Indiana – The Lockdown U Show

333 total yards, 2.9 yards per carry, two interceptions, including one pick 6, and 3 sacks.  The Hoosiers offense in 2016 may not be what it was in 2013, when it finished inside the top 10 in total yards and generally ran and threw it over and around everyone.  But it isn’t nearly as bad as the Blackshirts made it on Saturday either, holding the Indiana squad to its second lowest total yardage and yards per play this year.  We haven’t talked a whole lot this year about defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s defense for reasons discussed here, but halfway through the season and coming off a game where they bailed out an injured, stagnant offense, it’s time to change that.

Banker’s modus operandi this year focuses on two core principles.  One, stop the run by freeing up the Blackshirts linebackers to attack the line of scrimmage.  They do have coverage responsibilities, but by frequently playing his base Quarters for much of the year, Banker has permitted his linebackers to play run first while knowing they’ve got safety help behind them on play action.  Two, keep everything structurally sound in the secondary to prevent the long pass play.  This was Nebraska’s Achilles’ heel in 2015, but they’ve cleaned it up a bunch in 2016.  Sometimes that means the Huskers defense gives up yards between the 20 while allowing throws in front of DBs, but it’s the cost of doing business when you want to make an offense earn it down the entire field.  It’s also a pretty solid strategy when you’ve got an emerging secondary filled to the brim with above average defenders.  Lockdown U.  It’s bold, but so far they’ve lived up to it.

Against Indiana, Banker used the Lockdown U road show to dial up both zone and man blitzes agains well traveled QB Richard Lagow.   Before we get there, though, let’s take a look at Nebraska’s base coverage in the Nickel and then we’ll turn to how Banker’s pressure packages added up to 3 big sacks for 24 yards.

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Charting Indiana – Back In Black

Jerald Foster.  Cethan Carter.  Jordan Westerkamp.  David Knevel.  By the second play against Indiana, those preseason Husker starters, which include two of its top five offensive players, were no longer a factor.  It didn’t get any better when All Everything offensive tackle Nick Gates rolled his ankle shortly thereafter.  

As we discussed last week, at that point, it becomes a “by any means” necessary game.  And when that happens, unless you have elite talent waiting on the sidelines, you need a defense ready to show up and slow the opponent down.  Right on cue, the Blackshirts answered the bell, holding Indiana to 333 yards and a pedestrian 4.83 YPP.  In case you’re still sleeping on Mark Banker’s crew in 2016, they’re now 29th in total defense, 16th in scoring defense and 13th pass efficiency defense.  That’s a monster change from 2015, and it’s something we’ll look at in our next write up.

For now, though, let’s take a look at how offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf tried to ride out a hard regression to the mean from Tommy Armstrong and a MASH unit up front that made getting into a rhythm difficult.

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Scouting Indiana – Defense

It used to be that you could count on Indiana being a one-trick pony, with a potent offense and a defense somewhere between Bo Pelini meets Melvin Gordon and John Papuchis meets Baylor’s bowl game single wing offense.  Now, however, the Hoosiers have stepped up their defense in 2016, though by no means are they an elite unit yet.  49th in total defense and 51st in scoring defense.  The good news is that while their passing defense has been solid, at 73rd in the country their run defense still tilts toward poor.

Let’s take a look at what has changed for Indiana in 2016 and why the Huskers’ offense can’t sleep on them in this game.
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Scouting Indiana – Offense

After a bye week hiatus, we’re back with the scouting report.  Up next, the Indiana Hoosiers.  This is the first time the Huskers and Hoosiers have matched up in the Big 10, and though the Blackshirts may have liked the match up a few years ago, that’s far less true today.  In a statistical oddity, Indiana’s offense is ranked 39th in total offense but only 84th in scoring offense.  As can be expected, that is largely due to a putrid red zone offense, sitting at 124th (out of 128) in the country.

In other words, this is the perfect type of game to get Nebraska fans needlessly riled up, and not in a good way.  The Blackshirts have shown a tendency to give up yards before ultimately tightening up inside the 20.  If that holds against Kevin Wilson’s Indiana offense, it’ll make for some serious heartburn for total yardage watchers.  Let’s take a look at how Indiana likely puts up those yards.

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