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Mizzou Snapshots: What happened in Boston?

Mizzou Snapshots: What happened in Boston?

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — It’s back to SEC play for the Missouri Tigers (2-2), but before we get to Saturday’s increasingly pivotal showdown with Tennessee (2-2), let’s take one look back at Saturday’s 41-34 overtime defeat at Boston College.

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.

But, first, a few leftover thoughts from Saturday’s game …

Lost in the madness of defensive breakdowns … the latest play by the best player, pound for pound, on the Mizzou roster … and the deflating OT period were some curious clock management decisions and key penalties that loomed large on the finish. Let’s review …

• First, on Mizzou’s go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Eli Drinkwitz called timeout after a 2-yard Connor Bazelak scramble on second down. It was explained by the officiating crew that he wanted the play reviewed for a possible targeting penalty. There’s a replay official on site who reviews every play for potential targeting, and in this case, the officials neither threw a flag nor got the call from upstairs to signal a review. Wasted timeout? A targeting call would have moved the Tigers into the red zone. They had no trouble getting there anyway and scored four plays later. That timeout could have come in handy later.

• Then, after Mizzou scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:18 left, Sean Koetting boomed his kickoff into the end zone, but MU was inexplicably called for a personal foul, unnecessary roughness on linebacker Jamie Pettway — on a touchback! That’s a 15-yard gift to Boston College. Instead of starting on the 25, the Eagles began their final drive on the 40.

• Two plays into the series, Mizzou was flagged for offsides. Both sides lobbied, but ultimately MU was flagged. Another free 5 yards for BC.

• Then, a 14-yard run by Travis Levy was wiped out when he was flagged for grabbing Ennis Rakestraw’s facemask. This penalty on BC might have hurt Mizzou more than the others. Instead of first and goal from the 9, the Eagles were backed up to the 25. Sure, worse field position, but at this point, time is Mizzou’s most precious commodity. For Mizzou, the only better scenario than stopping BC short of the end zone is letting the Eagles score quickly.

• BC converts a third-and-2 run and calls timeout with 40 seconds left. The clock stopped on first down, but BC wanted more time to design the next play.

• On first and 10 from the 12, Dennis Grosel scrambles to the 5. BC burns another timeout with 33 seconds left. The Eagles come out in 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) with two wideouts to the left and one to the right. Mizzou is in its base 4-2-5 nickel scheme with Kris Abrams-Draine in coverage … but calls timeout with the clock already stopped.

• After the TO, MU switches personnel, going with Shawn Robinson instead of Kris Abrams-Draine as a fifth DB. BC changed formations, too, going with three receivers in a bunch formation to the left — though two of those receivers are bigger tight ends — and a lone receiver split right. MU calls a corner blitz and forces an incomplete pass. The call worked, but it cost the Tigers another precious timeout.

A play later, Levy scores, leaving Mizzou only 25 seconds left — enough to set up the game-tying field goal but not nearly enough to march all the way to the end zone, even with one timeout left. By then, time was certainly not on Mizzou’s side.

More Mizzou musings …

• The Tigers are 2-2, just as they were last year, albeit in an SEC-only season. Here’s Mizzou’s final record the last 10 times it started 2-2:

2020: 5-5

2016: 4-8

2012: 5-7

2011: 8-5

2005: 7-5

2001: 4-7

1997: 7-5

1995: 3-8

1990: 4-7

1987: 5-6

That’s six losing seasons, three winning seasons and one .500 season.

• Mizzou’s defensive front gets blamed for a lot of the rushing yardage, but teams are hitting outside runs on the Tigers when the outside force player — usually a cornerback — loses leverage and gets beat outside. It happened several times Saturday. “When you miss your force tackle everybody else is chasing without leverage,” Drinkwitz said. “That happened a couple of times.”

• Obviously Mizzou misses Nick Bolton at linebacker. You know who else they miss? Tre Williams. He’s been outstanding for Arkansas, and leads all SEC defensive linemen (edge rushers and tackles) with 21 pressures and is tied for the league lead with 13 hurries. That’s All-SEC production for the former Tiger. Mizzou’s team leader in pressures and hurries is tackle Akial Byers with 13 and nine, respectively. Williams is both Arkansas’ team leader in tackling grade (81.7) and pass rush grade (82.2).

