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Mizzou Snapshots: Subtle changes for embattled defense pay off

Mizzou Snapshots: Subtle changes for embattled defense pay off

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Under-the-radar Badie comes up big for Missouri

Fans swarm Missouri players after Mekhi Wingo ran an interception back for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against North Texas, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz says it was great to win on homecoming after the Tigers' 48-35 victory over North Texas on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Video by Mizzou Network, used with permission of Mizzou Athletics

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The snaps and grades are in from Mizzou’s 48-35 victory over North Texas. 

Every week, using Pro Football Focus’ data, we’ll take a closer look at the Tigers’ game, starting with complete snap counts for every player on offense and defense, then a deeper dive into their production and ratings.

Overall, this was Mizzou’s top-graded game of the season in five of PFF’s team categories: passing, rushing, receiving, overall defense and rush defense.

SATURDAY’S SNAPS  & GRADES

OFFENSE

Mizzou’s top three overall graded players who played at least 10 snaps: center Mike Maietti (82.1), quarterback Connor Bazelak (80.9) and running back Tyler Badie (77.7).

Offensive line

  • Left tackle Javon Foster, 77
  • Left guard Xavier Delgado, 77
  • Center Mike Maietti, 77
  • Right tackle Hyrin White, 77
  • Right guard Case Cook, 47
  • Right guard EJ Ndoma-Ogar, 16
  • Right guard Connor Wood, 14

The Tigers took Cook out of the game in the second half, presumably because he’s still recovering from an injury that sidelined him for two games. His backups were among the day’s highest graded players, especially Ndoma-Ogar. It was a strong run-blocking game for the entire line with Foster, Maietti, Wood and Ndoma-Ogar all tallying grades of 70 or better. Outside of Maietti and Ndoma-Ogar, the pass blocking grades weren’t pretty. The Tigers were tagged for allowing 18 pressures overall, five by White and four by Foster. Both allowed four hurries, while White was penalized twice for holding. Not the best game we’ve seen from these pair of tackles in pass protection.

Quarterback

  • Connor Bazelak, 77

The grades were better than the raw numbers. This was another short passing game for the QB. Of Bazelak’s 34 attempts, 24 of those targeted receivers who were no more than 10 yards downfield, going for 103 yards and a touchdown. Ten of those attempts where thrown behind the line of scrimmage, including seven screen passes. Not a tremendous degree of difficulty for those throws. But … and this is notable: Bazelak was his most efficient when throwing deep. On targets 20 yards or more downfield, he completed just 3 of 7 for 65 yards, including the 41-yard TD to Hester, but when you break down his splits by yardage, his best NFL QB rating was on those deep balls at 109.4. He wasn’t very accurate on those deep balls but the one home run to Hester made up the difference. (Although, late in the first half he threw one perfectly catchable deep ball but his receiver tripped before getting to the ball.)

Running back

  • Tyler Badie, 47
  • BJ Harris, 20
  • Dawson Downing, 10
  • Elijah Young, 2

Another monster night for Badie. Of his 217 rushing yards, 106 came after contact. He forced 12 missed tackles on his 17 carries. That’s remarkable, especially considering the supposed knock on Badie coming into the season was his toughness and physicality.

Behind Badie, there’s been a clear changing of the guard. Harris stepped in as the new No. 2 running back, supplanting Young. It wasn’t a tremendously productive night for Harris, but the freshman ran hard, getting 38 of his 39 yards after contact. Downing, too, saw extended snaps ahead of Young and made the most of his chances with a 60-yard TD run, just his second career score in this his sixth season at Mizzou.

Wide receiver

  • Tauskie Dove, 61
  • Keke Chism, 41
  • Dominic Lovett, 34
  • Mookie Cooper, 31
  • Barrett Banister, 16
  • Chance Luper, 13
  • J.J. Hester, 6
  • Boo Smith, 5
  • Ja’Mori Maclin, 1
  • Micah Wilson, 1

Again, the grades here are better than the raw stat sheet numbers. Here’s the best stat: Zero drops. With Cooper’s return to the rotation, Luper saw his snaps slip. Speaking of slips, Luper could have had the biggest play of the night but slipped on a great deep ball from Bazelak on the final possession of the first half. The Tigers made an obvious attempt to force feed some passes to Cooper, but for a change, MU tried to get him involved downfield more: Cooper’s average depth of target was 10.4 yards, not just screens and short stuff.

