2014 Nebraska Season
First, let's look at last season. Sure, Nebraska was under a different coaching staff and Ameer Abdullah was on the team, but let's take a look. Ameer Abdullah was a running back that comes to a program once in a lifetime. His speed and ability to break tackles made him one of the best running backs in the country. Just watch him on Sunday's with the Detroit Lions. Abdullah had 264 carries for 1611 yards last season. He also had 19 touchdowns. What if Abdullah didn't play last season? What if he decided to go to the NFL earlier? Would Nebraska's offense struggle? The simple answer is yes. But Nebraska went as Abdullah went last season. Look at the Miami game, Abdullah had 35 carries for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns. Arguably one of his best games in his career. Tommy Armstrong also ran the ball well last season. Armstrong was the second best runner on the team. Armstrong had 145 carries for 705 yards and 6 touchdowns. Nebraska was able to win 9 games last season. But if Nebraska didn't run the ball like they did, would they still have won 9 games? Probably not.
The Mike Riley Era
At the beginning of the season, Mike Riley said the offense would work to the current teams strengths. In other words, not putting a square peg in a round hole. The PAC 12 Conference has some great passing teams. Go watch a 'PAC 12 After Dark Game'. Watch the 2015 Oregon - Arizona State game. Hell, even look at Washington State under Mike Leach. These teams love to pass the ball, and it works for them. But it doesn't work at Nebraska. Bill Callahan proved that the West Coast Offense doesn't work at Nebraska. The Big Ten Conference is grind it out, smash mouth football. Look at Wisconsin and Iowa, Nebraska's biggest rivals. They run the ball and control the clock. And would you look at that? They win football games. Why doesn't Mike Riley understand this? Sure he's adjusting to a new team and conference but it's not that hard to figure out. If Nebraska ran the ball more, they are probably not 3-6 this season. Sure, that's not the only reason Nebraska is struggling this season, but it's definitely contributing towards it. Nebraska can't pass the ball 50 times a game and expect to win. Husker fans knew there would be an adjustment with the new coaching staff, but 9 games through the season, it should look better.
Running Back By Committee
This is the biggest reason why Nebraska's running game isn't where it should be. Nebraska can't find their running back. Between Terrell Newby, Devine Ozigbo, Andy Janovich and Imani Cross, Nebraska can't decide who should get the most carries. This makes it difficult for a running back to gain momentum through out a game. And when the running game isn't there, it forces Nebraska to be one-demensional and pass the ball. This helps the opposing team's defense drop their linebackers and safeties and stop Nebraska's offense completely. Thus, losing more games than Husker fans are used to. Like I said earlier, this isn't the only reason Nebraska is losing games but it is contributing to the problem. What if Nebraska had found their running back? For example, Terrell Newby starts running the ball with authority. This helps Nebraska's offense stays on the field longer. Nebraska gives their defense time to rest on the sideline. Less 3 and Outs for the Nebraska offense. All of these reasons help Nebraska win more games.
What Needs To Change?
The simple answer is run the ball more. Nebraska is in danger of missing a bowl game for the third time in 47 seasons. Michigan State comes into Lincoln with their star quarterback Connor Cook, on a mission. Michigan State is undefeated and trying to get a spot in the College Football Playoff. Nebraska needs to keep that dangerous Michigan State offense off the field, give the defense rest. This means Nebraska needs to run the ball. Find a running game and Nebraska just might have a chance in this game. Crazier things have happened in College Football. Sure this season hasn't gone well for Husker fans, but a win over Michigan State could start some momentum. This means Nebraska needs to run the ball just like in the glory days. It starts now.