• Harrison Mevis is one of 19 FBS kickers who hasn’t missed a field goal. He’s 5 for 5 with four of those 40 yards or longer … and now he’s got five of 50 yards or more in his career — one off the all-time Mizzou record of six held by Tom Whelihan, who kicked at MU from 1984-87. Mevis is No. 2 all-time in 50-yard field goals after just 14 games.   

SATURDAY’S SNAPS  & GRADES

OFFENSE

Mizzou’s top three overall graded players who played at least 10 snaps: receiver Barrett Banister (78.6), receiver Keke Chism (76.2), left tackle Javon Foster (75.9)

Offensive line

Left guard Connor Wood, 66

Left tackle Javon Foster, 66

Left guard Xavier Delgado, 66

Center Mike Maietti, 66

Right tackle Hyrin White, 66

Left tackle Zeke Powell, 1

The starting five, without injured right guard Case Cook, played every snap. Powell was in as a sixth lineman on the goal-line touchdown run by Michael Cox. As for the grades, White was the only linemen with a decent run blocking grade (69.1). The pass blocking was outstanding: Just three pressures allowed, no hits on the quarterback, no sacks. Foster (89.9) allowed zero pressures in 44 pass plays. Delgado (84.2) was strong, too.

For the season, Foster and White rank Nos. 2 and 4 among all SEC tackles in run blocking grades and Nos. 3 and 5 in overall offensive grade. Maietti is No. 4 among SEC centers in offensive grade and No. 2 in run blocking. Delgado is No. 3 among all SEC guards in pass blocking. By any measure, it’s been a fine start to the season for the O-line.

Quarterback

Connor Bazelak, 66

Not the best day for the QB thanks to two interceptions. Bazelak finished with an overall grade of 67.7, a passer grade of 65.0 and a season low NFL passer rating of 79.8. This was, however, his best game in terms of adjusted completion percentage (79.5), which means when he wasn’t throwing picks, he was exceptionally accurate. Bazelak wasn’t very productive against the blitz: 7 of 13 for 22 yards — just 1.7 yards per attempt. On play-action passes, Bazelak was 7 of 11 for 93 yards, but both INTs came on play-action.

Through the season’s first month, among SEC QBs who have attempted at least 50 passes, Bazelak ranks seventh in both PFF offensive grade and passer grade.

Running back

Tyler Badie, 62

Dawson Downing, 3

Elijah Young, 1

Michael Cox, 1

BJ Harris, 1

Heavy, heavy workload for Badie, which has become a trend in Mizzou’s close games. When the game is tight, Drinkwitz and running backs coach Curtis Luper clearly trust their veteran the most. Just one run of 10 yards or more for Badie, who averaged only 2.2 yards after contract per attempt. Very solid tackling game by Boston College.

Wide receiver

Keke Chism, 50

Tauskie Dove, 38

Chance Luper, 31

Dominic Lovett, 20

J.J. Hester, 19

Barrett Banister, 16

Mookie Cooper, 6

Boo Smith, 4

Micah Wilson, 1

Here’s why Bazelak was so eager to throw deep to Chism on the final play of the game: Before that throw (and interception) the 6-5 Chism had owned cornerback Brandon Sebastian all day, catching 5 of 6 passes for 46 yards and three first downs against the 6-foot corner. In the end, Sebastian made the game’s most important play, but before that Bazelak had targeted him in coverage eight times, resulting in seven catches for 67 yards and five first downs. That was clearly the matchup Mizzou wanted based on a full game of evidence.

Just one drop for Mizzou all day (Luper) as Bazelak targeted 10 teammates with passes.

What happened to Cooper? He barely played after the first quarter, and on his one touch, a 3-yard gain on a toss in motion, he could barely outrun BC defenders past the line of scrimmage. He played just four more snaps. After the game, Cooper posted an Instagram story: "would love to play some WR." Sounds like the Ohio State transfer isn’t happy with his playing time. Four teammates had more snaps in the slot on passing plays Saturday. For the season, here’s where Cooper ranks among Mizzou receivers in several PFF categories:

67 snaps, 5th

12 targets, 6th

99 receiving yards, 7th

6.3 average depth per target, 7th

62.2 offensive grade, 6th

81.5 receiver grade, 4th

Four games into his college career, Cooper isn’t a downfield weapon yet. Maybe he’s still nursing that foot injury. He hasn’t looked particularly explosive in the open field. His usage will be interesting to monitor going forward.

