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Beyond the Box Score: Validation

This game was for Mizzou fans to enjoy and other college football fans to learn.

It’s a tradition almost as rich as fight songs, tailgating, bowl games, and AP polls: fans complaining that the TV broadcast has no clue as to anything to do with your team.

Think back to all the cringey moments you’ve had with national broadcasts coming to Mizzou. When they pronounce “Faurot” wrong. Or when they call Cody Schrader “Kris Abrams-Draine” because they both wear #7. Or just flat-out mispronouncing names that we’re familiar with. Eli “Drink-a-witz”, anyone? Maybe even a “Gary Pinkle” Or, hell, go back 20 years to “Chase Daniels” and “Sean Witherspoon”.

It’s a hard job to crisscross the country and prep for two full rosters of 120+ kids and staff with five days notice...but there are some who do it better than others.

To my point, the national broadcasts try their best but, given time constraints, are going to mess things up or harp on the one story that everyone knows because it’s easy to get to (say hello to “Charles Harris was a basketball player” one more time, folks!). It’s why I usually watch games on mute, or dialed in to the GOAT Mike Kelly on the radio.

No, national broadcasts are for everyone else. Those who know nothing about your team. Those who are just flipping through for a good game on a Saturday afternoon. That’s the target audience and, so, you as a loyal fan won’t get much out of it and be doubly affected by misspeaks and shallow journalism.

With all that being said...what did you think of the Friday night broadcast of the Cotton Bowl?

Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, and Tom Luginbill are widely considered some of the best in the business. If they’re at a game it’s usually not for some weak, Jackson Pilot-grade game that carries little to no meaning; if they are at a game it means that the game has some bigger implications. And, beside the point that they’re good at what they do and only do big games...were there any flagrant misspeaks? Any tired tropes (outside of the Cody Schrader story which, c’mon, HAS to be talked about)? Any mispronunciations?

Reader: I heard none.

And doesn’t that speak to how far this program has come? From getting Drink-a-witz’d for three years and being banished to 11a kickoff times to having top-tier announcing crews flawlessly rattle off names tied to the correct numbers and know the actual story of your team? Yeah...Missouri is important.

And not just “Cotton Bowl” important. Your head coach is recognized. Your coordinators are fighting off job offers to get raises and extensions at their current job. Players who can go into the NFL Draft are coming back for their bonus sixth (and seventh!) years. Players in the portal and banging on the doors to let them in to the black and gold party. That’s a validation of your program that has been earned over a long four years.

The Cotton Bowl, as a game, meant nothing to the trajectory or caliber of this program. The Cotton Bowl, as a landing point, meant everything to Eli Drinkwitz’s four-year build of this program. Your Tigers are recognized, rewarded, honored, and known by the lay-college football fan in all corners of the country. That’s what this game meant. That’s the respect that Eli and friends are fighting for. And that’s the biggest takeaway from this season, highlighted by this particular exhibition game: your Tigers have made it. They have been validated.

Now...keep going! The reward for hard work and accomplishment is more hard work to achieve more accomplishments!

Here’s the advanced box score:

Advanced Box Score

Offensive ineptitude; thy name is “The 2023 Cotton Bowl”. I’ve been charting games for many years now and I can honestly say that I can’t remember seeing two teams of equal caliber both winding up with so few scoring opportunities, points per opportunity, net passing yards, total combined yards...you name it. Ohio State was truly an elite-level defense with a tremendous coordinator dialing up some awesome schemes. Missouri’s insistence on being multi-dimensional well into the second half damn-near undid the chance to win...until two clutch throws broke the dam. And all the credit in the world to Blake Baker and the Missouri defense: I wasn’t sure how much longer they could hold out as we got into the 4th quarter but they not only held out long enough but also delivered the final knock-out punch. You’ve heard the phrase “it wasn’t pretty” enough these past five days but...well...yeah, it wasn’t. And Mizzou won anyway.

2007 is remembered for the overwhelming offense. 2013 is remembered for finally deploying offensive and defensive lines that were every bit as talented as the skill position talent. For me, 2023 will be remembered as the team that could win a game in whatever way it needed to. That adaptability and persistence is rare at the college level and it will remain a fond memory for me for decades to come.

When Missouri Has the Ball

Missouri’s Offense vs. Ohio State’s Defense

I understand intellectually that you can’t just call one thing over and over again. At some point the defense will figure it out, know what it looks like, and do what it takes to stop it. I get it. I also know that Kirby Moore called 28 pass plays and 39 running plays and this was not really a game where balance was going to get you very far. Even with five of those passing plays turning into Brady Cook scrambles and the other five turning into sacks, the success rate of pass plays (that stayed pass plays) was 26.1% while the ground game managed an overwhelming 50% success rate. Did it feel like Missouri was running at a 50% success rate? Probably not! But that’s what it was and, thankfully, Kirby Moore saw that it was “Schredder-o-clock” in the second half and let Cody do his thing to close out the game.

Ground and Pound

The goal was to achieve a rushing success rate of at least 40% and, as mentioned, Missouri finished the day with a 50% success rate. Broken down by rusher, Schrader was at 41.4%, Cook at 64.3%, and Burden (of course) at 100% success rate.

