3 Thoughts from Nebraska's 38-31 Loss to Indiana
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

3 Thoughts from Nebraska’s 38-31 Loss to Indiana

October 26, 2019

The Huskers started incredibly well and then faceplanted. It’s a recurring theme, unfortunately. Indiana (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) came into Memorial Stadium and forced enough Husker mistakes to leave with a 38-31 win. Nebraska drops to 4-4 on the year and 2-3 in conference play.

Next week the Huskers play at Purdue, which lost to Illinois Saturday 24-6 to drop to 2-6 on the year. Kick for that one is set for 11 a.m. CT. But first, here are three thoughts from Saturday’s loss.

Real Defensive Issues

Indiana was on its backup quarterback and that guy (Peyton Ramsey) threw for 351 yards against the Huskers.

Indiana moved the ball up and down the field without any semblance of a run game (25 attempts, 89 yards). It had a wideout named Whop catch 14 passes for 178 yards. The NU defense looked icky for prolonged stretches while wearing uniforms designed to honor the anything-but-icky defenses of yesteryear. 

Scott Frost told his team when the Blackshirt alternate was announced for the week that they would need to come with a performance that made Blackshirt alums proud. This one will go down as anything but. 

The Huskers were flagged for incredibly ill-timed roughing the passer penalties on two drives that produced Indiana touchdowns. Corners didn’t turn heads. Linebackers were burned in coverage. The edge still can’t be set consistently. Third down is an issue. 

The Huskers hit the 500-yard threshold as an offense and scored 31 points after 27 in the previous three games combined and it didn’t matter because the defense couldn’t get off the field late when it needed a stop at the end and gave up 462 yards on its own. 

Getting “back to the basics” during the bye week didn’t help. Nebraska’s defense still looks in need of a reset. 

Third Down? Find the LBs

Tape, now eight games into the season, says to find Nebraska’s linebackers in coverage and throw the football to whoever they’re defending. It says good things will happen if you do that as an opposing offense. 

It’s been happening all season, it’s going to continue to happen the rest of the way, and Indiana was no exception. The Hoosiers targeted the Husker ‘backers, inside guys in particular, all throughout the afternoon down the seam, down the sidelines on wheel routes, over the middle of the field on drag routes, you name it. A good chunk of IU wideout Whop Philyor’s career receiving day came with Nebraska linebackers in the immediate vicinity. (Philyor had 14 catches for 178 yards).

A Hoosier favorite was to look for linebackers on third down, where Nebraska once again had real issues getting off the field. IU was 7-for-13 on third despite an average of 6.6 yards faced on each one (factoring out a kneel-down on third to end the game). Four of the seven conversions came through the air, with Ramsey going 6-for-8 for 98 yards on third. 

Nebraska entered the day tied for 78th in third-down percentage against, but that’s probably going to take a dive not dissimilar to IU defenders after big Nebraska plays on offense. Nebraska needs to figure this out. 

An… OK(?) Offensive Day? No?

What do you make of this one for the Husker offense? They averaged 7 yards per play and produced their best output in over a month. 

Adrian Martinez’s status was kept under wraps all week long. Gamesmanship, maybe, but the Huskers weren’t interested in saying whether their starting quarterback was going to be available. Noah Vedral, Martinez’s understudy had played two weeks prior against Minnesota, and he looked fine for the most part, but the Huskers lost 34-7.

Vedral opened as the starter despite Martinez showing on the video board as the guy. All he did was move Nebraska right down the field on its first two drives and put NU up 14-3. 

Then a lower-leg injury knocked him out of the game. He came back later but couldn’t get a touchdown late when Nebraska needed it (bad) but ended his day 14-for-16 throwing the ball for 201 yards and added two rushing scores on seven carries.

Freshman Luke McCaffrey came in once Vedral got hurt and led three Husker scoring drives. He ended the day 5-for-6 for 71 yards through the air—including his first collegiate touchdown—and added 76 yards on the ground on 12 carries. 

Wan’Dale Robinson had 154 yards of offense on 28 touches. Kanawai Noa got involved. Jack Stoll got involved. JD Spielman made some big plays. All good things. But the Huskers fumbled at crucial times, had penalties at others, and once again struggled to set the tone up front on the line of scrimmage. 

The quarterback clearly isn’t the problem, as it seems the Huskers have three pretty good ones. So how do you fix the issues when it continues to be a moving target? Nebraska is running out of time to try and find an answer.

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