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Charting the Tide, Week 15 | SECCG: Missouri Defensive Review

WARNING: Contents may cause inspirations of awe or flashbacks of dread, depending on what color you wear on fall Saturdays.

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Charting Project is the brainchild of Bill Connelly; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.

But first, a word about horrid officiating.

Well that was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? You’ll see today and tomorrow that this was one of the better all-around performances from the Tide this season, and it could not have come at a better time. You know by now that Alabama locked down the #1 seed in the inaugural College Football Playoff1 and will face Ohio State University in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. It’s only right and proper that the most successful program in the modern era of college football2 leads the country into this exciting new time, and I for one am beside myself with glee that Ohio State University is the next opponent for the Tide. It should be an outstanding matchup between the B1G’s second-most hallowed program and the most hallowed program in all of college football, and between the B1G’s finest coach and college football’s best coach not named Paul William Bryant3. This will be a fun one to dissect over the coming weeks, but that’s enough about it for now.

1 | Or college postseason invitational, depending on your opinion of the committee.

2 | Loosely defined as "after teams other than Princeton and Yale played."

3 | gump gump gump gump gump roll tide (seriously though, OSU is absolutely legit — don’t sleep on this game)

The one unfortunate thing that occurred during the SEC title game was perhaps the worst officiating I’ve seen all season. With all due respect to Missouri, I don’t think it would have mattered in the end, but it’s frankly infuriating to have a great win saddled with baggage like this. Arguably the biggest play of the game was the 58 yard touchdown to DeAndrew White early in the second quarter, which put the Tide up 14-0 and proved to be all the points required in the game. More notably, Missouri defensive star Shane Ray was thrown out of the game for targeting. This is all well and good, except there was no clear evidence of targeting on the play. CBS helpfully showed the one angle that made it look like targeting about 10 times. The other angle that appears to show Ray’s helmet hitting Sims’ shoulder pad? Once. Maybe there’s another angle out there oriented from behind Ray that clearly shows targeting, but I think we would have seen it on the telecast if it existed. If the two angles we saw were the best the replay official had to go off of, this was an atrocious call that knocked Missouri’s best player out of the biggest game of the season early on.

UPDATE: I maintain the evidence provided was questionable with regards to a targeting call (and I never said it wasn't a late hit). However, per the rulebook in that situation the foul stands if it's questionable, as RoscoeofAlabama helpfully pointed out in the comments. My bad! Thanks Roscoe!

Later on in the third, a low snap delayed J.K. Scott’s punt attempt, but the freshman phenom managed to get a punt off despite the two very large human beings barreling toward him with bad intentions. One of those players, Markus Golden, managed to clip Scott’s rear leg before he regained his footing and Scott tumbled to the ground rather obviously. The problem here is that’s not something you’re permitted to do in this situation, and it should have been flagged. Whether or not it was the running into the kicker or roughing the kicker is a judgment call, but if it’s the latter that’s a first down for the Tide. Heinous.

At least two of the ridiculous completions to Jimmie Hunt appeared to be push-offs and thus offensive pass interference, but this call is rapidly going the way of holding between the tackles4, and I’m beginning not to care anymore. The Jalston Fowler fumble drew the ire of many Tigers fans, and I find it interesting this is the third week in a row we’ve seen a fumble with a whistle before recovery mucking up the proceedings in a Tide game. My favorite? Go look at ‘Bama’s kneeldown on the final play of the game — clearly 5 men in the backfield5. I'm sure there were other calls and no-calls that benefited the Tide — there always are — but strangely I can never see those through the special crimson-hued glasses I wear when charting the games. At any rate, nice job Tom Ritter and Company; keep getting’ dem checks.

4 | As in, only called when egregious, and then only sometimes.

5 | Granted the play was irrelevant, but it still should have been called.

The Goods

Confused?

