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.