Winner: Missouri

Get Explosive

Heading into this game the Ohio State defense was renowned for not giving up big plays (runs of 12+ yards, passes of 16+ yards) and so I set a reasonable goal of a mere eight (8) explosive plays generated; here’s what we got:

  • Q1 - 17-yard scramble by Cook
  • Q2 - 12-yard run by Cook
  • Q2 - 17-yard pass from Cook to Cooper
  • Q3 - 18-yard scramble by Cook
  • Q3 - 15-yard run by Cook
  • Q3 - 50-yard pass from Cook to Johnson
  • Q4 - 31-yard pass from Cook to Wease
  • Q4 - 12-yard run by Schrader
  • Q4 - 21-yard run by Burden III

The goal was eight and we got nine! And if you’re looking for a reason why Cook was Offensive MVP of the game, this is a good argument. His runs were some of the only big chances for Missouri to move the ball and keep Ohio State out of prime real estate when the inevitable punt came, plus he connected on the big passes. My vote would still be for Schrader but this shows you just how valuable Cook was to the overall game.

Winner: Missouri

Finish your dang drives

The #1 offense when it came to getting points once in the red zone went up against the #1 defense in limiting points per scoring opportunity, so my goal was 7 scoring opportunities created and at least 3.5 points per opportunity. Ohio State played a neat little trick where they, essentially, never let Missouri cross the Ohio State 40-yard line in the first place, but at the end of the day Mizzou had 4 scoring opportunities at 3.5 points per opportunity. Given the circumstances, I’d say that’s close enough!

Winner: Missouri

When Ohio State Has the Ball

Missouri’s Defense vs. Ohio State Offense

First of all, it’s not Missouri’s fault that Ohio State treated its started quarterback so poorly that he decided to immediately transfer to Syracuse, so whatever qualms people bring up about OSU not being at full strength, ignore it. Missouri was down the two guys who were starting at linebacker at the beginning of the year and its second-best/most draftable cornerback, so it’s not like Mizzou had a full deck, either. Secondly, Ohio State has a 82% blue chip ratio, meaning 82% of its roster are former 4- and 5-star recruits; no one is crying about a lack of talent there. And if you DO get harangued by an Ohio State fan, just do what I did on Saturday and ask them about their strength and conditioning coach; I got an unhinged 3+ minute reply about how that guy is absolute shit and an embarrassment to the school and an active detriment to the football team. Very normal, rational people processing a loss in reasonable ways over in Columbus!

HAVOC!

I asked for a 20% havoc rate and Mizzou finished with a 31.8%, its second-straight game finishing over 30% havoc. And it wasn’t just the actual havoc plays: pressure, pressure, and more pressure was the secret sauce to harassing Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz all night long. Thanks to a liberal and inconsistent interpretation of “quarterback pressure”, its a not a stat that I track personally but, if I did, I’d assume Triston Newson and Daylan Carnell logged approximately eleventy billion pressures on the night, with Sidney Williams and Jaylon Carlies adding some extra spice in there as well. The Buckeye offensive line was surprisingly porous, both in run protection and pass protection, and I’m not even sure Kyle McCord would have had enough time to effectively operate against Missouri’s exotic blitzes.

Winner: Missouri

Turnovers!

I wanted to see a Mizzou +2 in turnover margin and, while the official box score lists only one, we all know Johnny Walker’s strip sack in the first half (with a recovery by Jernigan) really had Missouri as +2. And, at the end of the day, our opinion is the only one that counts, right?

Winner: Missouri

The Little Things

“The Little Things” Report Card
Demerits

Outgaining your opponent by 1.6 yards per play is objectively good, as is quadrupling your opponent’s points per scoring opportunity. I was shocked to see Mizzou beat Ohio State in starting field position by almost 6-yards per possession, but for all of Jesse Mirco’s booming punts, Buckeye returners also had a questionable habit of fair catching balls inside the ten yard line.

On the demerit side...for only the second time all year, NO DROPPED PASSES IN THE GAME FOR MISSOURI (this also happened against Tennessee). OSU had two more penalties for ten more yards on their tab, although one was waived off due to the tremendous catch by Theo Wease on a free play. Regarding the Johnny Walker penalty...look, I don’t think there’s any need to make a big deal out of it. The two camps are “he should know better” and “how did he get penalized for pushing when he got punched in the head?” and...sure, everyone is right. I’m not going to ask a guy whose job is to violently get past large dudes to hurt a smaller one to immediately turn it off in between plays and never retaliate, but I also know that ol’ Johnny seems to have a target on his back after this year after several unsportsmanlike penalties. Just like every other person walking this planet, the traits that make you great are also the traits that make you terrible and we all just learn to adapt around it.

