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October 18, 2013

The Breakdown: Pass defense



Missouri's pass defense ranks 115th in the nation in yards per game allowed, as opponents throw for 293.2 yards against the Tigers. The Tigers, however, rank 53rd in the nation in opposing quarterback efficiency rating at 122.96, and are tied for the national lead with 13 interceptions.

So which stat is more important -- total yardage or efficiency rating?

Today in PowerMizzou.com's statistical breakdown, we take a look at situational passing against the Tigers for a closer view of the numbers.

NOTE: In charting plays, my math is a little off, as I came up 9 pass attempts, and 57 yards, short of Missouri's actual totals. This should provide somewhat of a reasonable estimate, however, as the QB rating for my numbers is 121.73. Missouri's official opponent QB rating is 122.96



In the first half against opponents, Missouri has consistently improved in making quarterbacks less efficient the bigger its lead is. When Missouri trails in the first half, opponents have thrown for 53 yards on 11 attempts with an interception.

(Missouri trailed against Georgia, too, but the Bulldogs never had the ball with the lead. That is, once Georgia scored to go up 7-0, Missouri immediately answered. So, Georgia never had possession with the lead, save for an extra point. The same can be said for other point values -- Georgia, for instance, cut Missouri's lead to two points early in the fourth quarter, but because Missouri scored on its ensuing drive, the Bulldogs never had possession with a lead less than eight points in that half.)



In the second half, passing numbers really jump as Missouri hasn't had a game decided by fewer than 15 points. Opponents are completing passes at a relatively high clip against the Tigers' pass defense (63.7 percent) and they're averaging 7.19 yards per pass, which is greater than Missouri's season average of 6.6. However, teams have thrown for eight second-half interceptions against Missouri to six touchdown passes.

There's one huge outlier in this group, and that's Vanderbilt. If you completely ignore the Vanderbilt game, opponents average 65 second-half passing yards against Missouri.

The Commodores, however, threw for 289 second-half yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-25 passing. That accounts for 37 percent of opponents' total passing yardage when Missouri led by at least 13, and 47 percent of opponents' total passing yardage when Missouri led by at least 13 in the second half.

An interesting aside: If Missouri held Vanderbilt to its season average of 65 second-half passing yards when leading by at least 13, the Tigers pass defense only jumps to 92nd in passing yards allowed.

Is Missouri's pass defense stout? No, I wouldn't go that far. It's almost an even split between first half and second half passing yards, and 46 percent of Missouri's passing yards have come with Missouri up by at least 13 in 45 percent of total pass attempts.

Missouri's defense has been helped by one of the nation's best offenses, as the defense has been on the field trailing for three drives all season. None of those deficits have been by more than three points.

But, Missouri continues to get interceptions at two key junctures. Five of Missouri's 13 interceptions have come with a lead of at least 13 points, getting the ball back to the offense to extend the lead (like it did against Georgia). And, seven of Missouri's 13 interceptions have come with a lead greater than 13 points -- six in the second half alone -- preserving blowouts and ending chances of a comeback.

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