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Numbers, Statistics and Lies: Purdue Edition

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Team building, Jekyll, Hyde, and who needs third downs anyway?

Purdue v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

At my day job I am involved in a project that is teaching people how to work across disciplines to address complex challenges. Most of the people involved in the project are developing significant skills in a scientific disciplines, they are largely Masters and Ph.D. graduate students.

One of the things out project is trying to do is look outside of “hard” skills and identify the soft skills required to help people with different areas of expertise work together. Among those basic items required for a high-performing team are a shared vision, trust, and established guidelines and expectations.

These are nothing new to any of you. Husker fans have spent a few weeks discussing “buy-in” and accountability and listening to our coach do the same.

The bad news is that my experience and reading literature around this topic I inevitably see the phrase “longer than expected” when discussing the timeline around building that trust, accountability and shared vision.

Make no mistake, no one joins a team thinking that they won’t accomplish their goal. They have enthusiasm for this mission and what they need to do to get there. The problems come in when merging everyone’s individual vision into a shared one. The delays come when trying to do more than others trust you to do yet. The conflicts come when people are held accountable for something they didn’t know was part of the equation.

Scott Frost has the unenviable task of starting at the beginning and building that vision. To us, as Husker fans, the vision seems simple - win games. While that is the end goal, we know that “how” or “what” that goes into winning can vary. Some players may think we win games if they achieve a certain statistic. Some want to be good enough for the NFL and assume that is they are, they will help the team win games. While that is disguised as a shared vision, it clearly is not.

Building trust may be the hardest. It requires people to be vulnerable, to share their mistakes openly and accept input to get better. It is especially hard when you have thousands of rabid fans on Twitter trying to “help” with the accountability by letting a player know about every mistake, misstep, or general impression of that player’s abilities.

It is not often that my real life and my football life intersect. This season feels like one of those times.

Color Coded Pile of Numbers

Basically, in the color-coded pile, the offense got a little better and the defense got a little worse. That’s going to happen when the defense gives up 42 points and 516 yards of offense on a given Saturday.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies

Number: 1:6

Statistic: The Huskers had one, ONE, red zone scoring opportunity (which they turned into a touchdown) while the Boilermakers had six.

Lie: Ugggh. This team can’t move the ball

The Huskers racked up 582 yards of total offense against Purdue. They averaged 6.6 yards per carry in rushing offense behind a career day from Devine Ozigbo. Those are typically numbers that can win you games. So how come the Huskers only got 28 points out of all that?

It doesn’t help when you are the most penalized team in FBS football and your special teams unit is largely in the red category. Starting field position is an issue (Purdue’s average starting position was on their 31 yard line while Nebraska’s was on their 22). Turnovers have been an issue as well, but this game didn’t hinge on that.

The Huskers were 4 of 12 on third down conversions and 0 of 3 on fourth down conversions. This team can move the ball in chunks but when they have to grind out the yards that depend on blocking technique, pushing the other guy back, timing, or other items you might put into the category of “things disciplined teams do well”....yeah.

Just imagine what this offense could be like when Frost gets some hosses developed in the trenches and gets everyone on offense doing most of the little things right? This could be fun in a couple years.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies II

Number: 36:24

Statistic: Purdue owned the time of possession 36 minutes to 24 for Nebraska. In the second quarter, Nebraska possessed the ball for 3:33 and in the third quarter they held it for 4:04.

Lie: This is the offense’s fault too.

First, time of possession is a terrible statistic to measure for team success. I only note this because of the huge disparity in this game (and the entire season if you look at the color-coded pile). With that said, this is a total team failure. The offense didn’t sustain drives, and the defense couldn’t get off the field, especially in the second half. Special teams doesn’t get off the hook because they aren’t helping the offense start in a good place or the defense flip the field.

If you look at the color-coded pile, the offense is marginally worse at converting third downs than the defense is at allowing them. But both are bad.

The second quarter of this game was a punt-fest for the Huskers but the third quarter included two touchdowns in that short possession time. The Huskers still ran more offensive plays (81) than Purdue (79) during the entire game. Both sides of the ball are Jekyll and Hyde at this point.

So, what say you Corn Nation? What did you notice? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!