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Read and React: Drew Lock’s pass game

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How much field reading did Missouri’s QB do against South Carolina?

NCAA Football: Missouri at South Carolina
Lock, stock and two guys running a tandem decoy wideout screen on the back side of a pass play.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

So Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said a pretty interesting thing during the coaches’ media availability Tuesday night.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter, Heupel intoned that Lock had only one pass play against South Carolina in which he did not have a full-field read.

That’s interesting because conventional wisdom from early in the season was that — to save time and energy of the wideouts in the hurry-up, no-huddle offense -- Missouri was having receivers on the back side of the play take a load off frequently and have Lock read only one side.

So...which truth is the true truth? Judging from another viewing of the South Carolina game (my third...but who’s counting?), they both are.

Missouri had receivers running at least one route on both sides of the field on pretty much all of its pass plays.

Here’s the complicating factor, though. The backside routes on a bunch of those plays weren’t much of anything.

Take, for instance, this 27-yard pass from Lock to Dimetrios Mason on a first down at the beginning of the second quarter.

Let’s set the stage. Off a Lock first-down run, the Tigers hurried to the line. Damarea Crockett and Sean Culkin joined Lock in the backfield, J’Mon Moore split wide to Lock’s left with Chris Black in the slot, and Mason was alone on Lock’s right.

At the snap, Lock play-faked to Crockett, as the Tigers do on most plays in the flow of their offense (RPO, baby!), and Crockett and Culkin ran straight into the line.

No routes there.

On Lock’s right, Mason ran a post and Lock (pardon the phrase) locked onto him, gunning a strike in stride 13 yards down the field to the freshman.

That’s one route. That means Lock was only supposed to read one side of the field, right? Welllllll, not necessarily.

On the back side, Moore faded out wider and Black curled (ostensibly) to block his man. That’s a second route. That’s a backside screen. Not that Lock would ever throw it there but it’s, technically, a route.

Which means it was, technically, a full-field read.

Missouri ran a whole bunch of those types of plays against the Gamecocks, where the frontside route was the main one and there was a backside screen set up in case of...not quite sure exactly.

Out of Lock’s 40 pass attempts, 14 of the plays contained two routes, four had three, 20 had four and two had five. And no, I do not consider jogging three yards to block a cornerback a “route.”

So that signals a pretty intricate route tree, right? More than half the pass attempts with at least four receivers running routes?

Again...not necessarily. Missouri ran 12 of those four-route plays after it went down 10 in the fourth quarter and fully entered panic mode.

So, in the course of a normal urgency offensive plan, a plurality (12) of the 28 pass plays featured two routes. Meaning, those sorts of plays in which, really, only one route had a chance of getting targeted.

And even when a bunch of receivers were running down the field, Lock was going off his first read: 31 of the 40 passes were to his first read, either immediately or with Lock staring it down.

Within that group, there was good — the 9-yard flag route touchdown to Kendall Blanton -- and bad -- the batted-away fourth-down pass to Moore in which Lock looked downfield for a decoy split second, then Samuel Morse’d his leading receiver.

Telegraph. Get it?

Most of the multi-read plays came in catch-up time, when South Carolina was dropping eight and making Lock work to find open throws.

What does this prove? Eh, I dunno.

Here’s some stats from the South Carolina game to gawk at, though.

Enjoy!

Off a Play Fake
17-of-23, 246 yards
No Play Fake
6-of-17, 56 yards, TD, 2 INT
(So, even though defenses probably know Lock isn’t handing it off every play and kind of makes the play fake toothless, I don’t know, maybe the routine of it all centers him or something?)
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First Read
19-of-31, 260 yards, TD, INT
More than One Read
4-of-9, 42 yards, INT
(Better when he can get it out quick and simple)
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2 Routes
9-of-14, 92 yards
3 Routes
3-of-4, 65 yards, INT
4 Routes
9-of-20, 117 yards, TD, INT
5 Routes
2-of-2, 28 yards
(The five-route plays were a screen to Blanton and the slip-out for 20 yards to Culkin on the first play of the game.)
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By Area of the Field
Left
9 yards or fewer: 5-of-10, 40 yards, TD
10-19 yards: 2-of-3, 23 yards
20+ yards: 0-of-1
Total: 7-of-14, 63 yards, TD

Middle
9 yards or fewer: 3-of-5, 51 yards
10-19 yards: 2-of-2, 56 yards
20+ yards: 1-of-2, 33 yards, INT
Total: 6-of-9, 140 yards, INT

Right
9 yards or fewer: 5-of-7, 22 yards
10-19 yards: 5-of-8, 77 yards
20+ yards: 0-of-2, INT
Total: 10-of-17, 99 yards, INT

By Pass Length
9 yards or fewer: 13-of-22, 113 yards, TD
10-19 yards: 9-of-13, 156 yards
20+ yards: 1-of-5, 33 yards, 2 INT
(This is Bizarro Eastern Michigan, when Lock was 4-of-6 for 205 yards and two scores on passes traveling more than 30 yards.)