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 …
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 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.