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Nebraska Football’s Numbers, Statistics, and Lies: Purdue Edition

The one where the Huskers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NS&L is about basic stats and where the Huskers rank relative to other FBS teams and Big Ten teams. We apply the “eye test” to figure out if the numbers are lying or not. If you noticed any stats or made observations that aren’t covered here, add them in the comments!

It looked like a loss for most of the game. Until it didn’t. By then, there were only 14 seconds left.

If you were like me, you expected something terrible (for the Huskers) to happen in those 14 seconds. But it didn’t.

It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t make anyone feel great. But it was a win and that is better than a loss.

Color-Coded Pile of Numbers

Yikes. Not a single green cell on the defensive portion of the color coded pile.

Not surprisingly, the pass offense moved into green territory after a 400+ yard performance by Tanner Lee. Also not surprising is the drop in the rush offense. Coach Riley and Co. did what they needed to win the game Saturday, so I won’t beat the “run the dang ball” horse. It was telling that his Monday press conference came as close to pointing a finger as I’ve ever heard from our nice coach.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies I

Number: 1.5 and 5.2

Nebraska averaged 1.5 yards/rush while Purdue averaged 5.2 yards/rush.

Statistic: Ugly and uglier.

Prior to playing Nebraska, Purdue averaged 4.43 yards/rush and was the 84th ranked rush offense in FBS and 9th in the Big Ten. Nebraska allowed a relatively poor rushing offense to improve on its season production by nearly 34 yard per carry.

The Husker rush offense? Twenty-seven net yards are not going to cut it. Tanner Lee’s 431 yards passing were even more surprising when you consider how many of those yards came out of play action looks. The Husker run game was non-existent and play action was one of the best options in the playbook. That is not supposed to happen.

Truth or lies?

Truth. The linebackers and safeties are the walking (actually, limping) wounded and the defensive line can only do so much. The offensive line is the walking wounded and was struggling before becoming a mish mash of whichever bodies still have two arms and two legs.

Football is the ultimate team sport. A coach can do a lot of good things, but if they do one thing badly enough, the whole thing falls apart. In Mike Riley’s case, offensive line coaching and/or development could be the rotten apple that spoils the entire barrel.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies II

Number: 11-2 and 13-2

The Nebraska offense has fumbled the ball 11 times but only lost two of them.

Nebraska opponents have fumbled the ball 13 times, but the Blackshirts have only recovered two of them.

Statistic: I consulted one of Corn Nation’s own super stats gurus, Paul Dalen, for information on % of fumbles that are lost on average vs those that are recovered by a college offense. So far, there have been 1575 fumbles in the 2017 college football season (FBS + FCS). 762 of those (48.3%) have been recovered by the offense while 813 (51.6%) have been recovered by the defense.

It is safe to say that Nebraska is an extreme outlier on both offense and defense when it comes to recovering fumbles.

Truth or lies? For the offense, the high rate of recovery is a Lie. The Huskers are getting lucky with fumbles (not so much with interceptions). This is one of those wonky things that eventually regresses to the median. Wasn’t it just 3 or 4 years ago that we were bemoaning the bad luck we had in this area?

For the defense, I’ll call the low rate of recovery - Truth. Whether through coaching, player instincts, or some combination, opportunistic defenses take the ball away from opponents. (In reality, this is also largely a “luck” thing but my eyes tell me that this year’s defense is not aggressively trying to turn the other team over.)

Stanley Morgan March Toward 1000 Updater

Number: 112

Stanley accumulated 112 yards against Purdue to bring his season total to 652 yards.

He has to average 87 yards per game to be the first Husker receiver to reach 1000 yards for the season and 62 yards/game to become the fourth Husker to reach 900 yards in a season. He is currently averaging around 93 yards/game (he sat out one game due to injury and that game is not factored in).

Spielman Alert

J.D. Spielman has accumulated 545 yards receiving in 2017. This is a really impressive number for a redshirt freshman. I had trouble finding out where this ranks in Husker [freshman] history, but sent an email to the athletic department. Based on what they sent me back, those records are not kept officially, but their search suggests that Spielman’s yardage total currently ranks second to the 641 yards posted by Nate Swift in 2005.

J.D.’s 37 receptions are also second to Swift’s 45 as a freshman. Ranking #3 on both of those lists is Kenny Bell with 32 receptions and 461 yards in his freshman year. Thanks to the guys at for sending me this info!

Some Random Stuff from Around the Big Ten

  • Chris Weber leads Husker defenders in 2017 in pass breakups with 5. Josh Kalu is next with three.
  • Ohio State is averaging 571 yards of total offense per game. This is nearly 130 yards per game better than the second best B1G offense (Wisconsin) at 443 yards/game.
  • The Michigan State (89.8) and Wisconsin (93.8) defenses are holding opponents under 100 rushing yards per game.
  • Wisconsin’s defense has grabbed four pick-sixes on 12 total interceptions. Minnesota and Michigan have each grabbed two pick-sixes. Seven teams (Nebraska included) have one and four teams have none.
  • Michigan is holding opponents to converting only 23.6% of their third down tries. No other Big Ten team is under 30%. You’ll be surprised to see that Rutgers is second at 30.4%.