There are a lot of ways to look at a football game. These are the numbers you won’t find in the ordinary box score.
Each week following the game we’ll share some key stats to track the Huskers’ progress this season in “Beyond the Box Score.” For a more complete explanation of the numbers, click here.
Here’s a closer look at Iowa’s 40-10 win over Nebraska.
Efficiency (Success Rate)
There will justifiably be talk about Nebraska’s offense in this one, but the bigger failing here was probably the Huskers’ defense. Nebraska couldn’t keep Iowa off schedule when it mattered and the Hawkeyes’ offense is very much one that needs to be consistently ahead of the chains. Prior to its last two drives — drives where time mattered more than yards or points, but Iowa got touchdowns anyway — the Hawkeyes’ success rate sat at 50 percent. Offensively, it was obvious Tommy Armstrong Jr. wasn’t going to be the typical running threat he is and, with the deficit ever growing, Nebraska looked to the pass more than it probably would have. Didn’t help that the run game wasn’t producing anything either.
Explosiveness (Yards per Play)
The most shocking category of all. Nebraska had zero gains of 20-plus yards. Iowa had three in the first half — 77-, 75-, and 56-yard gains to be exact — and, with Nebraska’s offense struggling like it did, those plays put this one out of reach early. You would have reasonably expected the big-play ratio here to be exactly the opposite.
Turnovers (Turnover Points)
In terms of good news, Nebraska was turnover free for the third-straight game. First time that’s happened since 1995. Perhaps you remember that year.
Finishing Drives (Points Per Trip Inside the 40)
Without the ability to move the ball consistently, this one didn’t matter as much. Nebraska averaged 5 points per trip but only made two trips. Meanwhile, Iowa cashed in on four of its five trips inside the 40 and scored twice from deep. Hence, 40-10.
Iowa entered the game with the second-best net field position average in the country. No surprise there, that’s Iowa-ball, but boy did the Hawkeyes execute it on Friday. Iowa’s average drive started 16 yards closer than the Huskers’ average drive, and I thought it needed to be around 3.5 in this game for Nebraska to win. Based only on that and expected points, Iowa could have been expected to win 28-20. It obviously did better than that, forcing the Huskers to start every drive at least 70 yards away and only allowing Nebraska to cross the 50 twice (both scores).
A few more numbers of note for you. In our preview this week I identified some other key stats I thought would play a part in this game: Iowa’s rushing success rate, chunk passing plays and Nebraska’s completion percentage.
Rushing success: If Nebraska was going to win, it was going to have to hold up against Iowa’s run. I set a number to hit here of 38 percent and 58 percent of the Hawkeyes’ run plays were successful. Slight miss. Iowa only had to go to its struggling passing game 15 times on Friday.
Chunk passes: Number to hit here was four and Iowa only had two, largely because it only had to throw the ball 15 times.
Completion percentage: The point in mentioning this category was not that Nebraska would need to be lights out throwing the ball, but that it would need something to support the run, which figured to be tough against the Hawkeyes. Nebraska didn’t do either well, but the Huskers’ 37.8 percent passing on Friday marked the fourth time this season Nebraska has failed to complete 40 percent.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.