Saturday afternoon wasn’t the most fun as Missouri fell to Georgia 30-21 at Sanford Stadium. In a game where the Tigers briefly led and were relatively competitive against the nation’s No. 2 team, but ultimately fell short. MU now returns home to face Tennessee and its high-flying offense led by former Mizzou OC Josh Heupel. As always, stats don’t mean everything, but can help tell a story. Here are five stats from past Saturday and why they are important this upcoming week, plus three bonus numbers as well:
7 Big Plays
A big play in college football is described as giving up a run of 15-plus yards or a pass of 20-plus yards. Giving up too many can be the difference between wins and losses and so far during the 2023 season that has been the case for Mizzou. In the Tigers' six wins, the defense has given up an average of four big plays.
In the loss to LSU, Mizzou gave up 11 big plays as Brian Kelly’s squad went up and down the field against Missouri’s defense. On Saturday against Georgia, Mizzou surrendered seven big plays to the Bulldogs offense.
To add salt to the wound, all seven came on Georgia’s five scoring drives. Carson Beck scampered for 15 yards while completing a pass to Rara Thomas for 26 yards on UGA’s first drive. On their second one, Beck dumped off a pass to Dijuan Edwards for 23 yards before the Bulldogs other running back, Kendall Milton, easily took it in from 15 yards out.
Beck’s 33-yard pass to Ladd McConkey and 23-yarder to Oscar Delp helped set up Georgia’s third and fourth scoring drive, while Daijun Edwards’ 23-yard gain late in the fourth quarter led to Peyton Woodring’s 48-yard field goal putting UGA up nine.
Limiting the big plays will of course be key to success against Tennessee on Saturday. In the Vols dominating victory over UConn, they generated eight big plays. In their past two meetings against Mizzou’s defense that have resulted in 128 points, Tennessee produced 26 big plays between 2021 and 2022.
Eli Drinkwitz wasn’t quite worried about how many times Missouri was penalized in the Tigers' 30-21 loss to Georgia. But, what still sticks out to me from the Mizzou-Georgia game is how Kirby Smart said during halftime how the most disciplined team would come out on top. That ended up being the case as MU was penalized eight times against the Bulldogs compared to their five.
That might again be the case this Saturday between two talented teams in the Tigers and Tennessee. The number for the Tigers is now up to 65 for the season, 7.22 per game, which ranks 114th among 130th programs. In comparison, the Bulldogs have only committed 39, 4.33 per game all season. Tennessee hasn’t fared much better averaging 8.44 penalties per game ranking 126th. With the margin of error in football being so thin in the game of football, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes will likely come out as the victor.
103.7 QB Rating
On Saturday against one of the better defenses in college football, Brady Cook didn’t have his best performance of the season. He compiled a 103.7 quarterback rating as he tossed two interceptions to Nazir Stackhouse and Javon Bullard, sealing Mizzou’s nine-point fate. After being nearly flawless through Mizzou’s 5-0 start against the nation's 78th (Kansas State), 100th (Middle Tennessee State), 106th (Memphis), and 112th (Vanderbilt) ranked pass defenses, Cook has come down to earth a bit in the past four games.
After completing 74.5% of his passes through weeks 1-5, that number has dropped to 59% as Mizzou has faced the 19th (Georgia), 80th (LSU), and 81st (Kentucky) ranked pass defenses, with the outlier being South Carolina (126th). He’s also tossed five interceptions to his five touchdowns since the LSU game after setting the SEC record for most consecutive attempts without an interception.
The road isn’t going to get any easier as Tennessee possesses the national No. 53 pass defense. A defense that has held Graham Mertz to 166 yards, and Spencer Rattler to 169. Recently though, Jalen Milroe and Devin Leary were both able to find success against the Vols' defense. Cook has been able to stay poised throughout the entire season, and hasn’t been phased through adversity.
On Brady Cook: “Brady’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough. We’ve been in this situation before. He’s handled a lot of adversity in the past. I this is just another step. I don’t think he understands when you’re the quarterback that you’re gonna get too much pressure and too much blame. He put us in a position to win the game...I don’t think one person or anybody on our team blames Brady for that loss in any form or fashion.” - Eli Drinwkitz on Nov. 7, 2023.
If Cook does eclipse the 200-yard mark, he’ll move to third in the most 200-yard passing games in Mizzou history.
If Brady Cook passes for 200 or more yards on Saturday he will tie Brad Smith, James Franklin and Jeff Handy for the third most 200-yard passing performances in #Mizzou history. Only Chase Daniel (38) and Drew Lock (34) have more.— Jaden Lewis (@Jaden_Lewis29) November 7, 2023
Silver lining No. 1: 4.0 yards per carry
Historically and even this season, Georgia has always been able to move the football on the ground. Not against Missouri on Saturday though. This past Saturday became only the fifth time since 2021, that the Bulldogs rushed for four or fewer yards per attempt on the ground. Georgia did do most of its damage through the air, but mustered just four yards per carry on 33 attempts.
Missouri has taken pride in its rush defense since the arrival of Blake Baker and it’s surely going to be needed heading into Saturday as Tennessee brings in the nation's No. 3 rush offense with a three-headed monster of Jaylen Wright, Jabari Small, and Daylan Sampson as well as a mobile quarterback in Joe Milton.
Silver lining No. 2: 363 total yards & 5.8 yards per play
Finding another silver lining within a narrow loss in a tough environment, Mizzou’s offense was relatively successful against Georgia, tallying 363 total yards against the Bulldogs' defense. While the Tigers averaged 5.8 yards per play, the second lowest total behind the Kentucky game, this was the most yards and yards per play given up by Georgia’s defense all season. Only three times in the past three seasons has Georgia given up more yards per play, which came against Alabama (2021), LSU (2022), and Ohio State (college football playoff).
Other notable numbers
4: A rare phenomenon in the schedule has occurred in 2023, as the Tigers are facing three schools from the state, Memphis, MTSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. A victory would mean it would be the first time ever that a team has defeated all four FBS programs in the state.
6: Mizzou and Tennessee have faced off 11 times and six of these matchups have resulted in either the Tigers or Volunteers offense scoring 50 or more points.
1979: For the first since 1979, two top 16 teams in the AP poll will face off at Faurot Field. MU-OU in 2010 was No. 18 vs. No. 3 in the AP poll, despite the BCS ranking being No. 11 vs. No. 1. That 1979 matchup featured No. 5 Mizzou vs. No. 4 Texas. It didn’t go in the Tigers' favor as the Longhorns outgained Mizzou 419-164 in a 21-0 game.