The story of 2009 was to not allow the offense to hurt the team overall. The reigns were pulled in. When Nebraska hit the 35 yard line they knew that they were within the range of Alex Henery and/or Zac Lee and the offense had done their job.
On the surface of the 2010 season is the story of the long scoring play. It seemed that Nebraska was capable of scoring 40, 60 or even 80 yards out at any moment and that tends to take the pressure off of the head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback, team and on down the line. But, there was a problem with the offense as a whole in.
When Nebraska wasn't able to make those long plays the offense sputtered. Look at Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and the second game against Washington. Loading up the box, changing the defensive fronts and giving Nebraska a different look shut the Nebraska train down in their tracks.
What's worse is that Nebraska often times became their own worst enemy in situations like this. When the opposing defense was winning the game and the Nebraska offense couldn't get off the ground you would see sloppy play from the Nebraska offense that would include fumbles, turnovers, dropped passes, penalties, missed assignments and the like.
They really couldn't get out of their own way when things were going wrong. But there's something far, far worse when it comes to the Nebraska offense that was clearly evident in these games. There seems to be a disconnect between pass pro by the offensive line and the ultimate goal of the play.
I blame some of this on the fact that Nebraska does have a new starting quarterback this year and there wasn't a lot of time for the offensive line and the quarterback to gel. It's yet another reason that I think that quarterback battles are overplayed and are somewhat detrimental to the overall good of the team.
Not to dwell on it too much, but the quarterback to offensive line relationship is something that's developed. Guys get used to what players do typically. This is something that Nebraska couldn't do jumping into the season.
There is a key stat that supports this fact. In 2009 one of the biggest concerns was shoring up pass protection. Pass protection was a constant sore sport to see Nebraska come up short time and time again. In 2009, Nebraska allowed 19 sacks and in 2010 they allowed 29.
It gets worse. Comparatively, between 2009 and 2010 there was a significant decrease in passing attempts that one could have guessed given the slightly lower number of total yards gained passing and the tremendous number of yards gained rushing from 2009 to 2010.
So in 2009 and in 2010 the Huskers played 14 games (12 regular season, conference championship and a bowl game). The Huskers in 2009 threw the ball 364 times and were sacked 19 times during the season. So, on average Nebraska attempted 26 passes per game and allowed a sack one out of every 19 passing attempts or about 1.5 sacks per game.
While the total number of sacks allowed increased from 2009 to 2010 it's when you bring in the per game average when you really see evidence of a bigger problem. So, Nebraska threw the ball 282 times in 2010 for an average of 20 passing attempts per game. The Huskers took a sack about one out of every 10 times they threw the ball or twice per game.
And it didn't take a genius to see that Nebraska was getting manhandled by Washington in the Holiday Bowl with rushing less players than what Nebraska chose to block with. Heck, the ratio on some plays was 2:1, blockers to rushers. And it still didn't matter.
I said in my pre-game article that health was a question in my mind with Mike Caputo and the center position was one that was beat over and over again by a much larger defensive tackle. The sad part is, that this may be a signs of things to come if Nebraska can't straighten this out. The matchup of Caputo to Alameda Ta'amu was a total mismatch.
Ta'amu is a big one-technique that if given the opportunity to beat up on the center all night long is going to do a very good job. He's 6-foot-3 and 330 pounds, according to his Washington bio, but I would say that there was some residual holiday weight hanging around on him after watching the game and I wouldn't be surprised if he was 340 or more.
Mike Caputo is well-known for being as strong as an ox, but he lacks the physical make up to be able to handle a guy like Ta'amu. According to Huskers.com, Caputo is listed at 6-foot-1 and 275 pounds. I think that the 6-foot-1 is being pretty generous.
So what does all of this mean? Would more time as a unit between the quarterback and the offensive line led to a better performance on the field? Maybe. Is it an indication that Taylor Martinez is equally dangerous running the football as he is vulnerable to a pass rush? Probably.
I will go one further, and I didn't take the time to go back and re-watch film, and if I had I am sure all it would do is frustrate me again. Nebraska has gotten predictable on offense. Trend runs on first and second downs to runs on third downs. Trend how many times Nebraska actually threw the ball on first down. I would also say that play action passes on 3rd and 12, like we saw against Washington, isn't going to hold anyone.
And then there are the times that Nebraska was successfully running the football out of the Wildcat only to have it go away until it was too late to get back into the game. It was mysterious why this happened so many times this year. I know that Nebraska tried to get right back into it against Washington the second time around, but an unfortunate fumble ended that.
This seems to be systematic when it comes to running on the early downs and throwing on third down as well as not having a clear handle as a unit as to what the other one is going to do. I would also like to know where the shorter passes have gone? If Taylor can't find a receiver in 2 seconds what makes anyone think that he's going to find one in 3 or 4 seconds before he gets sacked?
The inside release slant routes have gone away. Where are the little screen passes that we saw so many times in 2009 with Rex Burkhead that was non-existent this year? I know the playbook is big and thick, but does that mean that some chapters are forgotten about until a change is needed the next season and then they get ran again?
This offense needs an identity and to become a little less predictable. Being multiple in the run game and the pass game doesn't mean anything if you know that it will be some form of a run on first and second down and some kind of pass play on third down. And I thought that I had questions about the changes that needed to be made last year.
And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface about why players like Andrew Rodriguez and Quincy Enunwa weren't used more often throughout the season. It seems that reasons like not having the short to intermediate passing game could have been aided by a 6-foot-2 and 205 pound receiver. Or how about a mauling Rodriguez to help out with the rotation at guard? Maybe allow a player like Ricky Henry to take some snaps at center.
All I know is that players like Ryne Reeves, Tyler Moore and Ryan Klachko, out of the five committed offensive linemen, should come to Lincoln ready to play. I don't see any way that they won't be on the field considering who is leaving, who is left and overall depth issues at certain positions. Then again, there was reason enough to keep Rodriguez off of the field this year so maybe there will be a reason to keep them off the field too?
I have kept my comments and attitude quiet about the Washington game until now. Simply put, I haven't had anything good to say and there wasn't any reason to carry gasoline with my bucket to the three alarm fire that was in progress. Still, this is probably going to be one of those fires that smolders until spring and maybe beyond. I know that it's going to be in the back of my mind.