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.” All of the numbers below include only non-garbage time plays, which wasn’t an issue in this game. For a more complete explanation of the numbers, click here.
Here’s a closer look at Nebraska’s 27-22 win over Indiana:
Efficiency (Success Rate)
Nebraska entered this game with a 49.9 percent success rate, ninth nationally. Efficiency is what the Huskers’ offense does best, but give credit to the Hoosiers’ defense here. It consistently kept Nebraska off schedule and rebounded in a nice way from a cool-and-calculated opening drive from Nebraska. At that point, it looked like the Huskers offense was fresh coming off a bye week. But injuries, both those everyone knew about coming in and those that happened during the game, certainly didn’t do Nebraska’s offense any favors. Thanks to the Huskers’ defense, however, Nebraska never trailed. This was a big-time effort from the Blackshirts.
Explosiveness (Yards Per Play)
I don’t know how many times leading up to this game that I heard somebody say this was going to be a shootout. It was decidedly not a shootout, both in terms of points and yard. The Huskers only managed two plays of 20-plus yards. The Hoosiers had four, but ended up averaging a fraction of a yard less than Nebraska per play. In short, on the way to the shootout a classic Big Ten game broke out.
Turnovers (Turnover Points)
These two ended up even in the box score, but the real difference between each team’s two interceptions was a major key to the game. Chris Jones’ pick-six gave him half as many touchdowns as the Huskers’ offense had on the day. It also beat the total points Indiana would get from two Tommy Armstrong Jr. interceptions. The first set the Hoosiers up at Nebraska’s 28-yard line. Indiana didn’t gain a yard and had to settle for a field goal. Nebraska’s last interception, of course, sealed the game. Both teams had the same number of takeaways, but they were far from the same, hence the difference in turnover points.
Finishing Drives (Points Per Trip Inside the 40)
Thought this would be huge in this game as it was one of Nebraska’s strengths against one of Indiana’s weaknesses. That’s pretty much how it played out. Nebraska’s defense did just enough here early to hang on late. Indiana’s first four scoring opportunities (a first down inside the 40) resulted in just six points. The Hoosiers’ two second-half scoring opportunities both resulted in touchdowns, but Nebraska’s 4.3-to-3.5 edge here, in combination with the turnovers, was really the difference in a game where both teams averaged the same number of points per drive.
Nebraska held an early edge, but Indiana flipped it in the second quarter with a punt downed inside the 5 and then a interception that gave it the ball at the Huskers’ 28. Considering that the Hoosiers had nearly a 5-yard edge here, it puts Nebraska’s defensive effort in an even better light.
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: Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s rushing numbers, Indiana’s yards per carry and explosive passing plays.
Armstrong: It was clear that Armstrong wasn’t 100-percent healthy, but he was game enough to come up with a couple of key runs. Take out a sack and Armstrong rushed 10 times for 49 yards, a little off his season averages coming in of 11 carries for 5.5 yards a pop, but close enough to be meaningful.
Indiana’s YPC: I thought the Huskers would need to hold Indiana under 4 yards per carry and they held the Hoosiers to 2.9, 4.14 if you take out sacks. Minus a 33-yard run on a fake reverse, however, Nebraska largely made Indiana earn its yards on the ground.
Explosive passing plays: I thought Nebraska could probably get away with allowing four passes of 20 yards or more. The Huskers only gave up three. Nebraska didn’t hit as many as I thought it might, but Armstrong wasn’t finding a lot of time to pass.