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 Nebraska’s 27-14 win over Purdue.
Efficiency (Success Rate)
Another week, another game where Nebraska really struggled to say ahead of the chains and on schedule. That was the best thing about the Huskers’ offense two weeks ago, but it’s clear injuries on the offensive line have disrupted the run flow and Nebraska’s success rate is suffering because of it. On Saturday, Nebraska only managed a 37.3-percent success rate and was 36.7 percent after the first half. That number obviously came up a little in the second half as Nebraska’s talent edge took over, but Nebraska’s offense is going to have to find a way to be much more efficient in the weeks to come if it’s to stay undefeated. Defensively, the Huskers got roughed up pretty good in the first half (48.6-percent success rate for Purdue), but held the Boilermakers to just eight successful plays on 30 attempts in the second half.
Explosiveness (Yards Per Play)
If you’re looking for the real reason Nebraska was able to escape on Saturday with a win, start here. The Huskers broke eight plays for gains of 20 yards or more, which covered up a bunch of dead-end rushing plays on the day. Purdue hit for two explosive plays in the first half, one of which was an 88-yard touchdown pass to DeAngelo Yancey. But when those plays went away for Purdue, and kept coming for Nebraska, the Huskers pulled away in the second half. It’s not the way Nebraska probably imagined needing to beat Purdue, but it all looks the same in the standings.
Turnovers (Turnover Points)
Nebraska won the straight-up turnover battle, but the turnover-points battle tells a clearer story. Nebraska’s giveaway, an interception late in the first half, occurred around midfield, which is the best spot if you’re going to turn it over, and Purdue didn’t even try to score on its ensuing possession. Meanwhile Nebraska’s first takeaway, a Kieron Williams interception on the first play of the game, happened deep in Purdue territory and led directly to a score. It’s second, also a Williams interception, led to another scoring opportunity, but a missed field goal diminished that one a little bit. Still, the Huskers now have 13 interceptions on the season, which will likely rank in the top five nationally next week.
Finishing Drives (Points Per Trip Inside the 40)
Pretty good from Nebraska for the most part. Not including the Huskers’ final two drives of the game, which would normally qualify as scoring opportunities but I’m leaving off because they weren’t actively trying to score, Nebraska went 5-for-6 on its chances and averaged a decent 4.5 points per trip. Purdue only had three scoring opportunities and came away empty twice. That remains a strong part of the Huskers’ defense in 2016.
Big win for Nebraska. Purdue didn’t start a single drive closer than its own 29-yard line. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen that. Minus the tipped punt at the end, the Huskers punted pretty well. Caleb Lightbourn averaged 43 yards per punt and downed three of his four punts inside the Boilermakers’ 10. Meanwhile Nebraska started three drives on Purdue’s side of the field. To give you an idea how big of an edge this was, the average college football team with Nebraska’s starting field position could have been expected to score 28.5 points on 12 drives. A team with Purdue’s starting field position, also getting 12 drives, had an expected points total of 20.8.
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: Nebraska’s yards per carry, Purdue’s sacks allowed and receptions for Boilermakers’ wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey.
Nebraska’s YPC: So much for my prescribed route to victory. I came in thinking Nebraska, even with its patched-together offensive line, would be able to run it right at Purdue. Boy was I wrong. The Huskers didn’t come anywhere close to the number of attempts I thought they’d have and ended up with a sack-adjusted yards per carry of 4.75, two full yards worse than what I had prescribed as a healthy number in this game.
Purdue’s sacks allowed: The one thing you could definitively point to and say, “Purdue does this well,” coming into the game was avoid giving up sacks relative to its number of pass attempts. I didn’t give Nebraska specific number to hit here, but the Huskers had three and three more quarterback hurries. From a pressure perspective, I thought this area was a win for Nebraska.
Yancey receptions: For whatever reason, Yancey has been a Husker slayer. In three career games against Nebraska, he now has 14 receptions for 357 yards and five touchdowns. I thought Nebraska would do well to hold him to three receptions. He had four for 100 yards, both career lows for him against Nebraska, and two touchdowns, so I guess call it a win anyway. The Huskers will be happy not to have to see him any more.
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.