  • Air Yards — The down-the-field or vertical yardage gained on a pass play as a result of the quarterback’s throw (i.e., prior to the receiver’s involvement), as measured from the line of scrimmage. So for forward passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the Air Yardage would be negative. This metric is also tracked on incomplete passes — underthrown balls are measured from where the ball lands, and overthrown balls from where the intended receiver is. Balls tipped at the line or thrown away are not measured. The companion statistic on completed passes is yards after catch — the sum of Air Yards and yards after catch on a completed pass equals the yardage gained on the play.
  • Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence — Hand-crafted using the absolute finest graphical techniques of the late 90s, the Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence breaks the field down into 9 blocks by Air Yards (Behind Line, 0 - 10 Yards, Over 10 Yards) and direction of throw relative to the hash the ball was placed on (Left, Middle, Right — see Pass Direction for more explanation). Each header/leader contains the number of attempts for that designation within parentheses (e.g., the number in parentheses next to "LEFT" denotes the number of attempts that were thrown to the left, regardless of distance). Each block contains the number of complete passes to that block over the total number of passes to that block, the completion percentage, the YPA, and the success rate. The block behind the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field contains the man himself, Blake Sims. The hashmarks are even relatively accurate!
  • Catch Rate — The number of balls caught over the number of targets for an individual, or how often a receiver makes the catch when targeted.
  • Disruptive Plays — A sum of sacks, blocked kicks/punts, passes defensed, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Think of these as things that got you multiple helmet stickers when you were playing peewee.
  • Distance Splits — The "distance" on these charts refers to the yardage required to gain a first down, not the yardage required for a successful play (see Success Rate).
  • Frequencies for Rushing and Passing Splits by Down — These numbers refer to the percentage of first down plays that were a rush, second down plays that were a pass, and so on, NOT the percentage of rushes that were on first down. For example, the sum of first down pass frequency and first down rush frequency will be 100%, but the sum of first, second, third, and fourth down rush frequencies will be well in excess of 100%.
  • Garbage Time — Defined as when a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth.
  • Pass Direction — One datum tracked by the Charting Project is the direction of throw or Pass Direction. This refers to the direction the ball was thrown relative to the hash the ball was placed on, NOT the part of the field where the ball ended up. For example, on a play where the ball was placed on the left hash at the snap, a throw directly down the left hash marks would be tracked as Middle, whereas a ball thrown to the area between the hashes would be tracked as Left, and a ball thrown toward the left sideline would be tracked as Right. This is an important distinction for interpreting the Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence.
  • Run Directions — See the figure below. Defensive letter gap terminology is on the top in blue, and offensive hole terminology is on the bottom in green. Rushes are coded as "Left Tackle" if they head through the left B and C gaps / the 3 and 5 holes, and so on.
  • RunDirection
  • Success Rate — A "successful" play is defined as gaining 70% of required yardage on first down, 50% of required yardage on second down, and all of the required yardage on third and fourth downs — required yardage is another term for the distance required for a first down on a given play. Success rate is simply how often a team is successful.
  • Target — The intended receiver on a pass play. All pass plays have intended receivers, with the exception of passes that were tipped at the line, thrown away, or otherwise thrown in such a manner as to render identification of an intended receiver impossible.
  • YPA — Passing Yards Per Attempt, which is a measure of explosiveness that pairs nicely with Success Rate. This is simply the number of passing yards gained over the number of passing attempts, both complete and incomplete.

Formation/Play Action Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Formation VS.
MIZZOU
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
Shotgun 49 96.1% 80.5% 24.5% 34.9%
Pistol 0 0% 3.4% N/A 13%
Under Center 2 3.9% 16.1% 0% 31.8%
No Huddle 33 64.7% 56.7% 24.2% 35.5%
Huddled 18 35.3% 43.4% 22.2% 31.3%
Play Action 2 3.5% 7.5% 50% 43.8%

Observations

Missouri kept it pretty simple in this one: 96% of their plays were run out of the shotgun, usually a single-back set with either 3 or 4 wide receivers. They started the game huddling, but shifted mostly to no-huddle as the game wore on, probably because nobody’s realized that doesn’t actually work against the Tide unless you’re located in Lee County. Regardless of what they did the success rate didn’t get too far above 24%, and that's not going to cut it with a historically strong6 Tide offense on the opposing sideline. One of the two play-action passes Missouri threw before the game was out of reach went for 10 yards on a 2nd and 4, so there’s that.

6 | For Alabama, at least. It's not like they are Leach-era Texas Tech or something.

Passing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MIZZOU
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
1st 10 55.6% 42.1% 10% 37.5%
2nd 7 41.2% 50.4% 42.9% 41.9%
3rd 12 80% 68.5% 50% 36%
Air Yards VS.
MIZZOU
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
Under 5 11 39.3% 39.7% 36.4% 36.1%
5 - 10 8 28.6% 22.4% 37.5% 46.7%
11 - 15 1 3.6% 10.8% 0% 58.3%
Over 15 8 28.6% 27.2% 50% 36.3%

Observations

The Tigers passed early and often, probably due to the Tide’s reputation for run stuffing. First down passes were throttled by Alabama, as Mizzou was only successful on one of their 10 attempts in the game. Second down throws were in line with seasonal norms for success, but the big story from the game were the third down throws. Often on long yardage and off scrambles, Missouri picked up 175 yards over their six completions on this down, which turned out to be roughly half of their offensive production for the game. Five of those six were to Jimmie Hunt, who was the only truly effective offensive player for Missouri on Saturday.

