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Under the Hood: 2009 Regular Season Nebraska Stats Review

I've done Wednesday "Under the Hood" segments for the year, and it's time to do the same tally on our 2009 regular season statistics.  The bottom line - as good as the defense looked, the offense looked just as bad.

As much as we'd like to blame a massive conspiracy for giving Texas a second back on the clock, the fact is that an abysmal showing on offense cost us the Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl bid. I hate to squash a good conspiracy theory, but the Big 12 had more interest in us winning that game than losing. That one second cost the Big 12 conference a second BCS bid, a payout of $17.5M.

There's a lot of speculation about what will happen with the offense as we head into next season. The two biggest questions involves coaches. Will Shawn Watson be retained? Should Barney Cotton be fired? Before I speculate on either, let's take a look at the regular season's statistics.

Offensive Statistics

Rush YPG 141.23 (68/6)
Rush YPC 3.96 (71/6)
Rush TDS 18 (67/7)
Pass YPG 175.9 (101/11)
Pass YPA 6.7 (87/9)
Pass TDS 15 (76/10)
Pass Efficiency 122.30 (83/8)
Total Offense 317.2 (102/11)
Scoring Offense 24.5 (80/8)

Obviously two things stand out, the passing yardage per game at 101st, and the total offense at 102nd.


The other statistics look better only because the aforementioned are so horrific. We finished in the lower half of all other offensive statistics nationally. That's a pretty lousy offense.


Defensive Statistics

Rush YPG 94.69 (11/4)
Rush YPC 2.77 (7/3)
Rush TDS 7 (8/2)
Pass YPG 189.1 (25/3)
Pass YPA 5.4 (6/2)
Pass TDS 7 (2/1)
Total Defense 283.8 (9/3)
Scoring Defense 11.2 (2/1)

There's not much you can say here other than "Wow!". The fact that we gave up only seven passing touchdowns all season is just incredible.

The Details

3rd Down Conversions (Pctg) 37.16 (79/8)
Red Zone Conversions (Score %) 80.43 (69/8)
First Downs (Per Game)
 15.9 (113/12)
Turnover Margin +4 (45/6)
Sacks – Total 42 (2/1)
Sacks Per Game 3.23 (3/2)
Tackles for Loss – Total 89 (14/3)
Tackles for Loss – Per Game 6.85 (23/3)
Sacks Allowed – Total 19 (43/5)
Sacks Allowed Per Game 1.46 (39/5)
Punting (Avg) 41.46 (45/5)
Punt Returns 11.34 (34/4)
Kickoffs (Avg) 68.30 (1/1)
Kickoff Returns 23.31 (34/5)
Penalties (Yds/G) 64.5 (102/7)

Nebraska did fairly well in kick and punt returns thanks to the services of Niles Paul. The guy showed that he is a playmaker, especially during the Big 12 Championship game when he provided a 43-yard punt return and a 42-yard kick return. Unfortunately, he had only one reception for four yards because Zac Lee proved incapable of getting him the ball. More on that in a bit.

The second thing that stands out are the penalties. This was a problem early in the season and plagued the Cornhuskers throughout the entire season. You could attribute the Virginia Tech and Texas loss to penalties. Remember that at Virginia Tech two touchdowns were called back due to penalties, and then there was Larry Asante's horse collar tackle at the end of the game that put Texas within field goal range.

First downs, ugh. 113th in the nation and dead last in the Big 12. When you think about it for a minute, there wasn't  a single offensive player that was the go-to guy when it came to picking up first downs. No receiver performed consistently enough and/or Zac Lee's passes were off target. Even Roy Helu, who didn't have too bad a season, couldn't be counted on to pick up short yardage throughout the season. Rex Burkhead might be that guy next year, but injuries kept him from further development.

Zac Lee

I don't mean to single out Lee as the cause for all our offensive problems, but the fact is he had a lot to do with them. Below are his passing stats for the season.

Opponent Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating
Fla. Atlantic 22 15 68.2 213 9.7 1 2 170.42
Arkansas St. 35 27 77.1 340 9.7 0 4 196.46
@ 12 Virginia Tech 30 11 36.7 136 4.5 2 0 61.42
La.-Lafayette 18 15 83.3 238 13.2 0 1 212.72
@ Missouri 33 14 42.4 158 4.8 0 3 112.64
Texas Tech 22 16 72.7 128 5.8 0 0 121.6
Iowa St. 37 20 54.1 248 6.7 3 0 94.14
@ Baylor 0 0 - 0 - 0 0 -
Oklahoma 9 5 55.6 35 3.9 0 1 124.9
@ Kansas 21 13 61.9 196 9.3 0 0 140.31
Kansas St. 19 13 68.4 166 8.7 1 1 148.65
@ Colorado 14 9 64.3 73 5.2 0 1 131.66
 2 Texas 19 6 31.6 39 2.1 3 0 17.25
Totals 279 164 58.8 1970 7.1 10 13 126.29

First of all, a 17.25 quarterback rating for the Texas game.... well, it's beyond horrible. I mentioned Niles Paul's playmaking abilities earlier, but in the Big 12 title game, it looked as if Lee just chucked the ball up in the air because that's what the play called for. There seemed to be little concern for where it was going, other than the general vicinity of our receiver, and that's why he had three interceptions.

I don't understand why Lee didn't make any progress throughout the season. He looked fine early in the season (admittedly against Sun Belt teams), and his performance at Virginia Tech could be written off as a quarterback making his first start on the road against a ranked opponent. The rest of the season, though, is pretty disappointing. Chalk it up to a lack of confidence, whatever, but at the end of season, it wasn't good.

As for Shawn Watson and Barney Cotton - I've moved that into another article as it became fairly long and deserved it's own space. It'll publish later today.