Good news, Tiger fans: your football team is really good.
And, yes, the Georgia game is proof of that statement.
Obviously losing is not the objective of the game but the biggest takeaway to me was the manner in which the game played out. And by that I mean Mizzou played Georgia straight up. No gimmicks, no wild tactics, no crazy formations; no, the offense lined up and played the game they wanted to play and the defense did the same. And they did that because Drinkwitz, Moore, and Baker believed that they could win that way.
And what’s even crazier? They almost did win!
Now, there were some crafty designs and targeting of weaknesses in the offensive game plan. Brandon Jones’ offensive line knew they wouldn’t consistently win on the interior and so they used the aggression of the inside against them, letting them take themselves out of the play as Cody Schrader targeted the outside edges instead. Similarly - at least in the first half - Brady Cook’s designed runs relied on the interior line over pursuing and opening up lanes for him to run down. And in the passing game, they targeted Daylan Everette - the youngest member of the vaunted UGA secondary - and utilized low-percentage back shoulder throw to generate big gains and keep Cook away from the deadliest portion of that defense: the middle.
Defensively Mizzou got burned on several blitzes but also rushed throws, swatted passes, stuffed runs, and increased Georgia’s season sack total by 24%. The Tiger defense held Georgia’s rushing attack to 15.7% below their season average and the Bulldog passing game to 11.7% below their season average.
It didn’t lead to a win but Mizzou played a game that they could win for 52 minutes and 14 seconds. On the road. Against one of the top five teams in the country this year and the best program of the past five years.
It’s not a win in the record books but it’s a massive win for Eli Drinkwitz’s program building.
Here’s the advanced box score:
I know BK wrote about this in his five takeaways but...look how even this game was. Georgia was the better passing team and Mizzou was the better rushing team but, all in all, this is about as even a game as you’re going to see. It came down to the fact that Georgia had more scoring opportunities and better turnover luck. Football is a simple sport sometimes.
When Missouri Has the Ball
After the first Missouri drive Georgia DC Glenn Schumann moved Kamari Lassiter into the slot and started swapping safety Malaki Starks with Daylan Everette into various boundary corner positions for the rest of the game. This removed the ability for Mizzou to consistently target Everette, made it much tougher for Luther Burden to get open, and is yet another example of the bounty of talent Georgia gets to play with every week where they can just say “ah, yeah, well we’ll just rotate where everyone plays and not have any drop off”. Additionally, once the 3rd quarter began, Schumann moved MAC-backer Smael Mondon, Jr. out of coverage and into a spy role on Brady Cook, effectively eliminating Cook’s ability to run or scramble effectively.
And even with the two biggest explosive threats removed, Cody Schrader still grinded and Theo Wease/Mookie Cooper still made plays. Credit to both teams for being smart and adapting well.
Going in I thought Mizzou needs to shoot for at least ten (10) explosive plays. Defined as a run of 12+ yards and a pass of 16+ yards, here are the explosive plays Mizzou generated on the day:
- Q1 - 39-yard pass from Cook to Burden for a touchdown
- Q2 - 33-yard pass from Cook to Wease
- Q3 - 31-yard pass from Cook to Wease
- Q3 - 21-yard pass from Cook to Cooper
- Q4 - 23-yard pass from Cook to Miller
- Q4 - 12-yard run by Schrader for a touchdown
- Q4 - 13-yard run by Schrader
7 < 10. You can never tell but a few more explosive plays might have done enough to win the game.
For 3.5 quarters Mizzou was doing well in this regard! Then the last two drives happened.
Finish Your Dang Drives
I set the goal at 8 scoring opportunities with at least 4.5 points per opportunity. Missouri took advantage of their scoring opportunities, averaging 5.3 points per trip. The problem was that they only generated 4 such opportunities.
When Georgia Has the Ball
I know its hard to believe as you watch Ladd McConkey make numerous incredible grabs and Oscar Delp bully his way through the secondary, but this was a terrible Georgia offensive performance. They’re talented enough to look incredible in moments but they struggled to run the ball and suffered success rates well below 50% in both phases of offense for the first time all year.
I wanted to see at least a 25% havoc rate and Mizzou finished with 20.4%. Five passes swatted away and five tackles for loss contributed to the havoc plays on the day, with three of those being sacks. Great showing, but not enough to beat an elite team.
Turn Them Over!
On average, a ball is picked off by the defense once every three opportunities or so. Georgia had 2 interceptions on four passes defensed, Mizzou had zero interceptions on five passes defensed. The insane Georgia turnover luck marches on for another week.
The Little Things
Georgia won this game with “The Little Things”, generating more scoring opportunities, winning the turnover battle handily, winning in net punting and kickoff yardage, and starting field position.
On the demerit front...look, you have to be a particular level of bad for both fanbases to think you suck at your job, and this refereeing crew certainly fit the bill. The officiating in the SEC has certainly taken a turn for the odd and inconsistent since a bumper crop of officials retired in the ‘21-’22 cycle, and their replacements have had some bizarre journeys with the rule book and managing game flow.
However...Georgia fans, if you want to belittle the officials for being bad? That’s fine. If you want to say they were working against you? Stop it. The penalty yardage was fairly even but three of Mizzou’s penalties directly led to 1st-downs for Georgia while only one of Georgia’s penalties had the same effect for Missouri.
Did We Really Get Beat that Bad?— parker fleming (@statsowar) November 6, 2023
Net Success Rates in Week 10 pic.twitter.com/N0b2r5Ixps
- The above graphic and tweet go hand in hand (look at the left side of the chart). Simply put, Missouri’s offense performed better than Georgia’s when it came to moving the ball for meaningful yards. Georgia needed to cross a shorter field than Missouri and, therefore, created a few more scoring opportunities, but the Tigers offense was as good, if not better, than Georgia’s. That’s a real sentence I just wrote.
