Saturday, October 31, 2015

Searching For Answers (Other Than the Obvious) After Huskers Get Boat-Raced by Purdue

After Kansas blew out Nebraska in that 2007 "Rout 76" game, I had a few thoughts about how Nebraska game planned with a first time starting quarterback:

Example in point: Joe Ganz making his first start since high school. Callahan hands him the ball and has him throw the ball on every down in the second quarter. Absolutely no running game in the 2nd quarter, save for a few scrambles. First start against a top ten opponent, and Callahan goes one-dimensional and puts it completely on the shoulders of a green quarterback. Ganz did pretty well for his first start, but it's completely shameful that his coach put the onus on him. But we've come to expect that of Bill Callahan.

Is that an unfair comparison to Mike Riley?  Let me give you the second quarter stats for the Huskers against Purdue:  6 rushes (three I-back runs that gained 25 yards, and three Ryker Fyfe scrambles and sacks) and eleven passes. Five passes completed, two intercepted.

Let's build on this a little more:  In the first quarter, Nebraska rushed the ball 13 times and threw the ball 7 times. Fyfe was 6-for-7 passing, and while Nebraska trailed 7-3 at the end of the quarter, Nebraska still led in most of the statistical comparisons.  It was just that 62 yard run by Purdue's David Blough, taking advantage of a Nebraska defensive alignment bust, that was the difference in the opening quarter.
(Look at all of that open space on the "P"... Pretty sure that was an audible...)

The first quarter was the balance that worked so well two weeks ago at Minnesota in a victory.   The second was just the opposite, and Nebraska was trending in the wrong direction.

Third quarter, you ask? Six runs, 16 passes.  Now trending even worse, and so did the score.  At that point, it was 42-16, and Nebraska was getting trucked by Purdue.

Stop and repeat that again: Nebraska was getting trucked by Purdue.

By Purdue.

I-backs had carried the ball 18 times; Ryker Fyfe had thrown 34 passes at that point, with three interceptions.  Yes, Terrell Newby left the game in the second quarter with an injury, but Imani Cross, the backup, was still averaging 4.9 yards per carry. If Nebraska didn't have faith in Cross, try Devine Ozigbo. He never carried the ball once, but did catch three passes.

Nebraska's I-backs rushed 18 times for 95 yards; that's 5.3 yards per carry. That average should win you some Big Ten football games.  But 18 carries by your I-backs won't.  Don't claim that the game got out of hand and Nebraska "had to throw" in the fourth quarter; while that's true, the stats were already completely out of whack before the game did.

Remember: this is a quarterback who not only was making his first start, he really was getting his first significant playing time.  He's going to make some mistakes, so help him out.

That happened in the first quarter:  a 65/35 run/pass ration, and Nebraska was in the game.

That changed in the second and third quarters: nine running plays called, and 29 pass plays.

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