandy nor 2020 Mizzou is comparable to those two teams, just giving some context on how hard that is to do at the college level.
Let’s talk 1st-down production
I touched on Missouri’s crazy efficient day when I discussed the success in their handful of passing downs plays earlier but here’s another factoid for you:
For the entire game Missouri ran 81 plays for 629 yards. 38 of those plays were on 1st-down in which they gained 248 yards. That means that 47% of their total plays were run on a 1st-down and 39% of all their yards were gained on a 1st-down.
Again, I don’t track that stat while doing these but that is impossibly excellent.
Drinkwtiz didn’t have a complex game plan: all but five of Larry Rountree’s carries were on 1st-down and Bazelak mostly threw on 2nd- and 3rd-down, an incredibly predictable style of play-calling. But it worked and the Tigers were able to get enough yardage to keep moving, averaging 6.5 yards per 1st-down play. That will probably never happen again against a P5 opponent but was still very impressive to see.
Mizzou’s defense=HAVOC-y, Vandy’s defense=SLEEP-y
For the entire game, Vanderbilt’s defense logged three havoc plays - tackles for loss and sacks, passes defensed and interceptions, forced fumbles - all by Dayo Odeyingbo. The Commodore defensive havoc rate - the percentage of plays made that were disruptive - was 4.7%.
Nick Bolton had a 33.3% havoc rate with his two tackles-for-loss and a pass defensed. The rest of the defense was havoc-inducing as well, generating a havoc percentage of 26.7% for the game. Overmatched teams need to disrupt their opponents somehow and Vanderbilt was completely unable to do so.
Larry Borom and Xavier Delgado are good and very important to this offensive line
Vanderbilt’s defense line has one good player who - outside the last drive of the first half, anyway - was kept in check for the entire game. So maybe these rushing stats are because Vanderbilt is super bad. But also consider that this was the first time since the Kentucky game where the entire offensive line was back intact and this was the best rushing performance since the Kentucky game. Delgado and Borom paved the way for a dynamite rushing attack and I, for one, am excited to see what they do against a team with a pulse in Arkansas.
Do you know how many penalties were called on Missouri?
Just the one on a personal foul by Zeke Powell. Other than that? Nothing. I’m not sure if Missouri has ever had a game with zero penalties before but the last time they had a game with only one was the loss to Oklahoma State in 2011. Not too shabby!
However, it bears mentioning that Vanderbilt was only called for three penalties, and one of those was the intentional grounding by Ken Seals in the 4th quarter. So there is a solid chance the refs just wanted this game to be over like the rest of the watching public.
Lastly, if you are a coach on the hot seat you probably shouldn’t lose to Missouri
Since joining the SEC in 2012, the following coaches have been fired after losing to Mizzou:
- Derek Dooley - Tennessee - 2012
- Butch Jones - Tennessee - 2017
- Bret Bielema - Arkansas - 2017
- Derek Mason - Vanderbilt - 2020
I’m not sure if we, as a fanbase, should be proud or ashamed of the number of programs who thought losing to the Tigers was the last straw but I find it humorous and enjoyable. There aren’t enough good things in the world, embrace this for what it is!
This type of game is exactly what Missouri needed; after a slugfest with an equally under-manned South Carolina squad Missouri’s injured and COVID-isolated players were able to shake off the rust against a Vanderbilt team that was understrength and overmatched. Arkansas comes to town on Saturday and will be a much better test of what this team can be. But at least we can enjoy the fact that Missouri handled Vanderbilt in the exact manner they should. Bring on the Hogs.