Nebraska Football: NU ReView, Nebraska 45, Bethune-Cookman 9

DSC07875

Nebraska’s replacement for the Akron game finally arrived, with FCS Bethune-Cookman coming to Lincoln. Head coach Scott Frost got what he wanted out of the game with a comfortable 45-9 win and an opportunity to play a lot of players that otherwise wouldn’t see the field. So in reviewing Nebraska’s win over the Wildcats …

THE GOOD

Taking Care of Business. Nebraska’s contest against Bethune-Cookman could not have gone more to script in terms of how Frost and co. would have wanted to see things unfold. Nebraska’s offense looked lethal, scoring with ease on every possession save one, and getting a special teams touchdown to boot.

Defensively, Nebraska was gouged a few times, but ultimately kept Bethune-Cookman out of the end zone until literally the last play of the game.

Party Like It’s 2012. Nebraska fans could be forgiven, watching the Bethune-Cookman game, in feeling like it had been a long time since they had seen something this comfortable. Nebraska led 38-3 at the half. The last time Nebraska had that big of a halftime lead?

September 22, 2012 – more than six years ago – when Nebraska held a 45-0 lead en route to a 73-7 dismantling of Idaho State.

Unscathed. At least at the time of this writing, there is no news of any significant injuries coming out of the Bethune-Cookman game. As a newly-confident Nebraska squad heads to Columbus for a litmus test on the program’s progress – and facing an Ohio State team coming off an ugly loss with a bye week to prepare – NU will need all the depth it can get.

THE BAD

The Fifth Possession. Yeah, you’re kinda scraping when you have to point at a specific possession for something bad. But that possession ended with a false start, two straight sacks, then Adrian Martinez throwing an ugly interception to Tydarius Peters.

If nothing else, that possession will give Nebraska’s coaches plenty to work on during the week’s practice. Well, that, and the prospect of playing Ohio State at the Horseshoe.

The Third Type of Liar. Nebraska only outgained Bethune-Cookman in total yardage 468-355. Bethune-Cookman held a significant advantage in time of possession, holding the ball for 35:23 compared to Nebraska’s 24:37.

If you just looked at those two stats, you’d think the game was relatively close, and maybe the Wildcats were able to pull some magic out.

The game … was not relatively close. Total yardage can frequently be a misleading statistic that, while useful at times, should always be read in context with the rest of the game. Just look at what Nebraska’s gaudy total yardage stats has gotten it in the first six games of the year.

As for time of possession, with Frost’s offensive scheme you can comfortably start ignoring that statistic. Here’s the time Nebraska’s scoring drives took against Bethune-Cookman: 2:23, 2:19, 2:26, 2:44, 2:36, 1:37. If Nebraska’s offense is working, it’s not on the field very long.

If you want stats that mean something, read Bill Connelly’s S&P+ work at SB Nation, which will help you use numbers to really get a better understanding of what’s happening on the football field.

A Bad Beat. For those of you who … invested in Nebraska as a 41.5 point favorite, the end of the game was less comfortable than the rest of us. At 45-3, Nebraska’s 42-point lead would still let you cash your ticket by the slimmest of margins.

And then Bethune-Cookman scored the garbage-y-est of garbage-time touchdowns, so much so that the officials didn’t even make the Wildcats kick the extra point.

They didn’t need to. With that last-gasp score, the Wildcats ended up with one of the latest and most frustrating back-door covers in recent history.

AND THE HOPE BEFORE THE STORM

Before the season started, Nebraska fans had basically written off the Ohio State game as unwinnable. If you had to schedule a wedding during football season, Ohio State week was the time to do it. Ohio Stadium has been a horror show for Nebraska in its last visits, and little about the 2018 version seemed likely to change that narrative.

But here we are. Nebraska is now 2-6. Ohio State is 7-1, but coming off a 29-point loss to Purdue. Could it be that the mighty Buckeyes are vulnerable, and Frost’s offensive wizardry can work some magic in Columbus?

There’s plenty arguing against that narrative. Urban Meyer, say what you will about his morality or his memory, is one of the great coaching minds of our generation, and he’s had a week to prepare his team. From a talent standpoint, Ohio State looks far more like Michigan, and we know what happened the last time Nebraska took the field against a squad like that. Heck, Frost hasn’t even won a road game as Nebraska head coach.

Still, Nebraska fans are going into Ohio State week with, if not confidence, at least curiosity. It’s games like this – and the ugly losses that followed – that were a massive factor in Bo Pelini losing his job. Frost, in year one, has at least got Nebraska fans thinking that something might be possible in Columbus.

GBR, baby.

