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Numbers, Statistics and Lies: Bye Week Edition

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If a team makes progress but doesn’t win the games...is it progress at all?

Nebraska v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

NSL is a weekly dive into statistics. This is not advanced stats; only basic stuff that is cherry-picked based on my whims this week. The numbers the chicken entrails point to carefully selected for further analysis are compared to the eye test. About that ‘eye test’, you should know that I usually forget to DVR the games and even when I do, I have so much stuff going on that I don’t have time to rewatch them. I also think I might need glasses. You’ve been warned.

You have heard that old question, If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound? This Husker team feels a little bit like that, If a team makes progress but doesn’t win games, is it really moving forward?

I don’t know. I’m a scientist, not a philosopher.

Numbers vs Minnesota

If you look at the stats vs Minnesota, you would get the impression that it was a close game. Total yards were 396 for Minnesota vs 377 for Nebraska. The Huskers averaged 4.4 yards/carry to Minnesota’s 4.2 ypc. Nebraska averaged 7.3 yards/attempt and 13.4 yards/completion while the Gophers averaged 8.6 and 10.2. In field goals, Minnesota was 0-1 while Nebraska was 1-2. Punting yards were incredibly similar as were kickoffs.

Adrian Martinez was sacked once and Tanner Morgan twice. Nebraska registered seven tackles for loss while the Gophers had five. Morgan was not hurried at all by the Blackshirts while Martinez was hurried four times.

The score was even close, but the game wasn’t that close and anyone who watched knows that. There is one stat that I think tells the story of this game.

22 to 38

Minnesota possessed the ball for 38 minutes while Nebraska only had it for 22 minutes.

Normally, I don’t look at time of possession as a major statistic. It tells a little bit about a team’s offensive identity. It tells a little bit about how hard a team’s defense is working.

But in this game, it explains a lot.

Minnesota’s starting lineup included six offensive linemen. Their defense started with five defensive backs. They used the big boys up front to play ball control offense and keep the rock away from the Husker offense. When on defense, they again trusted their big guys up front to slow down Husker rush game and put extra DBs on the field to keep Adrian from getting good looks at receivers.

21 of 25

Another telling statistic of this game was the accuracy of each QB.

Tanner Morgan was 21 of 25 in the pass game. Two of his ‘incompletions’ were actually caught - by Huskers.

Adrian Martinez was only 18-33 (55%) in the pass game. He didn’t get a lot of time to read the field and he had no running lanes.

Minnesota has been a run-heavy team up to this point, but they didn’t need to pass much. With their top two running backs out and a bye week to prepare, they came up with an excellent game plan - one not very many teams could execute. They put extra offensive lineman in the game and passed out of those looks. An experienced QB in Tanner Morgan answered the call and Nebraska’s defense was off balance the entire game.

Three and Zero

Nebraska only committed three penalties. They also committed zero turnovers (although you can call that safety a turnover if you want to). Other losses this season were attributed to boneheaded mistakes on the field - penalties and turnovers. Nebraska got outcoached in this game. Plain and simple.

Color-Coded Pile of Numbers

The red zone continues to be an issue on both sides of the ball. Sacks are also an issue as Adrian is getting taken down more than anyone would like and the Blackshirts aren’t getting to opposing quarterbacks much. We knew that might be the case for both going into this season. A young offensive line and the lack of a true pass rusher show up in the color-coded pile.

Season Statistics of Interest

The red line in the graph below is the average starting field position for Nebraska in each game this season while the blue line is the average for opponents.

I don’t know if this graph means a whole lot because small numbers make differences look big, but I feel like the special teams for Nebraska has stabilized a bit the past three weeks. This graph merely confirmed what I thought I was seeing. Scott Frost has said that the coverage units were playing well but that the specialists were the issue earlier in the season. I disagree with that a little. I think the coverage units have shored up their efforts and we are seeing numbers between 25 and 30 more consistently now. To me, that means Nebraska is setting its offense up in a more predictable place and keeping opponents from breaking through as often. I like this trend, assuming it is a real trend at all.

Individual Stats (Defense)

Leading tacklers

  • Luke Reimer 67
  • Nick Henrich 65
  • JoJo Domann 50
  • Deontai Williams 46
  • Quinton Newsome 40
  • Garrett Nelson 39

Tackles for loss

  • Garrett Nelson 9
  • JoJo Domann 8

Interceptions

  • Deontai Wililams 4

Pass breakups

  • Cam Taylor-Britt 6
  • Luke Reimer 4
  • Deontai Williams 3

Sacks

  • Garrett Nelson 2.5
  • JoJo Domann 2
  • Pheldarius Payne 2

Forced Fumbles

  • JoJo 2

Individual Stats (Offense)

Leading rusher

  • Adrian Martinez (sigh) 433
  • Rahmir Johnson 391
  • Jaquez Yant 190
  • Markese Stepp 159
  • Gabe Ervin, Jr. 124
  • Sevion Morrison 116
  • Zavier Betts 109

Leading receiver

  • Samori Toure 521
  • Austin Allen 343
  • Omar Manning 230
  • Rahmir Johnson 175
  • Levi Falck 155
  • Oliver Martin 147

We’ll be back next week with a Purdue preview. Have a great week Corn Nation!