The distribution of attempts by air yards did not differ significantly from what the Tide’s seen this year, with the exception of more shorter intermediate throws at the expense of the longer intermediate throws. The intermediate distances were not particularly successful for Missouri, but this was offset by much higher than normal success on the deep throws — the same ridiculous third down scramble prayers that plagued the Tide.

Rushing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MIZZOU
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
1st 8 44.4% 57.9% 0% 13.9%
2nd 10 58.8% 49.6% 10% 42.6%
3rd 3 20% 30.9% 0% 40%
Direction VS.
MIZZOU
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
Left End 2 10.5% 12.6% 0% 25%
Lt. Tackle 2 10.5% 16.1% 0% 22.2%
Middle 5 26.3% 42.2% 0% 25.5%
Rt. Tackle 4 21.1% 14.4% 25% 28.1%
Right End 6 31.6% 14.8% 0% 13.3%

Observations

In case you were wondering, this is what dominance looks like. There’s a whole lot of goose eggs in both charts, as Missouri couldn’t get anything going on the ground against the nation’s best rushing defense. They managed one successful carry over right tackle — that’s it7. One of the storylines coming in was the running ability of Maty Mauk and how the Tide would handle it, given their well-publicized issues with mobile quarterbacks. The scrambling ability was important on extending pass plays as noted, but Mauk started to take off upfield only once and was sacked by A’Shawn Robinson for his troubles. I don’t know enough about Missouri’s play this season to note whether or not designed quarterback runs are part of some of the things they do on offense, but there were none in this game.

7 | They managed another successful carry on the their penultimate offensive play, but the game was well out of reach by then.

Down and Distance Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MIZZOU
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
1st 18 35.3% 41.2% 5.6% 23.9%
2nd 17 33.3% 33.5% 23.5% 42.2%
3rd 15 29.4% 23.4% 40% 37.1%
4th 1 2% 1.9% 100% 53.9%
Distance VS.
MIZZOU
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
VS.
MIZZOU
2014
Season
Under 3 Yards 5 9.8% 10.3% 20% 54.9%
4 to 6 Yards 6 11.8% 14% 50% 44.3%
7 to 10 Yards 37 72.6% 66.6% 21.6% 29.3%
Over 10 Yards 3 5.9% 9.1% 0% 25.4%

Observations

The Tide forced a few more third downs than they typically do, mainly due to allowing absurdly low success rates on first and second down. Missouri ran 18 first down plays during non-garbage time on Saturday and managed a successful attempt just once, which is an outstanding effort for the Tide. The third down success rate was just a bit higher than normal, but nothing too crazy. Missouri’s one fourth down attempt was their lone touchdown of the day when a blatant pick in the end zone went uncalled8.

8 | Did I forget to mention this one earlier? KEEP GETTIN’ DEM CHECKS TOM.

Further fallout from that terrible first down success rate can be found in the distance chart, as Missouri found themselves in the longer intermediate yardage almost 75% of the time. The Tide held Missouri to lower success rates than the season average on short yardage and the longer distances, but were a bit softer on downs with 4 to 6 yards to go.

Disruptive Plays
Player Passes Defensed Interceptions Sacks Forced Fumbles Blocked Kicks Total
Cyrus Jones 7.5 2 2 11.5
Eddie Jackson 6 1 1 2 10
Xzavier Dickson 1 8 9
Landon Collins 5 3 1 9
Reggie Ragland 2 1 2.5 1 6.5

Observations

Not captured here was the absurd game Robinson had, as he was a constant presence behind the Tiger line all game in leading the team in tackles with 9 and logging three of those for loss. Landon Collins forced the game’s only turnover to end any hope of a Tiger comeback, and several Tide players chipped in defensed passes. Of particular note was Eddie Jackson’s PBU that prevented a touchdown, although Missouri punched it in a few plays later on the aforementioned pick play.

As usual, if I missed anything of note, please publicly shame me in the comments.

ROLL TIDE