Style points aren’t for teams that are rebuiling.
Did Missouri win on Saturday? Yes. Were their any catastrophic injuries incurred? No.
Then it’s a good day! We can all move along.
…except that’s not what I do, right? However, there really isn’t much to take away from this game. The offense did well enough against a terrible defense to score 40+ points and a slightly-better defense lost interest as the second half wore on and the backups entered the fray.
The offense is still ok. The defense still has weaknesses. Sunrise, sunset. Nothing has changed.
But let’s at least take a quick peak at how the game unfolded and look at any interesting trends that emerged.
I had a few noticeable differences between how I scored the game and the official scorecard that is being utilized by the media. Unfortunately, the scorekeeper did not reveal their play-by-play data so I can’t track to see where our work differed. Regardless, the two are still pretty close which means there won’t be anything jarringly missed or numbers that will completely alter the talking points.
When Missouri Has the Ball
In regards to success rates, this was Missouri’s worst passing performance since the Central Michigan game and its worst rushing performance since the trip to Boston College. The reason the passing game struggled was because everything was short and very few guys were able to shake the first tackle or elude their defender. The reason the rushing game was so terrible is because a.) the offensive line apparently decided to haze B.J. Harris and let him get smacked in the backfield on every other run, and b.) success rates are based on keeping up with the chains, not busting 20+ runs, and most of the gains on the ground were done on the five explosive plays from Badie and Downing. The best offenses are able to do both. Missouri is usually pretty efficient; luckily, on a day where that wasn’t happening, they were able to be explosive.
Throw to Win
Well this didn’t happen! The North Texas run defense was stout enough and their pass defense generous enough that I assumed a 50% success rate through the air would be both manageable and enough to doom the Mean Green defense. Instead, Missouri limped along with a 41.2% success rate through the air, giving up three catches for loss and only seven completions going for more than 8 yards. You can get by with that when playing a G5 team but that s*** won’t cut it in the SEC.
Winner: North Texas
Keep Bazelak Upright
North Texas was good at creating pressure entering the game and I wanted to make sure Missouri didn’t give up more than one sack. The offensive line wasn’t great but did deliver on that promise, at least.
Finish your dang drives
6 scoring opportunities, 5 points per opportunity was the goal; the Tigers came through with 8 scoring opportunities and 6 points per opportunity. Beautiful.
When North Texas Has the Ball
Much like the Missouri offense didn’t operate according to script, neither did the North Texas offense. The Mean Green legitimately struggled running the ball for most of the game but were able to hit moon shots in the passing game, mostly in the 4th quarter. For most of the game the defense was much better but that second half was a bit of a mess, especially the last 15 minutes.
Mitigate the Running Game Impact
I set the bar low on purpose: Missouri’s new defensive line coach wasn’t going to magically fix everything but I did hope that they could hold a G5 team to a rushing success rate under 45%; the Tigers fell just short of that goal, ending up at 45.5% but is still their best performance against the run this season. Yay improvement!
Winner: North Texas
Force 3rd Downs
Coming in to this game North Texas was good at avoiding 3rd-downs and terrible at converting them, while Missouri was pretty good at stopping 3rd-downs but could never force them. The Tigers got the Mean Green into 15 3rd-downs and only allowed them to convert on five, good for a 33% success rate which beats my 40% goal. Awesome.
The Little Things
Yards per play were dead even and North Texas was perfect in their points per opportunity but every other “Little Things” item went, decisively, in Missouri’s favor. You can point out that Missouri benefited from four turnovers in a game that they won by 13. I agree, that doesn’t look good. But I also don’t believe that Missouri plays with a lackadaisical effort in the second half if they didn’t get those turnovers in the first place. Besides, this team is not good! Thinking “oh well they can’t rely on that turnover luck going forward” is a waste of thought because, DUH, this team isn’t good and will struggle to beat every team left on their schedule even with a +4 turnover margin. This isn’t breaking news, folks.
No drops by either team this week but lots of penalties. I do appreciate Allie Green IV jumping offside on an extra point and saying “eff it, I’m going to make it count”, and proceeding to clobber the kicker in the same 3 seconds. That’s the kind of effort and determination that gets you on the field.
The offensive line was pretty glitchy this game and Hyrin White was the canary in the coal mine for that. He was called for two holding penalties (and, frankly, could have been more) while giving up five pressures on Bazelak. But Javon Foster also gave up four pressures while Cook and Delgado each gave up two. Missouri was fortunate to only have those holding penalties called and not any more.
This is another instance where the success rates by quarter do a good job of telling the story of the game. Slow start in the 1st quarter, Missouri pulls away in the 2nd, falls asleep in the 3rd, basically plays it even in the 4th.
I do want to point out an issue I’ve been noticing recently regarding Missouri in the 3rd quarters of games: the offense is barely on the field. That 9% success rate shown above is pretty bad but it’s also from a mere 11 plays run. North Texas, meanwhile, ran 25 plays in the 3rd quarter. And that’s been the case for at least the past three games for sure, so I went back and looked at 3rd quarter performance so far this year. Here’s what Missouri did in each game’s 3rd quarter in terms of plays and yards and the percentages of each:
- Central Michigan: 18 plays (26% of total), 111 yards (23% of total)
- Kentucky: 25 plays (33% of total), 134 yards (34% of total)
- SEMO: 15 plays (21% of total), 121 yards (18% of total)
- Boston College: 4 plays (6% of total), 17 yards (4% of total)
- Tennessee: 10 plays (13% of total), 32 yards (8% of total)
- North Texas: 11 plays (15% of total), 48 yards (9% of total)
Isn’t that weird? Now, Missouri hung with Boston College even with a lopsided 3rd quarter, and nothing was going to salvage that Tennessee game so I’m not as concerned about it there. And I guess North Texas only score one touchdown in the 3rd quarter so the damage wasn’t significant. But it’s still an odd trend to look at.
Halftime adjustments aren’t really all that important as the casual fan might think; halftimes are usually meant for coaches to use the bathroom, grab something to eat, and give a quick pep talk to whatever unit they oversee. But second half plays are sometimes scripted ahead of time and, if that’s the case with Missouri, it’s really not cutting it. I don’t know what sort of position the Tigers would be if they held the ball longer or moved it further in the 3rd quarter but I’d certainly like to see it happen!
These three are quickly becoming my favorite defenders. If you thought that a converted quarterback, a converted receiver, and a freshman defensive linemen would be impact players on this year’s team then you need to go play the lottery.
Also, Missouri’s 30.2% havoc rate was the second-best havoc rate of the year Week 1’s sack-fest against Central Michigan. Again, this is less about “the problems are solved!” and more about quality of opponent but the Tigers didn’t get after SEMO this well either so it’s nice to see some disruption from the defense.
I spend enough time on here telling you to “eat your vegetables” and trying to temp down expectations that are getting out of hand. So, its also important for me to remind you to all to enjoy good things when they happen. Missouri won which is not an easy thing to achieve! No coach was fired after the game which is a new positive streak! And homecoming was great, the weather was mostly cooperative, and we saw some young guys get a chance. These are all positive things.
Now we get to turn around and beat the ‘Bama-slayer, Texas A&M. Yikes.