Extra Points

Success Rate by Quarter
  • I mean...look at that. Even with Devin Brown the vaunted Ohio State offense - merely very good this year instead of elite - was held at tremendous levels below their season averages, even more so once Brown was lost for the game. And that’s not a shot at young Lincoln Kienholz; he was put into an impossible position by his coaches and got very little help from his teammates or the offensive scheme, as offensive coordinator Brian Hartline called a run on almost every 1st and 2nd-down that was within ten yards and called a pass for any passing down situation; predictable play calling is bad for your freshman quarterback, Brian! Sitting at the postgame interview podium Kienholz looked like he had just watched his prize pig get run over by a train as he explained that no he wasn’t rattled at all! while also admitting that Missouri was rushing him through his reads and fundamentals. Blake Baker opened a portal to hell and threw the freshman in head first and there’s really not much that any staff in the country can do with 3 minutes of prep time between drives to script up a series of plays to beat that kind of defense with that much experience.
What down did the yards happen?
  • As is custom for this year, Mizzou was getting all of its yards on 1st and 2nd down, while Ohio State could only really move the ball on 1st-down. A fun reminder on Mizzou’s 1st-down passing plays: Marquis Johnson’s 50-yard catch happened on 1st-down and the Tigers finished with a net of 43 yards passing on 1st-down. Also, 3rd-down passing featured a lot of sacks, which accounts for the NEGATIVE TEN yards on said down.
  • It wasn’t until the 11th pass of the game, which happened with less than 28 seconds left in the half, that Brady Cook threw a successful pass (50%+ of yards needed on 1st down, 70%+ of yards needed on 2nd down, 100% of yards needed on 3rd and 4th-down).
  • Missouri’s 26.1% passing success rate became the new low point in passing success rate on the year, beating out the 33.3% tie that occurred against both Georgia and (inexplicably?) Arkansas.
  • Here are the teams that Cody Schrader went up against that had a Top 20 defense according to SP+ at the time of the game (his success rates are in parenthesis): Kansas State (41.4%), Kentucky (21.1%), Georgia (54.5%), Tennessee (51.4%), Ohio State (41.4%). Schrader really enjoyed pummeling Top 20 defenses to tremendous success rates and, Kentucky game aside, had some of his best games of the year against the best defenses on the schedule.
  • If you missed it earlier: Ohio State had four scoring opportunities and averaged 0.8 points per scoring opportunity. ZERO. POINT. EIGHT.
  • In fact: Ohio State’s four scoring opportunities (defined as crossing Missouri’s 40-yard line) amounted to three plays and a field goal in the 1st Quarter; three plays and a missed field goal in the 3rd Quarter; three plays and a punt in the 4th Quarter; and then the incompletion followed by the strip-sack on their last drive. For all of their advantages across the board, Ohio State managed to run 11 plays inside Missouri’s 40-yard line.
  • On the flip side: Missouri’s four scoring opportunities featured one play in the second quarter when Cook was sacked and subsequently taken outside the Ohio State 40-yard line; three plays and a touchdown run at the end of the 3rd Quarter/beginning of the 4th Quarter; six plays and a touchdown pass in the last scoring drive; and then four plays as Missouri was working to secure a 1st-down to then run out the clock. Not counting the subsequent kneel downs, Missouri ran 16 plays inside Ohio State’s 40-yard line.

Conclusion

First of all, apologies for the tardiness of this last Beyond the Box Score. I am one who treasures punctuality, consistency, and good routines so for me to miss my first deadline ever at Rock M made me particularly itchy, notwithstanding any of you who were banking on this to be done by Tuesday following the game. However, given travel time from actually attending the game, the holiday, and the fact that both kids were out of school until Wednesday, I was hamstrung on time to get this done. Hopefully the quality can help assuage the surprise Thursday installment to close out the season.

Secondly, thank you all for reading. The end of the season is the time where we throw out accolades for all of you who frequent our little pirate ship website in the vast ocean of sports blogs, but without you I’m just some weirdo spread sheet troll sitting in my basement and logging items that only interest me and no one else; clicking on these articles at least proves to me that there are a few others out there that enjoy the weird stuff that I do, and that’s a reward on to its own. So thank you for the time you invest into these.

As is typical fashion of anyone who covers a sport, the end of the season brings a certain amount of comfort to go along with any sadness of it all ending. And, truthfully, this was one of the easiest seasons for me to cover in my entire career, thanks to the great product on the field and, of course, the great stories of the guys who contributed to the team.

Still, I am glad that the season is over. It’s a surprisingly long grind to pore over rosters and depth charts and stat sheets for 14 teams of the SEC, let alone track recruiting, portal, and shirts/pants breaking news, on top of gambling aspects and my getting-more-efficient-but-still-not-efficient construction of these BTBS pieces. It is truly a labor of love but still labor, and hitting “submit” on the last one of the year is a nice sense of accomplishment and relaxation.

Along those lines, this will be the last article you read from me for awhile. No, I’m not pulling a BK and abandoning this fine Missouri blog. Simply, taking an extended break. I usually take two weeks off after the last game but didn’t do so last year and...yeah, I’d like some time apart for awhile. As I say to my kids when they go to school or my wife before a work trip, “I always appreciate an opportunity to miss you”, and it is nice to recreate that sense of longing from something that you’ve been with for an extended period of time.

So, I’ll record another podcast sometime towards the end of January and then I’ll get back to diving into demographics, roster analysis, and 2023 postmortems as we get into February.

Thanks again for reading. Be good while I’m gone.