Tight end

Daniel Parker Jr., 46

Niko Hea, 24

Messiah Swinson, 2

Solid blocking game for Parker, who graded at 82.2 blocking for the run on 15 snaps and allowed zero pressures in the passing game on six pass block sets.

DEFENSE

Mizzou’s top three overall graded defensive players who played at least 10 snaps: safety Martez Manuel (72.7), linebacker Blaze Alldredge (71.6), safety Shawn Robinson (70.9).

Defensive line

Tackle Akial Byers, 67

End Isaiah McGuire, 62

Tackle Kobie Whiteside, 53

End Trajan Jeffcoat, 48

End Chris Turner, 34

Tackle Realus George Jr., 19

Tackle Mekhi Wingo, 15

End Johnny Walker Jr., 12

Mizzou clearly shortened its rotation along the D-line, some of that by default with tackle Darius Robinson sidelined with an injury. McGuire led the team with three pressures and two hits on the QB, but the Tigers totaled just four hurries on the day and only one sack. Only one lineman finished with a rush defense grade of 70 or more, Jeffcoat at 70.0. Nobody along the D-line finished with a pass rush grade of 70. Starting tackles Whiteside (43.9) and Byers (60.1) were two of the lowest graded players on the field. Broken record here, but it wasn’t a productive day along the front four by any measure. BC’s starting offensive linemen allowed only two pressures all day on more than 40 pass plays. The Eagles averaged 2.6 yards per attempt before any contact from a Mizzou defender and 4.1 yards after contact on every rushing play. Both numbers are glaring. That translates to big holes along the D-line and tackling struggles in the second and third level.

Linebacker

Blaze Alldredge, 73

Devin Nicholson, 72

Jamie Pettway, 6

Chad Bailey, 4

PFF graded only three missed tackles for Mizzou’s entire defense. That seems generous. None by the linebackers, which explains the high tackling grades for Alldredge (84.5) and Nicholson (78.7). Alldredge also scored the team’s highest grade for coverage (78.2) and had the team’s most defensive stops (six), which PFF defines as tackles that constitute a failure for the offense. The grades suggest Mizzou’s real struggles Saturday came along the D-line.

Secondary

Safety J.C. Carlies, 78

Safety Martez Manuel, 78

Cornerback Akayleb Evans, 77

Cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr. 68

Safety Shawn Robinson, 48

Nickel Kris Abrams-Draine, 27

Cornerback Ish Burdine, 11

Safety Stacy Brown, 6

Robinson, Manuel and Carlies had the best coverage grades in the secondary. The corners? Not a great day. Evans gave up five receptions on seven targets for 61 yards and a TD. BC was 5 of 6 for 31 yards and a TD targeting Rakestraw. Abrams-Draine gave up completions on both passes targeted his way for 29 yards. Active day for Manuel, who had more pressures than all but two teammates.

A few more notes on the defense …

• This was a heavy blitz game for Mizzou. The Tigers sent an extra pass rusher on 23 of BC’s 33 drop-back passes. Against the blitz, Dennis Grosel completed 11 of 20 passes for 134 yards, an INT and a TD.

• More than half of BC’s passing plays were designed play-action (17 of 33) and they were successful: 10 of 16 for 91 yards and two touchdowns and seven first downs. BC’s average depth per target on play-action passes was 10.5 yards. Translation: BC was attacking downfield off the play-fakes and more often than not moving the chains. That’s the product of a consistently good running attack.

• Mizzou’s base defense is 4-2-5 system against 11 personnel, but there’s a lot of variety in how Steve Wilks deploys his safeties. On Saturday alone, Manuel lined up in the tackle box on 47 of his 78 snaps … plus another 12 snaps lined up on the line of scrimmage off the edge … nine snaps as a deep safety … nine snaps covering the slot … and one snap as an outside cornerback.

Robinson roams all over the place: 16 snaps on the D-line edge, 16 snaps in the box, 16 snaps covering the slot. When Robinson replaces Abrams-Draine, he’s essentially a third linebacker in a 4-3 alignment, what MU calls its Buffalo package.

Carlies is strictly a deep safety in either two-high or one-high looks, while the other two (Manuel and Robinson) are playing at all three levels of the defense.

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