Tight end

  • Daniel Parker Jr., 41
  • Niko Hea, 41
  • Messiah Swinson, 15

Hea was robbed of a big catch thanks to a holding penalty from White well behind the play. Otherwise, a fairly quiet night from the tight ends in the passing game – just 14 yards on three combined targets for Parker and Hea.

DEFENSE

Mizzou’s top three overall graded defensive players who played at least 10 snaps: defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo (81.2), cornerback Allie Green IV (72.7) and safety Martez Manuel (69.6).

Defensive line

  • Tackle Mekhi Wingo, 62
  • Tackle Kobie Whiteside, 56
  • End Isaiah McGuire, 48
  • End Trajan Jeffcoat, 39
  • End Jatorian Hansford, 23
  • End Chris Turner, 22
  • Tackle Akial Byers, 20
  • End Johnny Walker Jr., 18
  • End Cannon York, 13
  • Tackle Daniel Robledo, 3

It was a big night for Wingo, who not only had the interception return for a touchdown but had a couple pressures and tallied the night’s best pass rush grade (68.4). After the game, Drinkwitz called him “a great leader for our football team.” That’s a big statement for a freshman appearing in his sixth college game and making his first career start. Byers was sidelined with a shoulder injury, according to the team’s radio crew. (MU doesn’t share in-game injury updates to the writers in the press box.) Jeffcoat came out of hiding with a  team-high three pressures. He notched a sack, his second of the year, and tipped the pass that Wingo picked off. After 29 missed tackles a week ago against Tennessee, only nine on Saturday. McGuire was the only player tagged with more than one, two on the night.

For the season, Wingo is Mizzou’s top PFF graded defensive player (77.1) and top-graded pass rusher (78.1). Does that say more about the freshman's ability or the rest of the line's struggles?

Linebacker

  • Devin Nicholson, 50
  • Chad Bailey, 43
  • Jamie Pettway, 27
  • Blaze Alldredge, 21
  • Dameon Wilson, 6

Here’s where Mizzou made its one major personnel change with Bailey replacing Alldredge in the starting lineup. Alldredge, the Rice transfer the Tigers recruited to replace two-time All-SEC linebacker Nick Bolton, has struggled physically at the point of attack. He played for a few series on Saturday but has clearly lost his job to Bailey, who posted some of the teams best scores for run defense (No. 2, 75.5) and tackling (No. 4, 80.8). Bailey didn’t miss a tackle on the day. Safe to say he’ll  be in the starting lineup again Saturday. This was a solid day for Mizzou’s run defense, especially considering how putrid the run defense had been through the season’s first five weeks. Good news: MU is no longer allowing 300 rushing yards per game and down to 288.3. Bad news: That’s still last in the country.

Secondary

  • Safety Martez Manuel, 65
  • Safety J.C. Carlies, 64
  • Cornerback Akayleb Evans, 50
  • Cornerback Ish Burdine, 44
  • Cornerback Allie Green IV, 43
  • Nickel Kris Abrams-Draine, 41
  • Nickel Chris Shearin, 26
  • Safety Shawn Robinson, 23
  • Cornerback D.J. Jackson, 15
  • Safety Jalani Williams, 12
  • Safety Stacy Brown, 2

The Tigers were without injured cornerback Ennis Rakestraw. The secondary had some obvious busted coverages in the second half, especially when MU went to its bench and gave snaps to Jackson and Brown. They both appeared to botch coverage on the late 77-yard TD pass. Manuel missed a tackle near the goal line on another long TD pass. There are some obvious issues to address in the secondary, but there were some positives. Evans was targeted just once all night. He’s emerged as the team’s best coverage corner and poked a ball loose for a takeaway. PFF tagged Manuel for 112 yards in receptions and two of the TD passes, but he also had the team’s best run defense grade (75.9). Abrams-Draine continues to make some impact plays with his second interception and a recovered fumble. He’s the team’s top-graded run defender for the season (78.1).

Robinson didn’t have an expanded role but made the most of it with the team’s third-best run defense grade (74.8) and best tackling grade (81.8). For the season, the converted quarterback is by far the team’s top-graded tackler (89.0).

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