Nebraska’s offensive stats against Northwestern can be summed up with the same word many used to describe the Huskers’ drive in overtime: Disappointing.
If it’s not clear to you, look at it this way–time and time again this season, Nebraska’s offense has failed to deliver. The Huskers have made their way into the red zone at least twice each game this season. It’s what happens when they get there that leads to the downfall.
Of the 33 times the Nebraska offense has made it to the edge of glory, NU has come up empty eight times, and has settled for a field goal on 10 other occasions. If you don’t want to do the math, that means the Huskers have found the endzone less than 50 percent of the time they make it inside the 20.
The lack of success in big moments has shown up in other ways, as well: The Huskers converted just five of 15 third downs on Saturday. Even matched up against the No. 13 team in the Big Ten for passing defense, Nebraska couldn’t make connections, especially late in the game where it mattered most.
And those struggles were on the mind of quarterback Tanner Lee when he stepped to the podium during the postgame press conference.
“I think they did a good job of mixing up looks and doing different things and stuff to get us off balance. We did well at times, we just didn’t get there, we just didn’t finish, we just didn’t get it done in the end. It is a game of inches and we just didn’t get those inches tonight. It’s just disappointing…
Our big focus this week was to make sure we finished in the end zone so that was disappointing, you know to go on a big drive like that and not be able to punch it in. So, we have got to be better there. It takes a lot of pressure off our defense who played well enough to win tonight.”
– Tanner Lee
Lee’s not completely wrong.
While the defensive line did give up 232 rushing yards to a team ranked No. 102 in the country in running the ball, two Northwestern turnovers turned into points for Nebraska. Marcus Newby even cut the offense out of the equation when he scampered 49-yards to cash in a pick-6.
Newby and fellow linebacker Chris Weber combined for 21 tackles on the night, but enough with the numbers.
In the end, no matter what the defense has done, the offense has had issues finishing drives when they need points. Kicking the ball away early in drives has cost NU, and even when they do score they kick too many field goals.
Lee’s comments were indicative of that issue. Nebraska hasn’t been able to figure out how to run the ball in the red zone. The Huskers couldn’t even pull off a screen pass without a sack on Saturday, and the two follow attempts to throw the ball down the field didn’t go much better.
At 4-5 on the season and 3-3 in Big Ten play, now more than ever Nebraska needs to act on Lee’s words and focus on making use of red zone positioning and finishing in the end zone if it hopes to salvage anything the remainder of this season.
– Compiled by Becca Mann