Congratulations. You have reached the halfway point of the Nebraska Football season. Even with their 4 win, 2 loss record after the Ohio State game, Nebraska has shown some interesting stats on both sides of the ball. Some good, and some bad of course. Before we start, I wanna thank the fine folks at sports-reference.com for the knowledge.
Another note that I have is, when I combined passer/receiver numbers, I added both players' carries with the passes to the receiver once, not twice. I do believe if I do that, I'm adding the receptions twice and is not a true statement.
When taking a look at the '12 Nebraska offense, you have to take a look back to the '11 team to notice some trends. A big thing from the '11 offense is how much Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead touched the ball each time Nebraska snapped the ball. While injury has slowed down Burkhead this season, Ameer Abdullah has more than filled in the spot that Burkhead was used for in his junior year.
In that 2011 season, Nebraska ran 903 total plays from scrimmage (the number comes to 903.5 actually, but we'll round down to not make you wonder how someone plays .5 a play). Of those 903 plays, Rex had 306 touches all year. That breaks down as 284 rushes,21 pass receptions, and one single punt return. Minus the punt return, Rex Burkhead was either the main ball carrier or the receiver on 33.7 percent of Nebraska's plays. Over a third of the offense went through Rex. This is the time to remind you how much Rex was worn down from the Michigan State game on last season.
Going on with that '11 season, Taylor Martinez had 188 carries of the football on rushing plays (sacks are considered rushes in the college game) to go along with 288 pass attempts. That comes out to 476 total plays for Taylor as far as involvement, a rate of 52.7% of the offense. As you combine these numbers for Rex and Taylor, that accounts for 772 plays that either had Taylor or Rex rushing the football, or Taylor throwing the ball to Rex. Out of 903 plays, that's 85.4% of the offense going through either Rex or Taylor at some point. That's a lot folks.
With that thought in your head, lets take a look at the 2012 offensive numbers and see who is getting the ball. Through the '12 season, Nebraska has ran 435 plays from scrimmage. Taylor, being the QB and the man who gets the ball to other people as well as himself, has 214 of those plays (146 pass attempts, 68 runs) for a 49.1% of the total offense, which is a byproduct of Rex being hurt. Burkhead himself has only 47 total touches, which is less than 11% in total, a far drop off from last year because of his reoccurring knee issues.
While Rex has dropped off, Ameer Abdullah has picked up the pace. Ameer has 86 carries and 10 receptions, for 96 total touches this year. That itself is 22% of the offense. Combine that with Taylor's 214 touches and that's a total of 302 times that Taylor or Ameer have touched the ball in either separate plays or combined plays (Taylor passes to Ameer), which works out to a shade under seventy percent (69.4%). Not as much as the over 85% that Nebraska had last year with Taylor and Rex, and quite possibly one of the main reasons that the O has seemed to flourish more this season as well as last.
Some other numbers that stood out on offense are as follows:
-Braylon Heard and Imani Cross have roughly the same number of touches this year. While Imani does have more carries than Heard (31 to 30), Heard's three receptions to Imani's zero give him the edge there.
- Kenny Bell leads receptions with 20 this year, and also led last year's receiving corps with 32 total receptions. In 2012, 14 different players have caught a pass from a Nebraska QB, which happens to be the same number as 2011.
- Through the whole 2011 season, Nebraska had a total of 18 total players that touched the ball on offense not including punt and kick returns. In 2012, there have already been 19 total players credited with a touch on offense.
- Last season, Nebraska averaged just under 70 plays a game. This season, Nebraska is averaging over 72 plays a game. This is evidence that Tim Beck's uptempo offense could be making a difference.
- Another telling stat of Nebraska's maturity on offense is number of first downs a game. While in 2011 Nebraska got barely over 20 a game, the '12 campaign has averaged over 25 first-and-ten's a contest.
As we turn to Defense, there are some things that stand out. While some are good and just as many are bad, these are telling. Those numbers include:
- In 2011, Nebraska averaged a touch over 67 plays per game on the field last year. This year, that number has jumped to exactly 72 plays per game on the field. This number includes the UCLA game where the Nebraska Defense was on the field for 94 plays.
- Rushing Defense has gotten a big rougher this season after not being too bad in 2011. Last season's number was 158.5 yards a game, while this year Bugaha allows over 189.2 a contest on the ground.
- Tackling has been more spread out this year than it was last year. Lavonte David had 138 total tackles last year, while Will Compton was second on the team with 82. This season, Compton has taken the lead with 53 total tackles while Daimion Stafford is second with 39 tackles.
- For those of you that want more variety on the field on defense, here is a stat for you. Through six games this year, Nebraska has had 13 total players this year record at least half a sack, compared with only 11 through the whole season last year.
In closing on this piece, it's interesting to see how the offense has expanded from the Rex and Taylor show to something that has a lot of interchangeable parts through the first six games. However, it's also disheartening to see the defense not getting better statically from last year's rough sledding. As we go through the year, it's a good idea to take a peek and realize that numbers usually don't lie.