Advertisements

Nebraska Football: ReViewing Cornhuskers’ Win over Minnesota by the Numbers

broken+chair

Finally.

After waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting), Nebraska finally got head coach Scott Frost his first win in charge of the Huskers, an emphatic 53-28 victory over Minnesota.

Ordinarily, we at the Double Extra Point have a particular formula for game review columns. But this time, I’m going to steal a bit from Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald and take some specific numbers and use them to get a little insight into how Nebraska performed in this game, and what it means for the rest of the season.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right, Sam?

3×100

Devine Ozigbo, 12 for 152. Adrian Martinez, 15 for 125. Maurice Washington, 14 for 109.

That’s three Nebraska ball-carriers with over 100 yards of rushing. Oh, by the way, Minnesota was no. 28 nationally in rushing defense coming into the contest. Sure, Nebraska fans were aching to see a win regardless of how it came. But seeing such a prolific rushing performance en route to the win had to add a little sweetness.

25-6

At 28-0 nearing the end of the first half, Memorial Stadium was rocking and, just for a moment, it felt like old times again for Nebraska fans. But Minnesota ripped off three quick scores, including a clever two-point conversion, and the Gophers had pulled to within six of Nebraska halfway through the third quarter.

So here was your challenge for Nebraska mentally. After last week’s collapse against Northwestern, and against the backdrop of a team which seemingly was conspiring to find new and achingly painful ways to lose, it was impossible to avoid the “here we go again” feeling. Could Nebraska really squander a 28-point lead, to Minnesota, at home?

Not this time. After Minnesota brought the score to 28-22, Nebraska outscored the Gophers 25-6, pulling away for a comfortable – and reassuring – victory.

81.32

For as successful as Nebraska was against Minnesota, it was a fight against field position. Nebraska’s average starting field position was its own 19 yard line (18.64, if you want to be picky, although of course there is no 18.64 yard line). Compare that to Minnesota’s average starting field position of its own 38 (!) yard line, and it makes Nebraska’s convincing victory all the more impressive.

1

That’s how many more plays Nebraska ran (73) than Minnesota (72) did. Nebraska was able to rack up 659 yards with those plays, however, compared to Minnesota’s 474 yards.

10,000

That’s how much the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy, born from the union of a mascot and a parody Twitter account and given new life by a GoFundMe account raising money for the Team Jack Foundation and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, has raised this year.

Sure, the Heroes Trophy would be awesome to bring back to Lincoln given Nebraska’s history with Iowa. But it’s still a sterile and corporate creation. And don’t get me started about the Freedom Trophy that looks to any rational observer like a sailboat.

So if nothing else, Nebraska has something to put in the trophy cabinet this year.

And if you want to donate to the cause, you can still do so here.

(Image above is from the Broken Chair GoFundMe page)

54-21

That was the score last year, with Minnesota’s mauling of Nebraska making it clear that Mike Riley would not return as head coach. While any win is euphoric (even generating an inappropriate Gatorade shower), returning the favor to Minnesota by a similar score had to be especially satisfying for anyone who made the trip to Minneapolis last year.

8/12

Coming into the game, Nebraska was no. 112 nationally in third-down conversions at 34.18 percent. That low percentage (along with penalties) is one of the prime reasons why a team that was regularly gaining over 500 yards of offense per game could be winless.

But today, Nebraska was 8-for-12 on third down conversions, helping to keep drives alive and NU’s offense on the field.

1

(Yes, I know this is the second time I’ve used a one for the number. Just pipe down and keep reading.)

In addition to third-down conversions, penalties have been Nebraska’s bugbear this year. Rather than focusing on the raw number – 6 for 43, a significant improvement – the more illustrative number might be the number of first downs – one – that Minnesota got off a penalty. That helps to understand that Nebraska didn’t give Minnesota a ton of help moving the ball and keeping drives alive – and we can see the difference in performance that results from such a change.

0

That’s the amount of originality that Iowa trolls fans had in co-opting the Cleveland Browns’ beer fridge idea. Now that Nebraska’s won, though, that nonsense is over (and Husker Fan can get a couple of free beers in the process.)

5

That’s the number of games left on Nebraska’s schedule. Three of those are home games, with road trips to Columbus and Iowa City looming.

After the Northwestern loss, the skies seemed very dark and it was hard to see how there could be any joy or hope left in Nebraska’s 2018 campaign. What a difference one game makes. Now that you’ve seen what Nebraska could like once a few things start clicking, the remainder of Nebraska’s schedule looks a little different.

