Nebraska Cornhuskers Plagued by Poor Coaching Strategy

Although the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers beat the Iowa State Cyclones 28-14 Saturday, October 7, the Huskers continue to be plagued by poor playcalling and coaching. Indeed, this year’s Husker team is surely much better than its coaching staff allows.

Apparently, the Husker coaching staff has learned little from its previous games, although it is to be complimented for at least coming out throwing in this game.

We initially analyzed the NU-USC game this year and concluded that Nebraska was outcoached by the Trojans and not outplayed. We have since begun to analyze the Husker coaching and playcalling with the stats available online and have found this general view confirmed, for example, in the NU-Kansas game.

We now have found additional evidence of poor NU playcalling and coaching strategy in the NU-Iowa State game. Except for superb defense, the Huskers would have lost this game, and they would have lost because of poor coaching and playcalling, not because it was the worse team.

At a certain level of analysis, statistics do not lie.
Nebraska had 11 possessions of the ball against Iowa State.

On three of the first five possessions, the Huskers threw the football to start the first series of downs on the drive, and these three drives all ended in Husker touchdowns. Obviously, the coaching strategy and playcalling on these drives was correctly intent on SCORING. Note that this initial pass was not always completed, but it showed that the coaching strategy was to MOVE the ball, not just KEEP the ball. Hence, the subsequent playcalling was OFFENSIVE and not DEFENSIVE and ultimately resulted in scores. When the offensive playcalling was defensive, as in the drives started by rushes, no scores resulted. NONE. The coaching staff should already have learned this in the USC game, but apparently, they have not.

On all of the remaining possessions in the game, which all started with a running play, the Cornhuskers wound up having to punt the ball away, excepting only the last drive in the game and excepting one fumble recovery by the Cyclones.

Obviously, after its initial scores, the coaching staff was again intent on BALL CONTROL, which appears to be one of Callahan’s coaching traumas, under the motto “it’s MY ball, not yours”. We have criticized this before as a strategy which does NOT mark champions.

The College Football Resource Blog wrote this after the NU-USC game:

USC beat Nebraska 28-10, enduring the Huskers’ stall ball tactics but otherwise stuffing Nebraska’s run at all costs approach.

Ball control means nothing if it does not end up with points on the scoreboard.

Here are the relevant plays from Yahoo! Sports for yesterday’s Iowa State game:

1st Quarter
Nebraska – 14:56
[drive started with a pass]
1st-10
, NEB20 14:56 Z. Taylor passed to J. Phillips to the right for 5 yard gain
[drive ended in a touchdown]

Nebraska – 6:19
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB23 6:19 B. Jackson rushed to the right for 2 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU fumble recovered by NU, an NU punt, and a Cyclone touchdown]

2nd Quarter
Nebraska – 13:55
[drive started with a pass]
1st-10, NEB32 13:55 Z. Taylor incomplete pass to the right
[drive ended in a touchdown]

Nebraska – 5:49
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB30 5:49 B. Jackson rushed up the middle for 7 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska – 1:22
[drive started with a pass]
1st-10, NEB40 1:22 Z. Taylor incomplete pass to the right
[drive ended in a touchdown]

3rd quarter
Nebraska – 11:05
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB3 11:05 C. Glenn rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU fumble recovered by Iowa State]

Nebraska – 8:40
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB7 8:40 B. Jackson rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska – 3:26
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB20 3:26 B. Jackson rushed up the middle for 2 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska – 0:32
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB12 0:32 C. Glenn rushed to the left for 7 yard gain

4th Quarter
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska – 11:12
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB37 11:12 B. Jackson rushed to the left for 3 yard loss
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska – 6:46
[drive started with a run, but here the playcalling showed a will to score]
1st-10, NEB22 6:46 C. Glenn rushed up the middle for 28 yard gain
[drive ended in a touchdown]

Those kinds of stats point to serious flaws in coaching strategy and playcalling which have to be corrected for Nebraska to be competitive against top-echelon football teams. Such errors will be pardoned (barely) against marginally weaker opponents such as Kansas and Iowa State, but will be a certain cause of lost football games when playing the likes of Texas, USC or Oklahoma, and, this year, will also result in lost games to Missouri and Texas A&M if not timely corrected. The defense is not that good that it can counterbalance poor offensive playcalling all the time.

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