via flickr duncanh1
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana from "Life of Reason I"
What Can We Learn from History?
There isn't a Cornhusker fan in the world that doesn't know about....fumbles.
They killed Nebraska last year. They killed Nebraska this year. We fumble more now than we have ever fumbled right? I mean, this is unprecedented right? RIGHT? Maybe not. Let's take a look at some statistics from times of yore to get some perspective on our fumble-itis. Perhaps history is just repeating itself?
Tom Osborne's First 6 Years
During Tom Osborne's first 6 seasons, Nebraska turned the ball over 195 times. This included 202 fumbles of which 123 were lost. Teams threw a total of 72 interceptions those years as well. Tom Osborne's teams ran approximately 5,700 plays. Doing the math means that Nebraska turned the ball over about every 29 plays they ran.
Bo Pelini's First 6 Years
During Bo Pelini's first 6 seasons, Nebraska turned the ball over 157 times. This included 196 fumbles of which 93 were lost. Teams threw a total of 64 interceptions those years as well. Bo Pelini's teams ran approximately 5,560 plays. Doing the math means that Nebraska turned the ball over about once every 35 plays.
Statistics Prove Nothing?
Some argue that statistics prove nothing...that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. I'd say that's a convenient way to dismiss things. When I look at the above turnovers and fumble statistics, I can honestly say that Bo Pelini's teams, despite playing 7 more games than Osborne's, fumble less.
Some would argue, "well we ran the ball in the option more back then so we fumbled more" and there may be truth to that argument. The counter is that Pelini led teams threw the ball more often yet didn't turned the ball over less. If you're a stickler for the whole argument that an option play causes more fumbles, I'm not going to change your mind and these statistics are going to just bounce right off you.
The bottom line? I always hear from people who knock Nebraska's recent fumbles being from a lack of discipline. Disciplined and trained teams don't fumble as much as others they say. If this is the case, it shouldn't matter whether a fumble comes from a hand-off or a pitch or a punt return or after a pass...a fumble is a fumble. In the end, it's player vs. player.
More Nifty Statistics
Despite passing the ball less (almost 40% less), 3 of the first 6 Osborne teams threw more interceptions than Pelini's teams.
Pelini's first 6 teams had 547 penalties in 81 games. That number is 339 in 73 games for Osborne. Pelini averages about 91 penalties per year. Osborne's averaged 57 per year. If we average out penalties per game for Osborne it comes to 4.65. If we average out Pelini's penalties per game with 6.75. It's important noting that there are more rules to be penalized during Pelini's games than there were during Osbornes (I have no official stats but it's a true statement)
Osborne took over a team that was 33-2-2 with two National Championships in the previous 3 years...Osborne had also been with that team since 1964 as either a grad assistant or the Offensive Coordinator. Pelini took over a team that had finished 22-16 with the final season being 5-7 and hadn't been even close to the National Championship in 6-7 years.
Osborne won against Oklahoma 1 time in his first 7 years of coaching. That was pretty much the conference championship back then.
It's important to note that stats only tell half the story. Outside factors always make statistics less or more applicable to the teams being compared. One outside factor to consider is how the landscape of football has changed. Football during Osborne's first 6 years was a different beast than it is today. TO couldn't win 'the big one' back then either...but Nebraska was always ranked in the top 10 of the nation even with 3 losses which helped remove pressure from him as a coach. The college landscape has changed as there is no hope for a 3 loss team to be in the top 10. It was a 'pressure release valve' back then that could show Nebraska was still in the hunt of things and the coach had them moving in the right direction. Pelini has no such luxury today.
Using the turnover stats above, Bo Pelini led teams are fumbling less than the ones Osborne fielded in his first 6 seasons. They're throwing fewer interceptions as well. They're doing this despite playing more games. Does this mean that Bo Pelini's teams are more disciplined? If whether or not you fumble and turn the ball over is indicative of discipline, the statistics say Pelini's teams are more disciplined...of course, discipline is subjective and means different things to different people. Take these statistics with a grain of salt AND just know that Pelini led teams fumble less than Osborne led ones did.
So History Teaches Us That Husker Fans Lack Perspective
Take a look at the room you are in right now by turning 360 degrees around and take note of everything you see. Now stand on a chair. Take a look at the room again by turning around 360 degrees. Take note of everything you see. There is bound to be something you missed while standing with your feet on the floor. When you change how you look at something, you gain perspective.
Husker fans stand on a chair when they look at Bo Pelini's first 6 seasons. They stand on the chair of a 60-3 five year stretch of the last 5 years of Tom Osborne's coaching career. When people look at Pelini's teams, they are comparing them to those magical 5 seasons. It's not fair to the Huskers as a whole. It's not fair to Pelini. It's not fair to fans because it makes them lack perspective and causes them to become jaded too quickly.
In order to gain perspective, it is important to go back and look at the past. To consider what teams before the past 6 seasons have faced. To look at how different coaches of the Cornhuskers performed. There are two sides to every story and Husker fans who lack perspective aren't taking the time to find out the other side to theirs. Hopefully, this examination of turnovers and fumbles is eye opening for fans and gives them better perspective when looking at how far Pelini has taken the Cornhuskers and whether or not we're moving in the right direction as a team.