The topic of Mizzou's offense and its performance near the goal line was a popular one this week in media circles, and for understandable reasons, as the Tigers were forced to kick a 23-yard field goal last Saturday at Nebraska after getting a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yardline. It was the second straight game where MU had a 1st-and-goal situation but couldn't punch it in for 6, and instead had to settle for a chip-shot field goal.
With that, I took a look at the numbers from the 2010 season to see how we've done all year long when we've been close to the goal line. This is not a simple regurgitation of our red zone numbers, because those show that we have scored 32-of-36 times we've penetrated the opponents' 20-yardline, a success rate of 89% which ranks as 17th-best in the nation. That breaks down to 20 TDs (12 rushing, 8 passing) and 12 field goals.
I have one problem with how the red zone numbers are calculated: it accounts for any single snap inside the 20, even if it comes on 3rd and long from the 19-yardline. Against Illinois this season, we had a situation like this. In the 2nd quarter, we drove from our 48-yardline to the Illinois 29-yardline, where we faced a 3rd-and-12. Blaine Gabbert hit T.J. Moe for 10 yards to the Illinois 19-yardline, and on 4th-and-2, we tried a 37-yard field goal, but the kick missed. Because T.J. got 10 yards on the 3rd down play, and not 8 (to the 21-yardline), it goes down as a missed conversion from the red zone.
In my estimation, true red zone numbers should reflect situations where you have a 1st-down snap inside the 20-yardline. Then, you get a true feel for just how successful your offense is at converting on those opportunties from close in.
My research shows that we have had 31 opportunties of 1st-and-10 OR 1st-and-goal from inside the 20-yardline. We've scored 28 times (90%), including 17 TDs (11 rushing, 6 passing) and 11 field goals. The three non-conversions came on an interception in the endzone just prior to halftime against Miami, Ohio, and that was followed by us taking a knee late in the game against Miami, Ohio, as well as an interception thrown on the 15-yardline late in the game against Colorado, when the outcome was already decided.
So, back to the earlier thought about how we've done close to the goal line?
Breaking things down even further, I count that we have had 15 1st-and-goal situations this season. We've been able to punch in for 6 points on 11 of those chances, and got field goals on the other four that came up short of the endzone. Naturally, you'd like for every time to be a touchdown, but that seems like a pretty reasonable result. The last three weeks, though, have been concerning, because we have managed only three TDs in seven 1st-and-goal situations in games at Texas A&M, at home against Oklahoma, and at Nebraska. That's why the coaches and team are working very hard this week to get better in this area.
Here's a breakdown per game on how we've done on 1st-and-goal situations...
- vs. Illinois -- N/A, no opps.
- vs. McNeese -- 4 opps., 4 TDs
- vs. Miami (Ohio) -- 3 opps., 3 TDs
- vs. Colorado -- 1 opp., 1 TD
- at Texas A&M -- 3 opps., 2 TDs, 1 FG
- vs. Oklahoma -- 3 opps., 1 TD, 2 FGs
- at Nebraska -- 1 opp., 1 FG