Everybody has a weakness. Even the heroic Superman was vulnerable to Kryptonite. The same holds true in college sports. Ohio State's weakness is the SEC, after they fell to 0-10 versus the conference in bowl games (their win against Arkansas was vacated).
Nebraska is no different. The entire season they've had struggles against one type of opponent: dual-threat quarterbacks.
In all four losses this season, Nebraska has allowed opposing quarterbacks to exploit their defense with their arms and legs. The trend started with Wisconsin's Russell Wilson before being further supported by Northwestern's Kain Colter, Michigan's Denard Robinson, and South Carolina's Connor Shaw.
Wilson: 6 ATT, 32 YDS, 1 TD
Colter: 17 ATT, 57 YDS, 2 TD
Robinson: 23 ATT, 83 YDS, 2 TD
Shaw: 19 ATT, 42 YDS, 1 TD
Between the four losses, Nebraska allowed an average of 53.5 yards per game to the aforementioned quarterbacks and 1.5 touchdowns per game. Three of the four quarterbacks are considered run-first quarterbacks, with Wilson being the one true passer. Between Colter, Robinson, and Shaw, there was an average of 19.6 carries per game in those three losses. These three quarterbacks did the most damage to Nebraska on the ground, tallying five touchdowns in total.
But it wasn't just the running game from these four quarterbacks that affected Nebraska. Because of their ability to utilize their legs, Nebraska's defense was left second-guessing themselves. Will he run or will he pass? This allowed these quarterbacks to pick apart the hesitant Huskers defense.
Wilson: 14-of-20, 255 YDS, 2 TD
Colter: 4-of-6, 115 YDS, 1 TD
Robinson: 11-of-18, 180 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT
Shaw: 11-of-17, 230 YDS, 2 TD
From the above statistics, the four quarterbacks averaged an approximate 65.3 completion percentage and just less than 200 yards per game. What does that mean? Let's take a look at Nebraska's five conference wins and how the opposing quarterbacks faired with their accuracy: Matt McGloin: 47%
James Vandenberg: 45%
Kirk Cousins: 40%
MarQueis Gray: 50%
In Nebraska's five conference wins, the opposing quarterbacks averaged a dismal 43% completion percentage compared to the four quarterbacks who trumped the Huskers with an average of 65.3%.
It's a fair assumption that Shaw, Robinson, Colter and Wilson were all able to exploit the Nebraska defense because of their ability to attack opposing defenses in multiple facets. On the contrary, Cousins and Vandenberg finished with completion percentages over 58%, yet the two failed to eclipse above 45% when matched up against Nebraska.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, both Robinson and Colter will return next year. Nebraska will be up against potentially dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks next season in Ohio State's Braxton Miller, who finished with three 100-yard rushing games (all after the Nebraska game) and Minnesota's Marqueis Gray, who recorded two 100-yard games in the final games of the season. They will also face Arkansas State's Ryan Aplin, who recorded double-digit carries seven times this season.
Dual-threat quarterbacks are clearly Nebraska's kryptonite, and if they want to make a splash next season, they must figure out the correct formula in containing these players.
- Josh Harvey -