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Nebraska Football: Numbers, Statistics and Lies Week 8

A dive into the Husker books, kneejerk analysis and why you should not believe everything the numbers are trying to tell you.

Gallery: Huskers March on to 7-0 David McGee

For those of you new to this series, this is not an advanced stats article. This is just basic stuff related to the previous week’s performance and how the Huskers stand in the nation and the conference.

We expected Purdue’s rush defense to roll over and die, but our injured offensive line had a hard time opening holes and holding blocks. The Blackshirts got torched through the air in the first half but returned to lockdown form in the second half. All in all, a win is a win and we’ll take it.

Our upcoming opponent should look very familiar to Nebraska fans as the 2016 Badgers strongly resemble the 2009 Huskers. The Badgers defense, much like the Ndamukong Suh-led Blackshirts squeeze the life out of the opponent and drag them into something resembling WWI trench warfare. Also like the 2009 Huskers, the Badgers have struggled at times putting points on the board with their offense.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies

Number: 24

Statistic: The Boilermakers netted 24 yards rushing on 22 attempts for an average of 1.1 yards per carry. The Blackshirt rush defense in the past two weeks has gone from 55th in FBS (allowing 152 yards per game) to 27th (allowing 124 yards per game on the ground).

Sidenote: The rush defense improvement is nearly the exact opposite trajectory as the pass defense. Lockdown U has gone from 31st in FBS allowing 195 passing yards per game two weeks ago to 55th allowing 218 yards per game.

Lie: The Badgers are in for some tough sledding this weekend.

None of us are [hopefully] delusional enough to think the Blackshirts can hold the Badger ground attack, spearheaded by their massive offensive line, to Purdue-like numbers.

There are several reasons why the Husker rush defense looked so good this past Saturday. 1) Purdue is miserable running the ball all the time (#116 in FBS). 2) They didn’t have to run the ball in the first half because Blough was torching the secondary and once they got behind in the 4th quarter, they didn’t try to run the ball. 3) Blough took 3 sacks which lost 32 yards and college football is stupid for attributing sack yardage to the rush game instead of the pass game. 4) Carlos Davis is getting better every game. 5) The linebackers are finally rounding into form.

Purdue’s Markell Jones carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards (3.6 ypc). Those numbers won’t set the world on fire by any means, but there were a few holes to be had. It is good to see Coach Parella is getting some good play out of his youngsters because he is probably going to need to rotate guys so they can hold up against Clement and his stablemates.

Let’s also hope that Coach Bray has his guys prepared for jet sweeps. (They say if you worry about something, it probably won’t happen, right? Right?!?)

Numbers - Statistics - Lies II

Number: 43

Statistic: In his three unblocked punts, Caleb Lightbourn averaged 43 yards which is a considerable improvement over his season average up until now.

Lie: The Husker punt game is showing signs of life!

Well, maybe there is some progress as this time the blocked punt still traveled 28 yards. Unfortunately Nebraska is now one of only two teams in FBS (UNLV) to have allowed three blocked punts.

The Huskers also still hold the cellar spot in net punting in FBS. Bright side, the average climbed to over 30 net yards per punt. Sigh. Also on the bright side, Lightbourn showed off a nice rugby style punt and dropped three inside the 20 yard line. On the not-so-bright side, the punt return defense continues to allow too many yards to returners.

We are facing a tough defense this weekend. If the game comes down to field position as determined by our punting afraid. Be very afraid.

Obligatory Pile of Numbers

The Husker offense had a chance to pad the stats against a poor defense this past weekend but ended up just fighting for their life. The red zone problems are slowly getting better. Whether that continues against the upcoming schedule remains to be seen. Jordan Westerkamp’s return will be a very welcome sight in that area.

Injuries are clearly hampering the offense, but every team has those this time of year. Tommy looked a little more like himself against Purdue even as the offensive tackles clearly did not. Here’s hoping some time with the training staff helps a lot of guys out this week.

Non-Husker Numbers and Statistics

How about that Oklahoma - Texas Tech matchup?

Tech’s quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, threw for 734 yards on 88 attempts (52 completions). There are seven qualified quarterbacks in FBS that have not thrown for that much yet this entire season.

By way of comparison, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, in six games, has attempted 115 passes, completing 65 for 877 yards. He has shared time with Bart Houston, so he isn’t going to have the numbers a full-season starter would have. If you are curious, Tommy Armstrong is at 1611 yards (103 completions/186 attempts).

Oklahoma’s pass defense was already pretty poor before this game. Prior to the Tech air attack they were at #107 in FBS allowing 277 yards per game. This week they are down to #120 and their average climbed to 343 yards per game.

In 2015, when the Husker pass defense was in the cellar, it took some significant improvements to climb even a few spots over the last few games. Moving 20 spots because of one game is extreme indeed (even more than the large jump the Husker rush defense made this week).

Husker Haiku

Badgers at home rock
Camp Randall nightmares in past
End them Saturday