Stop me if you have heard this before: Missouri goes down by multiple scores on the road, claws back to either tie the game or get within one possession, then can’t quite get over the hump and loses a close game.
It happened against Kentucky and Boston College last year. And Auburn this year. And now Florida.
This is just who this team is right now. An offense that is incapable of stringing together extended drives without big plays and a defense that will give said offense every opportunity it can until it gives up a few too many big plays. We’re halfway through the year and this aspect probably won’t change until the 2023 squad takes the field.
Here’s the advanced box score:
After having Georgia run 26 more plays on offense, Missouri turned around and ran 30 more plays than Florida; I’m not sure how often that’s happened in college football but I can’t imagine a swing like that is super common. However, Florida outgained Mizzou on a per play basis and created two more scoring opportunities in a game they won by 7. Almost like creating scoring opportunities and finishing strong on said opportunities is important!
Let’s revisit the keys to the game, shall we?
When Missouri Has the Ball
Brady Cook threw two bad interceptions; you can’t get around that. If you listen to my podcast host BK, he’ll tell you that both were the fault of the receiver not running their routes through contact (I agree on Burden’s, much less so on the choice to throw it to a very-much-covered Dove, but I digress). Outside of those two massive screw ups, I thought Cook had the best passing day of his career, finishing with a 73% completion rate and a success rate over 50%...granted, it was against the worst defense he’s seen since Louisiana Tech. Which leads me to mixed feelings about the QB position: Cook is clearly not the long-term starter, but if you want to win six games - which is still very much on the table - the coaches believe that he is their best bet to do so, and since we don’t really have a say in the matter...
Ground and Pound
Given the...quality...of Florida’s defense headed into this game, I figured Missouri’s offense could re-establish a consistent ground game and wanted them to average a 45% or better success rate on the ground, a success rate four whole percentage points worse than what Florida was averaging so far this year. Instead, Missouri’s run game continued to struggle and only manage a 33.3% success rate on the ground. Conversely, the passing game finished with a 53.3% success rate through the air, their best finish for the season so far.
Missouri isn’t particularly disciplined this year, especially on offense, and my goal was for the Tigers to keep the offensive penalties under five for the game. The good news: Mizzou’s offense only had three penalties called against it, and zero false starts on offensive linemen! The bad news: as a team they still finished with 7 penalties for 55 yards on the game while Florida had two penalties called on them for five yards.
Finish your dang drives
The goal was at least 4.5 points per opportunity. More good news/bad news; good - Missouri finished with 4.3 points per scoring opportunity, their best since the Louisiana Tech game. Bad - they only had four scoring opportunities.
When Florida Has the Ball
Much like Mizzou, Florida’s offense is either big plays or nothing, and they found those big plays on the ground. That explosiveness/inefficiency mix is the reason they were hardly on the field for any sustained drives. The defense is responsible for giving up said big plays but they also held the Gator offense to two touchdowns and a field goal, which should be enough to win a college football game. Alas.
Eliminate Big Plays
I had hoped the Tiger defense could keep Florida’s offense under 7 explosive plays for the game. Mizzou managed just that, keeping Florida’s offense to seven total explosive plays, 6 of which were on the ground. Those seven plays accounted for 200 of Florida’s 300 yards gained on the day, meaning their other 35 plays accounted for 100 yards.
Another push! I wanted at least two turnovers for the Tiger defense and they got one fumble and one interception. The problem was that they broke even with Florida’s defense, and the Gators turned one of the interceptions into a touchdown and the other stopped a nearly-surefire opportunity for points.
The Little Things
Same amount of turnovers. Same average starting field position. Florida outgained Missouri on a per-play basis but had a worse average points per scoring opportunity. It really was that Pick-6 that made all the difference in a game that Mizzou did almost everything they could do to win.
Penalties are still a problem, though, and having two separate defensive linemen line up offsides on the same drive is a bad oddity. Florida being called for two penalties (and only one enforced) is also a curious negative. But if your ability to win is reliant on an officiating crew being 100% accurate then your game plan is bad.
- Mizzou had their best quarter of offensive output in the 2nd quarter of this game, ripping off plays at a 62% success rate just to get the game back even at 10 each. Interestingly enough, that quarter featured six passes and 14 rushes, even though the Tigers were terrible at running the ball for the game as a whole. They then went right back to their season averages for the rest of the game.
- The defense, meanwhile, devastated the Florida offense for two full quarters, let them off the hook in the 3rd, then readjusted and minimized the damage in Q4. It doesn’t fit the pattern I pointed out a few weeks ago but it does reinforce that, outside of the big plays that will inevitably be given up, this defense rocks.
- On the podcast I pointed out that both Missouri and Florida were overly reliant on big plays to move the ball and whoever connected on more would win the game. I highlighted above that Florida notched seven explosive plays that accounted for 66.7% of their total yardage; Missouri finished with 10 explosive plays, five each on the ground and through the air. Those 10 plays accounted for 210 of the Tigers’ 371 yards, meaning Mizzou’s other 62 plays accounted for 161 yards (or 2.6 yards per play).
- Of Brady Cook’s 11 non-sack running plays, 5 were designed run plays while 6 were scrambles out of a passing play. 29 yards was all he earned for his efforts - which dragged down the rushing stats quite a bit - but Nathaniel Peat had a career day and the offensive line did their best work for him, finishing with 2.2 line yards per carry, a 45% success rate, and a 45% opportunity rate (when the ball goes at least 4 yards) when blocking for Peat.
- I saw some rumblings on Twitter during the game that Drinkwitz has awful play-calls coming out of a time out. So I went back and tracked what happened on a Missouri offensive play after a time out was called in the Florida game. Here are the results: Peat rush for -1, Cook run for 1, Cook sacked for -1, made field goal, Cook pass to Miller for 20, Cook incomplete to Dove. So, mostly not great. I’ll continue to keep track as the year goes on but, also, this offense isn’t very good so the whole “play either gets blown up or goes big” is a pretty common theme on the year.
- However, from the realm of my thoughts...doesn’t it also seem that Missouri follows up every big play with a terrible one? Here are the results of the offensive plays immediately following an explosive play (16+ yard pass, 12+ yard run): holding on Tollison, Peat run -1, Cook incomplete pass to Peat, Peat run -2, Peat run 2, Schrader run -1, Cook scramble -3, Peat run for a touchdown, Schrader run 4. Of the nine plays that qualify for this count, six of those plays went for negative yardage after a big play! Again, that’s kind of what this offense does but it would be nice to have a good BOOM not be followed up with a bad BOOM.
- My last take away is that I’m glad that we finally saw some youth. It was proven that there is, indeed, a Taj Butts on the team as he was a lead blocker for a play. Tavorous Jones was back returning kicks with KAD out with an injury. Armand Membou has been slotting in as a 6th linemen in some heavy formations and Ryan Hoerstkamp came out for some blocking fun as well. Dameon Wilson got the start once again and didn’t have as good of a game as he did at Georgia but I like the potential. And, of course, Mekhi Miller had two giant explosive plays to keep drives alive late in the game. I know I give this staff a lot of crap for not working in the young guys more frequently so I’ll give them credit when they do find ways to get them on the field. More of that, please.