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Graphing the Tide vs. Mississippi State: Less Explosive, but Still a Success.

And the defense did more than enough on their own.

Mississippi State v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Metric definitions

A ”successful” play, as defined by Football Outsiders, is when a play gains enough yardage to keep the offense on track, i.e., 50% of needed yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd, or 100% on 3rd/4th. A ”big play” (aka “explosive play”) is any play that gains ≥15 yards (run OR pass).

Success by Quarters

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Some of us Tide fans came out of this game with reservations: a roughed-up star quarterback and a season-low point total vs. Mississippi State can feel like cracks in the armor for this otherwise-formidable team.

But in adding the numbers up: the game went unequivocally well! The quarters chart shows one team putting up an efficient offensive performance, and the opponent having a tough time doing much at all (the Bulldogs’ 24% SR just beats Ole Miss as the lowest the Alabama defense has allowed this season).

That said, even when the Tide offense was functioning efficiently (like that 71% SR 1st quarter), we didn’t see nearly as much explosiveness as we usually see from Tua, Jerry Jeudy, and co: that 5% XR is the lowest we’ve seen all season, and I believe this is the first time all year we’ve seen our opponent achieve a higher big play rate than us. #BamaProblems. (I should note that they actually only had 3 explosive plays to Bama’s 4, but with a much lower total play count, hence a higher rate).

Play Map

At first, it seems like you can see exactly when Tua Tagovailoa went out of the game, eh? The Tide offense started strong and racked up a lot of success through a quarter and a half, but sputtered late in the 2nd.

But, in fact, Mac Jones only came in during the 4th quarter... and things actually picked back up after a tough 3rd quarter for Tua and the first string offense, when we saw a few sacks, a few turnovers, and some incomplete passes in a string of short, crummy drives. Fortunately, we ended the game with a handful of strong runs to close things out with no additional injuries.

For Mississippi State’s part: they didn’t get much going at all, and they had a lot of negative plays. After LSU’s result from last week, I didn’t thing we’d see such a sparse chart again this season, but the Bulldogs stepped up and delivered a real stinker (and an overall SR that was 6-points down from LSU’s already-low one).

Success by downs

The Tide did alright across all downs. That 3rd down SR is slightly below league average, but the one explosive play we got on 3rd down (a 17 yarder from Josh Jacobs) technically made it our highest-explosiveness down.

Mississippi State was able to get a bit going on early downs, with a not-terrible 33% SR on 1st down, but they really got snuffed out on 3rd. I guess that’s a predictable result from a team that doesn’t pass well (for example, on 3rd and long).

Running and Passing

Coach Locksley had the offense running the darn ball (!), especially early on. That run rate chart is backwards from what we usually see: for some reason, we went to the pass in the 2nd half after seeing our run game be so successful early on. I guess those unsuccessful runs in the 2nd quarter spooked them into airing it out (unsuccessfully, it turns out) in the 3rd.

On the game, both running and passing ended with above-average SR’s: in general we’ve seen good run/pass balance, both in effort and in outcomes. That’s good, and this game continued the trend.

Running and Passing, Mississippi State

Speaking of balance: Mississippi State’s offense was shockingly balanced for a team that’s supposed to be so run-oriented. That run rate chart is practically a straight horizontal line!

But, run or pass, nothing worked well: the results for each was very bad for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Tide defense has been a revelation through the SEC portion of our schedule, and hopefully we can keep it up against stronger offenses in the post season... there are other Bulldogs that need attending to.