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Nebraska Football’s Numbers, Statistics, and Lies: Northern Illinois Edition

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The one where the defense was not the problem. Warning, content is intended for mature audiences only.

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

For those of you new to this series, N,S,&L is about basic stats and where the Huskers rank relative to other FBS teams and Big Ten teams. We then 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!

Color-Coded Pile of Numbers

Peeking ahead at the Huskers schedule, bowl eligibility is probably the ceiling for this team in 2017. I would love to be proven wrong, but we are witnessing a coaching effort as bad as the first half of the 2015 season.

The silver lining? In 2015, the coaches adjusted and began to put their personnel in better situations. In 2016, we witnessed some really good work by the staff in adjusting to their players and scheming around deficiencies as much as they could.

How quickly will 2017’s staff learn this lesson? The answer probably makes the difference between a losing season and a mediocre one.

I’m not ignoring the possible need for personnel changes on the field. I only feel like complaining about one thing this week. It’s a long season, I need to keep a few things on the shelf to write about later.

If you need me, I will be in my blanket fort with a coloring book and questioning many of my life decisions.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies I

Number: 7

The defense only gave up 7 points this week. In most games, that is a winning effort.

Statistic: The Blackshirts moved up to 92nd (last week = 122nd) out of 130 FBS teams in terms of total defense. The pass defense made it to 113th after ranking 129th (yards per game) last week. The rush defense even made it up near the top 13 in FBS moving up to 46th after ranking 69th last week.

The defense held NIU to 213 yards of total offense and 2.7 yards/rush (85 total rushing yards). They even held the Huskies to 8.5 yards/pass completion. They forced 8 punts and only allowed 3 of 13 on 3rd down conversions (note the green colors on that part of the chart).

Truth or lies? Here’s where I admit that I didn’t watch the game and was instead taking a campus tour of South Dakota State with Son 1 (with ESPN gamecast on my phone). I fit right into the crowd of kids staring at my screen while the nice tour guide kept trying to get us to pay attention to the library and compare the relative merits of different dorms.

The Jackrabbits annihilated Drake 51-10, so my football weekend wasn’t a complete bust. (I know there are Cowboys fans around here so I won’t mention the Broncos.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah, this means you have to help me out here Corn Nation. Do the Blackshirts look like they are rounding into form? Was this defensive performance truth or lies?

Numbers - Statistics - Lies II

Number: 263; 109.8

The Nebraska passing offense is averaging 263 yards/game with a team passing efficiency of 109.8.

Statistic: Nebraska’s passing offense is on every part of the spectrum when it comes to basic stats. 263 yards/game is good for a respectable 47th place in FBS. Unfortunately, the team passing efficiency ranks 112th. The scoring offense is averaging nearly 32 points/game which is good for a middle-of-the-road 62nd in FBS.

The Huskers went from tied for #1 in FBS in week 1 (0 INTs) to #117 in week 2 (4 INTs) and now rank 128th (out of 130) in number of interceptions thrown (7 INTs).

The pass efficiency stat gives credit for yards, touchdowns, and completions but penalizes heavily for interceptions. The Husker offense is able to move the ball and score points, but until they can solve that completions-to-the-other-team problem, they will stay on the wrong end of the color-coded pile of numbers.

Truth or lies? I actually caught the first part of the game on my phone while driving to Brookings. The offense is a mishmash of dysfunction right now, statistically as well as with the “eye test”. Tanner Lee needs to be rebuilt, from a confidence standpoint, and the offensive line needs some nastiness.

With a good set of backs and receivers, along with a newly-found tight end, there are tools to work with. I’m going to punt and call this one 50/50. This coaching staff has adjusted and improved before, but they’ve also made some head-scratching choices in game planning and game management. I really don’t know which way this one will go.

It can’t get much worse, can it? (That was rhetorical, we know it can, but hope it doesn’t.)

Numbers - Statistics - Lies III

Number: 94

The “Stanley Morgan march towards 1000 yards” train is still on the tracks with a six-catch and 94 yard performance.

Statistic: Nebraska has never had a 1000 yard/season receiver. #8 sits at 299 yards after three games.

As a matter of fact, Nebraska has only had three receivers top 900 yards in a season. Those are Johnny Rodgers (1972; 942 yards), Nate Swift (2008; 941), and Jordan Westerkamp (2015; 918).

Truth or lies? If Stanley keeps up this pace, would be on track for 1196.4 yards this season. He has to average 78 yards per game throughout the rest of the regular season to reach 1000 yards. He has to average 67 yards/game to reach the 900 yard club. A Big Ten championship game and bowl game would add additional chances, but the former is almost certainly out of the question and the latter is not going to be easy.

So can he keep this up? Even if he stays healthy, 78 yards per game is still a pretty significant level of production. However, it isn’t crazy to think he could average that. If this offense was humming along, I would definitely lean toward “truth”. Right now, it looks like a mess that could continue to rack up yards without many points, so also a “truth” lean. (Is Diaco coaching the offense too?) If Langsdorf and Co. make some significant changes, especially ones that emphasize the ground game in an effort to rebuild a broken QB, we may be looking at a “lie”. Time will tell.

While I’m excited about Stanley’s chance at Husker history I should also point out that the first of Tanner Lee’s pick sixes on Saturday was a pass intended for De’Mornay Pierson-El. The defender who made the pick should have been blocked by Stanley. Not relevant to his yardage totals, but if he whiffs on more assignments, it could affect his use on the field. Right now, I have no reason to think it was anything other than a one-time thing, but I admit that I haven’t been watching for that either.

So, tell me Corn Nation....what did your eyes tell you in relation to the numbers? What did I see right and what did I miss?