Inside the Numbers: Nebraska

Following a too-close-for-comfort victory over the hungry University of Northern Iowa Panthers, the Cyclones find themselves staring at the meat of their Big 12 schedule. With not even enough time to catch their breath, the Cyclones welcome the Nebraska Cornhuskers into Jack Trice Stadium. Check in here to see what kind of damage the Cornhuskers have been inflicting in the stats columns.

Wow.  That is all I can really say about last Saturday night's game.  The Cyclones came out flat and after some major mistakes found themselves down 21-7 at halftime.  This game wasn't pretty by any means and everyone has their own opinions (I know, I've read the boards too) but I will give my five "take-aways" from the night that almost went down in infamy.

1)       The defense really stepped up….. but not until halftime.  The secondary allowed Sanders to go 11-11 in the first half but did not allow a TD in the second half (and one of the field goals was the result of Baum's fumbled punt return).  If the D continued down the path they set for themselves in the first half, ISU would've walked away the loser.

2)       Blythe is ridiculously good.  I know, everyone knows that but every time he makes one of those catches in the end zone (you know the ones, he's diving, only has one hand free, two defenders on him) I find myself thanking god he came to ISU.

3)       Where was the running game?  Hicks only had seven carries and the rushing offense only got 81 yards total.  I know why the went to the pass in the second half, but it still seems a little odd that McCarney would abandon the run game.  I wonder if there is something we don't know here (like a sore Hicks or something).

4)       Ryan Baum really does have some skill.  His punt return showed he has speed and vision down the field.  I know some people are dogging him because of his fumble but everyone makes a mistake.  It ended up not costing up the victory, so let's hope her learns from it and keeps up his good work on returns.

5)       I see this game as the typical "sandwich" game.  I am not making excuses but I do think (and hope) that this team was looking past UNI to the Huskers.  I know McCarney always says they aren't going to over look anyone, but that really does seem like the logical result to draw here.

 

Cyclones Statistical Breakdown

 

There were still some good numbers to come out of the game.  Blythe got another TD, which bumps his total to five (one per game) and Davis had is first 100 yard game of the season (117, 1 TD).  Meyer added 323 yards and two TDs to his total yardage (1186 yards on the season, 7 TD).  It is nice to note that eight Cyclone players caught catches in the game, including RB Jason Scales (11 yards) and WR Marquis Hamilton (12 yards).  Ryan Baum got his first punt return for a touch down (65 yard run).  On defense, Tyrone McKenzie led the team with 16 total tackles, with Alvin Bowen (15) and Jon Banks (10) being the only other ISU players with double digit tackles.  Shawn Moorehead recorded the teams only sack of the night, giving him two on the season.  Bowen is still first in the nation in total tackles (69 total) and McKenzie is closing the gap, ranking sixth in the nation with 56 (two other ISU players are in the top 100 with Jon Banks tied for 47th with 42 and Adam Carper tied for 73rd with 39).  On the offensive side, Bret Meyer is ranked 15th in the nation in total offense with 1338 yards (267.6 per game).  Todd Blythe is tied for 12th in passing TDs scored with five.  Finally, ISU is ranked 53rd in total offense and 95th in total defense.

 

Up Next

 

Next game up for the Cyclones is the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.  I think everyone remembers the last meeting between these two teams, ending with the Clones losing 27-20 in double overtime.  The Cornhuskers comes in to Ames ranked 21st and has a record of 4-1 (1-0) with their only lose being at 3rd ranked USC (28-10).  The Huskers dominate the overall series 81-17-2 despite only being 2-2 against the Cyclones in the last four meetings (both Husker loses came at ISU).  Dan McCarney is 2-9 against the Huskers and Bill Callahan is 1-1 versus the Cyclones.  Nebraska was picked to win the Big 12 North this year by the media, making this game one of the biggest of the year in the race for the Northern Title.  The Cornhuskers have a long history of success on the gridiron (too much to list here) including three Heisman trophy winners and five National champions.  The Huskers are looking to continue their winning was on Saturday, and it starts with the west coast offense.

 

Offense

           

In its third year as Nebraska's style of offense, the west coast offense is starting to take hold.  The offense is ranked 5th in total offense (480.2 yards per game), with the passing game ranked at 14th (277.6) and the rushing game at 17th (202.6).  The offense is led by senior gunslinger Zac Taylor.  He is 4th in the nation in passing efficiency and has amassed 1267 yards in just five games!  Oh yeah, and he has 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions.  Catching passes for Taylor is Terrence Nunn (307 yards, 1 TD), Maurice Purify (225 yards, 1 TD), and Frantz Hardy (213 yards, 3 TD).  Those three have the most yards but I wouldn't call them his only weapons because 11 players are averaging at least 10 receiving yards per game.  The passing game isn't all the Husker have either, with running back Marlon Lucky averaging 81 yards a game (he already has five TDs by the way).  Backup running backs Kenny Wilson (311 yards, 3 TDs) and Cody Glenn (168 yards, 4 TDs) get plenty of time on the field and keep Lucky well rested.  This offense is loaded with playmakers, which is probably why they average 42 points per game (which is good for 3rd in the nation).

 

Defense

 

The defense isn't as talented as the offense but it does have it bright points.  The Husker's D is ranked at 56th in the nation in total defense (321 yards per game), with the passing D being 65th (198.4) and the rushing being 59th (122.6).  Every starter on this team is either a junior or senior (5 jr. 7 sr.).  The team is led by their ridiculously good front line.  The starting four are all seniors and look like future NFL players.  They are led by DE Adam Carriker who has 22 tackles and one sack.  The linebackers are monsters, with two starts leading the team in tackles (Corey McKeon with 30, Stewart Bradley with 29).  The only weak link is the secondary.  They are giving up 198.4 yards per game through the air, but they have the skill to improve.  FS Andrew Shanle is a ball hawk who already has three picks, and   SS Tierre Green is third on the team in tackles with 28.  This defense has been good so far this season, and Coach Callahan has made it a priority to improve his team's speed through recruiting.  Look for this D to improve as the year goes on.

 

Special Teams

 

This special teams is a solid group of players.  The kickoff duty is handled by returning sophomore starter Jordan Congdon who averages 56.3 a kickoff (1 touchback).  Congdon also handles field goals, going 2-3 so far (long of 38, missed from 37) and has been perfect on PATs (28-28).  The punting is handled by sophomore Dan Titchener who averages 39 yards a kick with six inside the 20.  So far, WR Terrence Nunn is handling punts, averaging 9.7 yards with a long of 31.  Finally, kickoff returns are taken by Tierre Green and Brandon Jackson, who average 19.7 yards and 16.0 yards per kick respectively.  All in all, this special teams is good, but hasn't done anything yet to show that is more than a "solid" corps.

 

Final Verdict

 

To recap, the offense is stupendous, ranking in the top ten in the nation as far as offenses go.  The defense is good with some real good playmakers but the pass defense has been a work in progress.  The special teams have done what is asked of them and that is about it.  What does it all mean for the Cyclones?  Well, they have their work cut out for them.  This will be the biggest game in Jack Trice since last year's Iowa game.  I honestly think the Cyclone can win if they focus on what they are good at and if they can make a play or two on defense.  The numbers don't lie, and this is a talented Nebraska team, but I think the Cyclones have the talent to hang with the Huskers.  There have been some nail bitters in Jack Trice the last few weeks and this one looks like it has the making to be another.  Here is to hoping the Cyclones are up to the challenge.


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