After all, Purdue just demolished Ohio State, 48-20. While the likeliest outcome will be the Buckeyes coming off their bye week and being razor sharp against Nebraska in two weeks, at least now Husker Fan can dare to dream a little bit. Upset the Buckeyes in Columbus, and all of a sudden getting to six wins and a bowl game becomes a legitimate goal.

(And, yes, for the record, I did just take a win against Bethune-Cookman next week for granted. If Nebraska loses that game, y’all know whose fault it will be.)

Is Nebraska going on a six-game unbeaten run after losing its first six likely? Absolutely not. Ending the season with four wins would still be a positive accomplishment after the start of 2018.

But you can’t get to a six-game win streak without winning the first one. Now Nebraska has that win, and the taste of blood in its mouth. Seeing all that faith and hard work and culture change has finally paid tangible dividends. So long as the team doesn’t think that it’s done working – and I suspect Frost will be making very sure there is no laurel-resting this week – then this could make for quite a show down the stretch.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Assessing and Power Ranking the Cornhuskers’ 2018 Alternate Uniforms

2018 main

They’re heeeeeeeere …

Nebraska announced that it will be wearing its annual alternate uniform on Nov. 10 against Illinois on Veteran’s Day weekend. The uniform is intended to honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, as well as celebrate Memorial Stadium.

While there are any number of metrics available to grade uniforms (Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity does a great job with his), I’m a fan of the UniWatch Blog system. It’s very simple: Good or Stupid? Clear and gets right to the point. So, on to the analysis.

JERSEY

2018 jersey

This is gorgeous. The stripes on the front and back were very common sights on football uniforms at the time. The numerals call attention to the Stadium Clock, which you can see inside the stadium and is a true hidden gem of Nebraska lore. Plus, it’s really close to the uniform idea that a smart and particularly handsome analyst had. And the “In the Deed the Glory” reprinted on the back is truly fantastic, especially since the original inscription has been covered by the new East Stadium façade.

Good or Stupid? Really, really good.

PANTS

Hard to tell, as we really didn’t get a good look at the pants. Adidas refers to them as “buff” and supposed to resemble the original façade of Memorial Stadium. That likely means they’ll be some kind of tan. As long as it’s not too garish – and given that we didn’t see them at all, it’s likely there’s not much there to see – then they’ll be just fine.

Good or Stupid? Too early to tell, but probably good bordering on meh.

HELMET

2018 helment

OK, so bonus points for trying to take the premise to its logical conclusion. And if your goal is to recreate a 1923 uniform, then I guess trying to make your helmet look like a leather helmet is admirable as a concept.

But, seriously. No one is going to be giving you bonus points for historical authenticity. It’s ridiculous when the Green Bay Packers do it with their faux-leather pants. And it’s going to be ridiculous when Nebraska does it. The throwback is supposed to be an homage to 1923, not a slavish recreation. Heck, even looking at the 1923 University of Nebraska yearbook shows plenty of gorgeous art deco designs that could have been incorporated onto a helmet design.

Instead, we’re going to see eleven of those on the field. At the same time. Playing modern football. Slamming against Illinois’ blue-and-orange helmets. That’s … going to mess up the historical authenticity.

Good or Stupid? OH GOD THE STUPID IT BURNS!!!!!

OVERALL

2018 back

Well, the replica jersey is going to look amazing, and will likely be tops on my list of alternates to wear. The jersey is what most people are going to remember, and so the grade is going to be weighted heavily in favor of its sweet, sweet historical goodness. It’s going to stay in the Good category … but barely, given how ridiculous the helmet is.

Good or Stupid? Good, but just barely.

NEBRASKA ALTERNATE UNIFORM POWER RANKING

Images courtesy of the Lincoln Journal-Star

  1. 2014

2014

The infamous trash bag uniforms, which had numerals which literally couldn’t be read from the stands. The two-toned helmets were pretty cool, but overall the unis were a disaster.

  1. 2015

2015

Mystifyingly, adidas took its disastrous 2014 concept and made just a slight tweak, putting it on a black background instead of a red one, and made the uniform only marginally less horrific.

  1. 2012

2012

These original throwbacks get far more hate than they deserve, especially how well they combined with Wisconsin’s to make a truly memorable spectacle. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, Wisconsin had the better unis that night.)

  1. 2016

2016

The only road alternates Nebraska has (yet) worn ended up making good use of the trash-bag  silver, working them into an ice concept that ended up very sharp.

  1. 2017

2017

The concept was brilliant, to pay homage to the 1997 team by replicating the mesh uniforms. And while it came out great, it was also hard to tell the unis apart from normal ones on the field during the game.

  1. 2013

2103

Even early in the process, adidas got this one right. The basic black uniforms, the different-but-legible stencil numerals, and the overall simplicity gives this one a place of honor in the Nebraska alternate uniform pantheon.

  1. 2018

2018 main

Fine, call it recency bias. But anything that involves old-school numerals, a shout-out to the Stadium Clock, and the full In the Deed The Glory inscription is going to be hard to beat.

HONORARY MENTION

hm

I’m not sure where the curly-Q numeral jerseys would fit on the above power list, but I’m telling you that it’d be way closer to one than seven.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: How Cornhusker Fans Should Respond After 0-6 Start

DSC09452

Now what, Husker Fan?

Nebraska is now 0-6, after dropping a gut-wrenching 34-31 overtime loss to Northwestern, after having a two-score lead with two minutes left to play in the game. Even a faint flicker of hope for a bowl game was snuffed out by the loss, and the remainder of 2018 is a game-by-game prospect, with tangible achievements postponed until 2019 and beyond.

Head coach Scott Frost said he was “running out of words” to tell the team after their sixth straight loss of the season and tenth overall (according to Parker Gabirel of the Lincoln Journal-Star). Even more disturbingly, Frost said this about Nebraska’s defensive scheme at the end of the game (as reported by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald):

“One, I don’t call the defense and two, make a play,” Frost said. “One more play.”

Now, after Northwestern’s 99-yard drive in under two minutes – with no time-outs – to tie the game (a drive which bore haunting resemblance to Nebraska’s 2015 late-game collapse against Illinois), Frost’s frustration was understandable. And nothing in Frost’s quote is factually incorrect.

But some also read Frost’s quote as him trying to distance himself from the loss, to blame defensive coordinator Erik Chinander or the players for letting him down. To be clear, that is not a necessary interpretation of what Frost’s quote, and would run counter to the culture of accountability Frost has said he wants to create in Lincoln.

Having said that, it’s not the first time Nebraska fans have heard a coach say and mean something like that. And after absorbing Nebraska’s tenth (!!!) straight loss, it’s only natural for despair to kick in and color perception to see the seams unraveling on the entire Nebraska program. After a knife-to-the-soul loss like Saturday, Nebraska fans were primed and ready to descend into a very dark, very hopeless place.

And yet …

There you were, Husker Fan, applauding the team – both teams – after that loss. Sure, not all of you. But that core is still there, the ones who measure your fandom in generations, who pledge to cheer the scarlet and cream come in all kinds of weather – and mean it.

(By the way, don’t read the comments after Heady’s Twitter post. Like pretty much all internet comment threads, they’ll make you doubt your faith in humanity.)

You’re going to be tested, Husker Fan, even more than you have. Wins may be elusive this year, and perhaps even beyond. You’ll be mocked and trolled by fans of teams who hate Nebraska (looking at you, Hawkeye Fan, and a locked beer fridge is neither “Iowa nice” nor at all original).

You have faith in Frost to succeed, and that faith is still well-founded even with how 2018 has unfolded. He’s not perfect, of course – his oddly-conservative play-calling on the drive before Northwestern’s 99-yard march and game plan as a whole against Troy being examples of mistakes. But he still gives Nebraska its best chance to take its place amongst college football’s national powers.

A chance is not a guarantee, though. While all the signs point to Frost righting the ship, there’s no promises that Frost can be successful, at least on the time frame that fans were initially expecting when he arrived in Lincoln.

So you’ve got a choice, Husker Fan. You can surrender to despair and bitterness. Or you can choose a different path. You can choose to enjoy the spectacle of the game without expecting the luxury of a victory.

This doesn’t mean you accept failure, of course. It doesn’t mean you don’t agonize at the losses and rage against the mistakes and poor decisions that snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Demanding excellence and that the program be on the path to achieve it is one of the prime distinguishers between Nebraska and other programs.

What it means is that you don’t quit showing up. You don’t quit wearing your colors – flying your Husker flag – with pride. You don’t turn on the players – a collection of college kids – ever. And you don’t turn on a coaching staff until they’ve given you no choice but to do anything else.

In other words, you don’t stop believing.

I know, I’m beating this thing into the ground. But remember when, at the start of the year, we thought the biggest question to answer was what song should replace “Sirius” for the Tunnel Walk?

In my mind, there’s no doubt as to what the theme song of this year – and of this fanbase, in general – should be.

Workin’ hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice just one more time

Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’

Don’t stop believing, Husker Fan. Now more than ever.

(And, seriously, HuskerVision bigwigs, make the Journey singalong A Thing already, wouldya?)

GBR, baby.