Friday, July 22, 2016

Will the Huskers Really "Run the Ball" in 2016?

To me, it's the big question going into 2016: Will Nebraska actually commit to running the ball in 2016? We saw what happened last year; the Huskers lost seven games, sometimes in mind-numbing fashion, in forcing the passing game. I'd argue that Nebraska lost at least four games (Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa) last year because of excessive use of the passing game. Yes, Nebraska has some dynamic receivers...but overdependence on a passing attack led to far too many turnovers, and thus, too many losses in 2015.

In the Foster Farms Bowl, Nebraska unleashed a furious ground game and pulled off the upset of UCLA. But was that a change of philosophy by this coaching staff, or simply the coaches recognizing that UCLA had been vulnerable all season on the ground? Immediately after the game, I thought it was more of the former.

As this year has gone on, I'm starting to worry that it's the latter. In a March news conference, I read that Mike Riley hoped not to run the ball more, but rather merely run the ball better. I have no problem with trying to run the ball better, but I believe that in order to do that, the Huskers will need to run more in 2016 than they did in 2015. I  firmly believe that Nebraska needs to run the ball 60-65 percent of the time with this personnel.  That doesn't mean 50 rushes, like against UCLA...but it does suggest that the Huskers need to be pushing to be over 40 a game on a regular basis.

Evidence is lacking as to what direction Mike Riley will go this season...but what little I've seen suggests that Riley isn't willing to change his stripes offensively. He might have been forced to if he wanted to stay at Oregon State, but now I get the feeling that he's hoping he can recruit players to effectively run his scheme more successfully to Lincoln than he could in Corvallis.

Problem is that he doesn't have that sort of quarterback in 2016. And frankly, I don't see a lot of evidence that he's doing it for future seasons either. 

Yes, that's premature to say at this point. Certainly blasphemous for a Husker fan to say. And arguably hypocritical for a known non-believer in recruiting hype today at this point. So call it more of a hunch at this point than anything else.

So you tell me: do you think Mike Riley will run the ball more in 2016? Or do you even care?


jeff725 said...


I agree with you. Nebraska needs to RUN THE BALL. Not necessarily more, but BETTER. I think we can all agree that Coach Osborne's playbook is in its proper location....the trophy case.

But here's the deal: I've been doing my own little bit of mental "analytics" since the coach-that-shall-not-be-named years. From Callahan to Watson to Beck to Langsdorf, anytime Nebraska rushes the ball for at least 200 yards in a game, regardless of how much they throw it, they win that game more often than not.

And I'm not talking about running sissy draw plays....I'm talking about MASHING THE BALL at people. Go back to the Miami game in 2014. That was the offense I had been waiting for Tim Beck to run. Yes, Nebraska threw the ball around some. Yes, Nebraska ran the shotgun-spread. But when they ran the ball, they MASHED IT down Miami's throat. That was the first time I had seen anything resembling a PHYSICAL O-Line. Ameer Abdullah was a freaking BOWLING BALL!! The "Hurri-gangstas" wanted no part of him. Somewhere in one of the skyboxes, Jedi Master Osborne had to have been saying "Use the Force, Tim Beck. Let go, Beck."

As I said earlier, Coach Osborne's playbook is in the trophy case where it rightfully belongs. But I still believe you can run elements of it in today's spread offenses. You just have to WANT to do it.

End of rant.

Husker Mike said...

My first instinct to your comment about Osborne's offense belong in a trophy case was a reflexive "NO IT DOESN'T"...but then I thought about it a bit, and realized how Osborne was continually evolving and adapting his offense. In the late 80's, he implemented aspects of the run and shoot, and even combined it with the wishbone - as a passing formation!

So Osborne's offense would adapt to the rise of the spread and the rule changes that have emboldened the passing game over the last 15-20 years.

And yes, that Miami offensive game plan was awesome.

jeff725 said...


I'll try to clarify myself a little bit. The "trophy case" thing was a positive. Osborne's offense won 5 National Championships after all. But I doubt it could be as run-heavy as it was back in the day.

And I agree with you that Tom tweaked his system over the years. You could see him starting to experiment with the spread a little bit in 1997 (specifically in the Washington and Tennessee games).

I guess where I was going with my rant was, to me, running the ball isn't so much a system but an ATTITUDE; you're physically attacking the defense. It seems like it's becoming a lost art.

Kevin Gress said...

I agree with your comment that Nebraska needs to run it 60-65% of the time, but I'd go farther and say that that should be the goal, not just with this team. College football is set up to favor strong running teams and since at least the 70s, that's been Nebraska's identity.

Riley might be forced to run more this season, if he hopes to win more games and hang onto his job, but I don't believe for a second that he 'gets it'. He's Callahan-esque about his offensive philosophy. I'm just afraid that he's going to lead Nebraska into the mediocrity that he's used to, until those in administration get wise.