This game was a flip flop of some earlier efforts by the Huskers. In this one, we witnessed a reasonably good (quite good actually) offensive performance but watched the defense get turned inside out and sideways.
The havoc stats (interceptions, fumbles forced, tackles for loss) have largely become an aberration rather than a noticeable perk of the defense. The pass rush is still non-existent, although we knew that coming into the season.
There is clearly a lack of trust in this system right now. Either players don’t trust what they are being asked to do or don’t trust the person next to them and are hedging (losing leverage or putting their eyes in the wrong place, etc.). When that disintegrates, it makes it hard for coaches to call plays as well. Trust isn’t fixed during a bye week.
Color-Coded Pile of Numbers
The red zone is brutal for Nebraska on both sides of the ball. Fumbles and no healthy field goal kicker probably make it seem a bit worse than it really is for the offense, but those are the realities of 2019 and they matter.
Field position continues to be a major bugaboo as well. Indiana’s average starting field position was 15 yards better for Indiana than Nebraska. Indiana started on their 37 and Nebraska on their 22, on average. Obviously the scoop fumble return for 68 yards by Stallings skews that, but that could be the play that made the difference in a seven point game.
Looking Ahead to Purdue
Purdue is going to look to pass and you can bet they are looking at what Indiana did to get the Blackshirts all discombobulated. Plus, Purdue will probably have the players to add a few other wrinkles too. Whether Rondale Moore plays or not, we are likely to know early if Chinander has gotten his ship righted, at least a bit, after last weekend.
The Boilermaker defense is giving up a lot of yards and points, especially in the pass game, but they are pretty decent on third down and in the red zone. The Huskers’ big play style of offense (pass or rush) might be needed in this one. I honestly don’t think it matters which quarterback plays right now for Nebraska - Martinez, Vedral or McCaffrey. All three are hobbled which may limit the QB run game and force Frost to look to his backs and receivers to carry the load.
Purdue is also a more disciplined team than Nebraska in terms of penalties. They aren’t giving away a lot of free yards through the zebras. The Huskers’ propensity for drive-stalling penalties compared to the Boilers’ relative discipline in that area could be a bigger factor than we’d like on Saturday.
My guess - expect a shootout. Who wins? The team that wins the turnover margin. Both teams are pretty bad at that, so this one could be a race to the bottom.
Go Big Red. Hang on to the Damn Ball.