Well, the first half didn’t suck.
Husker fans have been coming to grips, very very slowly, with the realization that this rebuild will take longer than we thought. And when we come to grips with that, we are confronted with the reality that it will take even longer.
We heard all during fall camp that the defense was ahead of the offense. We have seen some areas of improvement by the defense, but we now know that it was for real. This offense is not feeling well. Their problem? Youth.
I have watched this with the Husker women’s basketball team in recent seasons. They have been among the least experienced teams (in terms of # of starts or returning minutes played). It has certainly showed as I keep saying “this team shouldn’t be this bad.” Last season, Nebraska’s WBB freshman class (ranked #20 as a recruiting class) was 2nd in the NCAA in terms of points scored. That team failed to qualify for postseason play. There is talent, but we often forget that talent needs seasoning.
Color Coded Pile of Numbers
The offensive section is, well, offensive. There isn’t much this offense is doing well right now. There is some green in the passing game. Part of the high rank in passing yards/completion is that the OL has (at times) given Adrian Martinez time to throw the deep ball. I counted a number of plays on Saturday where Martinez had four or five seconds to scan the field. He was also sacked six times, so.../insert “who knows” emoji. JD Spielman and Maurice Washington both eclipsed 100 yards receiving with Wan’Dale Robinson the only other receiver to record stats. The lack of production from the receivers is worrying to say the least.
The running game averaged 3.9 yards/carry on Saturday for 179 total yards. That isn’t horrible, but it isn’t Nebraska football. Maurice Washington averaged 5.1 yards/carry but only netted 77 yards (with one carry going for 40). I don’t think it is a coincidence that Nebraska is having a tough time rushing between the tackles AND they have new, young players on the interior of the OL. (Insightful analysis alert!)
In a development EVERY Husker fan predicted (yes, sarcasm) special teams continues to be a bright spot in the color-coded pile. The missed field goal isn’t reflected in those numbers, but I don’t think Coach Frost really had any business trotting the punter out to attempt a game-winning 48 yard field goal in overtime. Yes, I am armchair quarterbacking, but I’d rather trust a longshot Martinez-to-Spielman pass (with the potential for pass interference) than a long field goal by a backup kicker.
The Blackshirts continue to pile up the ‘havoc’ stats - sacks, turnovers and tackles for loss. Again, the riches were largely spread around. Three sacks by three different players (Mohamed Barry, Carlos Davis, and Caleb Tannor) and eight more tackles for loss by five other players. Cam Taylor-Britt forced two fumbles, Lamar Jackson picked off one pass and Luke Reimer recovered a fumble.
It should be noted that the Colorado ground game, which went wild in Week 1 vs Colorado State was even more anemic than the Huskers’ at 2.4 yards/carry and 89 yards net rushing.
The defense is giving up a lot of yards through the air. The bright spot was taht Laviska Shenault was kept largely in check (31 yards on five receptions) but other Buffaloes stepped up for 340 more yards through the air.
Northern Illinois by the Colors
The Huskies are a bit like Nebraska in that their greatest offensive success thus far has been through the air. The new and improved havoc Blackshirts look to have opportunities to get after the quarterback.
The Northern Illinois defense looks to be a solid unit against the rush (Sigh) and adequate against the pass. They haven’t generated much pass rush thus far and opponents have been in business once they reach the red zone. [Checks opponents...Northern Illinois who didn’t reach the red zone much and the #11 team in the country in Utah]. That red zone stat might be a lie in that the Huskies have played one overmatched opponent and were overmatched in their other game.
What do you notice in the color-coded piles that I missed? Let me know in the comments!