Finally...an opponent with blogs! I don't have to just dig up stats and official releases for links! Of course, I'm still going to, but I wasn't forced to, and that makes all the difference in the world, right? Anyway, let's kick off Nebraska Week!
As promised, we'll start our links the same way we've started the others--with stats. It's hard to fathom just how bad the Nebraska defense was last year, especially over the second half of the season, but these stats do some amount of justice to the concept. Defense: 37.9 PPG, 232.2 rushing yds/g, 244.7 passing yds/g (balance is important, boys and girls), 50% conversion rate on third downs, 13 sacks. THIRTEEN SACKS. ALL SEASON. Just as a means of comparison, Duke (Duke!) gave up 33.2 PPG, 180.2 rushing yds/g, 244.1 passing yds/g, 44% on third downs, and had 25 sacks. Just throwing that out there. I am far from convinced that Bo Pelini will do anything good at all in Lincoln, but there's simply no way there isn't significant defensive improvement in 2008. And significant improvement will make them a mediocre defense. But that, plus the return of Joe "Small Sample Size" Ganz, means there's optimism in Lincoln!
Okay, not necessarily a ton of optimism. My friends at Double Extra Point bring a dose of cyanide to the proceedings. And actually, while we're checking out DEP (which manages to combine lovely stat nerddom with lots of half-naked pics), look at these posts as well:
- Joe Ganz by the Numbers
- 2007 Defensive Line Performance
- 2007 Linebacker Performance
- Spring Game Highlights in Three Parts
- 78% of Nebraskans Can't Be Wrong
- Husker Starting Tight End Teafatiller Arrested
- Pelini Defends Solich Again
- 2008 Husker Defense: Looking for Linebackers (Hunter-Killers)
- 2008 Nebraska Offense: Looking For The 'Playmaker' at Receiver
- Nebraska Defensive Line Must Improve for 2008 To Be Successful
This is just odd, I must say.
Here's a write-up of the Red & White Game, complete with in-depth stats (pdf). Joe Ganz completed four passes for 131 yards and 2 TDs, plus he was sacked three times, which means NU fans can say that both the offense AND the defense were impressive...which is honestly the goal of anybody's spring game, no?
Some were justifiably still skeptical (but optimistic) about the defense and the team as a whole.
What mattered was whether the Nebraska defense could offer the first glimpse of hope since the 2007 season ended with a losing record and no bowl game. Was four-plus months - and 14 spring practices - long enough for Pelini to impose his will and instill his identity into a unit that ranked No. 112 nationally in total defense last fall?
Saturday wasn't enough for anybody to declare the Blackshirts ready for Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma or the rest of the high-scoring Big 12. The Red and White offenses did make some plays, but it wasn't like the Bill Callahan era, when the No. 1 unit would be unleashed on second- and third-team defenders to pile up feel-good stats going into the summer.
The defense didn't look anything like the one that gave up 49, 40, 41, 45, 76 and 65 points last season.
"What I see defensively is they're starting to learn the concepts and principles of what we're asking them to do, and the roles," Pelini said. "A lot of that's new to them. As far as the development and understanding of it, it's coming but it's not there."
Take note, however, of the minor number of missed tackles. Also note that the defense made some plays, one of the many shortcomings last season, when Nebraska forced just 12 turnovers.
Revisiting ESPN's "Big 12 in BCS era" piece from a while back, naturally Nebraska has a solid presence, including Eric Crouch on the players list...and though his career didn't end on what we would call a high note, Mizzou fans should still remember what Crouch could do...
...Nick Tarpoff with the best whiffed tackle of all-time.
And to counteract the fact that I just posted that play on this site, we'll end with something a wee bit better: