Husker Defense Looks Too Much Like 2007

Eric Francis

There are numerous analogues to 2007 through Nebraska's first three games of 2013. 2007 was the year of the historically bad season under Kevin Cosgrove, the defense against which all other bad defenses are compared. 2007 was also the year that saw Bill Callahan fired.

Reviewing Where We're At

After the Wyoming game I posted this article that laid out just how bad the defense was. Specifically, I brought out the point that since 2012 Nebraska is handing out 600 yard games at 7x the NCAA rate and that since 2007 Nebraska had allowed 600 yards of offense 5 times (2x in 2007, 2x in 2012, 1x in 2013) and 500 yards of offense 7 times (4x in 2007, 1x in 2008, and 2x in 2012). We can now add a 9th game to the 500 yard list following the meltdown against UCLA today.

Date Opp Result PF PA Rush Yards Pass Yards Plays Total Yards Yards/Play
9/22/2007 Ball St. W 41 40 188 422 79 610 7.72
10/6/2007 @ 4 Missouri L 6 41 195 411 85 606 7.13
10/13/2007 Oklahoma St. L 14 45 317 234 71 551 7.76
10/27/2007 @ 10 Texas L 25 28 364 181 77 545 7.08
11/3/2007 @ 7 Kansas L 39 76 218 354 90 572 6.36
11/23/2007 @ Colorado L 51 65 277 241 81 518 6.40
11/1/2008 @ 5 Oklahoma L 28 62 193 315 70 508 7.26
9/8/2012 @ UCLA L 30 36 344 309 94 653 6.95
10/6/2012 @ 3 Ohio St. L 38 63 371 127 62 498 8.03
12/1/2012 vs. Wisconsin L 31 70 539 101 60 640 10.67
1/1/2013 vs. 5 Georgia L 31 45 162 427 71 589 8.30
8/31/2013 Wyoming W 37 34 219 383 74 602 8.14
9/14/2013 16 UCLA L 21 41 210 294 78 504 6.46

There are now as many 2012 - 2013 games in that list as there are 2007 games. That alone should give anyone pause. Something else worth considering is that in 2007, the first 500 yard game came against Ball State in the fourth game of the season. This year, we gave up 602 yards in game one and 504 in game three. Arguably, the Huskers are starting 2013 out WORSE than they started in 2007.

Parallels to 2007

The 2013 Huskers performance has started out with alarming parallels to 2007, which does not bode well for the rest of the season or for the future of the current coaching staff.

2007 Opp Result 2013 Analogue Result
Nevada W 52-10 Southern Miss. W 56-13
@ Wake Forest W 20-17 Wyoming W 37-34
3 USC L 31-49 16 UCLA L 21-41
Ball St. W 41-40 SDSU ????
Iowa St. W 35-17
@ 4 Missouri L 6-41
Oklahoma St. L 14-45
Texas A&M L 14-36
@ 10 Texas L 25-28
@ 7 Kansas L 39-76
Kansas St. W 73-31
@ Colorado L 51-65

Similar defensive efforts in the 2007 Nevada and 2013 Southern Miss games belied looming defensive problems.

2007 and 2013 featured 3-point wins versus teams against which conventional wisdom held that Nebraska should have rolled. In 2007 Wake Forest went 9-4. Although Wyoming could win nine games this season, that would be an amazing improvement...in 2012 Wyoming was 4-8.

Despite the warning signs, 2007 USC was anticipated as the game that was going to make Nebraska relevant again. But instead of a dynasty-establishing win the Trojans rushed for 313 yards and rolled up 457 total yards with a 6.72 yards per play average. Today the Bruins rolled up 504 total yards with a 6.46 yards per play average.

The Huskers entered game four in 2007 bruised but confident in their ability to bounce back for a run to the conference championship. Ball State gave Nebraska everything it could give, falling 40-41. Next week Nebraska plays FCS South Dakota State. Last year SDSU was 9-4 with losses to FBS Kansas and 2 losses to eventual FCS National Champion North Dakota State. While a loss to SDSU seems inconceivable, it's not out of the question to imagine some struggles to put the SDSU away early, particularly if turnovers or penalties become an issue. If this happens, HuskerNation should be very concerned about the future of this team.

In 2007 Nebraska went 2-6 for the remainder of the season, Bill Callahan was fired, and the circle of life began anew.

One thing that is not the same is the schedule difficulty. In 2007 Nebraska played 3 teams that finished in the AP Top-10. That will not happen in 2013. Whether that's good or bad remains to be seen. It could give the Huskers the breathing room they need to regroup and improve, or it could mask systemic problems in the program that can only be addressed with a coaching change.

Nebraska is at a unique crossroads in Pelini's tenure. The Huskers can still salvage this season. But will they? Or are the red flags highlighted in the parallels to 2007 omens of a losing season ahead?

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