- Another chart that reinforces what you saw and highlights another window Georgia took advantage of, specifically 3rd-downs. The next step for Missouri’s offense is to figure out a package of 3rd-down plays that they can use to reliably convert and stay on the field.
- Mizzou’s offensive staff deserves credit for using the extra week for some successful self-scouting. I’ve noted on here and the podcasts that Schrader tends to run on 1st and then Cook does something with his arm or legs on 2nd and 3rd down. But, against Georgia, Kirby Moore scripted up a very QB-safe game plan, throwing on 1st downs and running on 2nd and 3rd. It kept Georgia’s defense on their heels a bit, and paired with the outside zones and back shoulder throws, really targeted the very few weaknesses in Georgia’s defensive armor.
- Georgia’s run defense entered this game holding opponents on average to a 37.2% success rate, 44.2% opportunity rate, and stuffing runs at or behind the line of scrimmage 24% of the time. Missouri’s rushing attack finished with a 51.6% success rate, a 58.1% opportunity rate, and suffered a 16% stuff rate, and that’s counting Nathaniel Peat’s two runs for zero yards. Missouri’s offensive line did some WORK.
- Cody Schrader had a 100% rushing success rate in the 3rd quarter. I’ve been charting games for five years now and can honestly say I’ve never seen a single guy throw up 100 on a quarterly success rate with more than three touches, and Cody did it with 7 rushes for 43 yards. Against Georgia.
- I said this in the podcast to some pushback but I’ll repeat it here anyway: I’m not sure why Mizzou decided to throw two passes in three plays to start their potential game-winning drive in the 4th quarter. As I stated in the point above, Mizzou had just gone through a quarter where Schrader went platinum in success rate. For the game up to that point, Mizzou had a 44.4% success rate running the ball and a 31.5% success rate throwing the ball and Cook had just completed the 3rd quarter with 4 straight incompletions and a sack. There was 8 minutes and 59 seconds left and Mizzou had all three time outs so there was no rush. I understand that you can’t just run the ball over and over and expect Georgia to let you successfully move down the field. But, to that point, almost every other run was getting what was needed so...yeah, maybe you could! I know this might sounds reactive to a bad interception but, even at the time Mizzou took over in that moment, I was shocked to watch them not just lean on Schrader like they did against Kentucky and South Carolina. And then the bad play happened.
- I mentioned in the South Carolina BTBS about the recent trend of Harrison Mevis’ kickoffs not going through the end zone and, instead, landing somewhere in the 5-10 yard line. I cited that, by doing this, it had taken opposing special teams units by surprise and they weren’t very good at returning the kicks. This lead Mizzou’s opponent average starting field position to shift from the 25.2 to the 20.5. Well...Georgia was ready and had talented enough athletes to effectively return the ball. The Bulldogs gained 105 yards in kick return yardage which helped them benefit from a +4.4 average starting field position.
- In fact, on Georgia’s three touchdown drives the Bulldog offense started on their 30, 35, and 33 thanks to dynamite returns. The other six drives where they were attempting to move and score started on the 20 (ended in field goal), 10 (punt), 28 (punt), 29 (punt), 35 (field goal), and 30 (field goal). I appreciate the Missouri staff trying to get creative on special teams and create some hidden yardage advantages in unique ways, but I don’t think giving Georgia’s athletes room to run was the time to do that. Especially since Georgia scored every time they started on the 30 or better and were much less likely to score when they started at the 29 or worse.
Building. Improvement. Success. Sustainability. These words get thrown around when talking about football coaches building programs, especially at schools that aren’t considered blue bloods. But those are also nebulous words that can mean different things to different people.
Missouri has been the one team to consistently challenge Georgia over the past two years. And while that is a positive indicator for Eli Drinkwitz’s build here in Columbia, it also only means anything substantial for that particular year.
It also doesn’t mean that next year he needs to start beating teams that routinely sit in the SP+ Top 10. There’s no guarantee of that and to expect as much is the sort of thing that can lead fanbases to become itchy and impatient.
So what am I trying to say? My point is Eli Drinkwitz might be the right guy for this school and still only beat the Alabamas and Georgias of the world, like, two or three times. And that’s ok! We all want Mizzou to rise to the echelon where those schools are but, in all likelihood, Mizzou will max out as an “elite level” team every 3-4 years instead of every 1-2. And even while some will get in my mentions and tell me that I’m settling for mediocrity, I don’t care: “really freaking good” every 3-4 years is good for me.
Gary Pinkel is a hall of fame coach and arguably the best football coach Missouri has ever had. He went 4-25 against teams ranked in the SP+ Top 10. And even if you want to say he inherited a mess and needed to clean it up, if we give him a pass in ‘01-’04 and only “count” ‘05 onwards, he still went 4-17 against SP+ Top 10 teams (‘07 Texas Tech, ‘07 kansas, ‘10 Oklahoma, ‘13 Georgia).
Your mileage may vary but, for me, a great Missouri football coach is one who consistently recruits at a Top 15 level, doesn’t lose to teams ranked worse in SP+, knocks off one or two teams ranked better in SP+ per year, and threatens for the SEC/Playoff every 3-4 years. You can want more and I’m not saying that I’m right but that’s what I want.
Drinkwitz can have a ton of success here without upsetting a blue blood consistently. He needs to do it a handful of times, yes, but not every year. He has been improving this team year over year for the past four years and I trust that, long term, he can get this program to a place where, hell, maybe they’re even challenging for their stretch goals every 2-3 years!
Games like Saturday against Georgia don’t guarantee that sort of success, but it’s a positive milestone.