Charting Maryland – Seniors Go Out in Style

2012.  Until this year, that was the last time Nebraska ran the table at home.  Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2001 to find another Husker team that held serve at Memorial Stadium for an entire year.  That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for this year’s team, and they capped it off this weekend on Senior Day with a heavy contribution from that senior class.

Some of it was expected, and some of it certainly was not.  As he’s done most of 2016, Terrell Newby closed his career in Memorial Stadium in productive fashion, rushing 22 times for 98 yards and 3 TDs.  Jordan Westerkamp snagged 8 receptions for 85 yards and a TD, and seniors Brandon Reilly, Alonzo Moore, and Cethan Carter chipped in another 9 catches for 78 yards.  And of course there was the man of the hour, Ryker Fyfe.  It came against Maryland, but Fyfe’s workmanlike 220 yards passing along with 1 TD is no small feat for a guy who spent much of the last five years watching from the sideline.  Anytime you can win with your backup QB, you’re doing something right.

And most importantly, the senior class has put itself in position to be the first senior class since the Class of 2006 to win 11 games in a year.  Find a way to beat the Hawkeyes and then close the show in a bowl game.  That is a long way from where we were last year at this time.  Let’s take a look at how we got there in the Maryland game.

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Charting Northwestern – Spread Them Out to Run Through Them

Despite some fumbling issues early in the game, Nebraska comfortably won against Northwestern, cruising to 556 total yards and 24 points on offense while the Blackshirts held the Wildcats to 13 points.  Fumbles inside the one-yard line by Terrell Newby and Devine Ozigbo prevented the scoreboard from truly showing how bad Nebraska’s offense beat down an overmatched Wildcats defense thin on talent and made even thinner by a rash of injuries in the secondary.

In gaining 310 yards on the ground, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf reminded Nebraska fans that the Huskers’ rushing attack in 2016 isn’t your granddaddy’s running game.  When Nebraska fans think of running the ball, they’re probably thinking of the fullback in 21 personnel and a heavy dose of the I Formation and Option.  Yet in dipping into more modern run game concepts, Langsdorf embraced the principle of formationally spreading a defense out to remove box defenders, eschewing the fullback for all but 6 plays and instead favoring single back formations with a heavy dose of QB run game.  Doubling down on that concept of spread to run, Langsdorf and running backs coach Reggie Davis continued to increase the reps for Mikale Wilbon, a player designed to operate in space created by Spread formations.

With that, we’re again seeing the evolution of the Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf offense.  Let’s take a look at what worked against the Wildcats.

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Charting Miami – A Game of Ugly

The Miami game was not Nebraska’s finest, either from an efficiency standpoint or in terms of offensive balance.  A porous defense coupled with early penalties and untimely drops put Nebraska well behind at the half, and an early Miami TD in the third quarter forced Nebraska to rely too much on passing the ball in the second half to catch up.

Even in the early going, though, Nebraska had relatively little success running their base run plays.  Let’s take a look at what did and did not work for Nebraska.

(Editor’s Note: For those of you who like to slow down the GIFs or play them frame-by-frame, I’ve now added hot links before each GIF that take you to a separate page where you can pause or play them frame-by-frame and also expand them to full screen mode.)

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Nebraska Screen Game – BYU

Beyond Nebraska fans’ introduction to jet motion and the sweep, Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf’s robust screen package was also another major change from 2014 and Tim Beck’s offense.  By my count, Nebraska ran 6 different variations of the screen against BYU.  After learning early that inside zone wasn’t going to work against Travis Tuiloma, BYU’s monster nose tackle, Langsdorf began to heavily work the screen game to help remove defenders from the box and get Tommy Armstrong comfortable with easy throws.  Let’s take a look at a couple of his core concepts in the screen game.

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