Red-zone efficiency correlates strongly with winning, which is common sense in football.
Teams that produce points when they’re there for the taking or prevent points with their backs against the wall win.
“Finishing, that’s the game of football,” Missouri sophomore left guard Kevin Pendleton said. “You’ve got to finish, whether it’s the fourth quarter or you get down within 25 yards. That’s the red zone, and some of the most important times of the game.”
Digging deeper into the numbers during the last eight seasons, one thing becomes strikingly clear: poor red-zone offenses are severely punished.
Based on analysis of the cfbstats.com database, Football Bowl Subdivision teams that convert on 75 percent or fewer of their red-zone opportunities since 2008 win roughly one of every three games — a 4-8 record during the course of a 12-game season.
It’s a sobering thought for Missouri, which moved the football on offense far better than last season during Saturday’s season-opening 26-11 loss at West Virginia, but only converted on two of five trips to the red zone.
“It’s too hard to get down there and come away with nothing,” MU first-year coach Barry Odom said. “That’s one area we’ll spend a lot of time addressing.”
The Mountaineers only outgained the Tigers 494-462, but the scoreboard showed a more lopsided contest.
“It’s very important,” senior wide receiver Chris Black said. “When you go back and look at the game statistically, we feel like we should have won that game. It comes down to the red-zone scoring. That’s kind of where we shot ourselves in the foot, but we’ll fix that going forward.”
Mizzou botched a 24-yard field-goal attempt, missed another field goal on a drive that reached scoring territory and threw four straight incompletions from the West Virginia 6-yard line in the closing minutes.
That doesn’t include freshman Damarea Crockett’s fumble just outside the red zone in the second quarter.
If that missed opportunity is included, the Tigers came away with points on just two of six chances, while the Mountaineers cashed in on all five red-zone trips and cruised to victory.
“We’ve got to know on both sides of the ball the urgency level on when you get down in that spot of the field that we’ve got to come away with points on offense and, then defensively, you’ve got to find a way to get them into a field-goal situation,” Odom said.
Missouri actually did a decent job at the latter, forcing four short field-goal tries after West Virginia made its way into scoring territory.
“I loved how we acted down in the red zone, because it’s really not over until the ball’s in the end zone,” senior defensive tackle Rickey Hatley said. “We just kept going, digging down.”
Meanwhile, as encouraging as the offense’s showing was, sophomore quarterback Drew Lock knows it still wasn’t nearly good enough.
“There’s a lot more (improvement) to be shown,” Lock said, “and that just comes with us executing in the red zone — not putting ourselves in bad positions on third down in the red zone, executing on first and second down.”
Lock expects the red-zone offense to be a major point of emphasis in practice ahead of the home-opener at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against Eastern Michigan at Memorial Stadium.
“We’re going to make it happen,” Lock said.
“(New offensive coordinator Josh) Heupel talked about having 11 guys doing the right thing all at once,” Black said. “There were certain times on certain plays where maybe one guy missed his assignment and we just fell short of having a positive play.”
RED-ZONE EFFICIENCY ANALYSIS
We look at the red-zone efficiency extremes, teams that were excellent in the red zone on both offense and defense, since 2008 and found that there wasn’t much difference from a win-loss perspective in teams that were elite at red-zone scoring on offense or elite at preventing points on defense. However, teams that struggled to come away with points in the red zone were far more likely to come up short on the scoreboard, too.
Year-by-year win percentage (overall W-L)
Offense > 90%
Offense < 75%
Defense < 75%
Defense > 90%