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.
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 Tennessee’s 38-24 win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
Efficiency (Success Rate)
This was a tough one for Nebraska. It wasn’t a total surprise to see the Volunteers with a success rate up around 50 percent, though I did expect Nebraska’s defense to have a little more success slowing Tennessee down. Where this game was decided, however, was when Nebraska tried to run the ball. The Huskers clearly wanted to, but couldn’t (2.2 ypc). That was a surprise against this defense and it kept Nebraska consistently off schedule. Nebraska’s average third down in this game required nearly 9.5 yards for a first down. Against this pass rush in particular, that’s death.
Explosiveness (Yards per Play)
There was a pretty big gap in yards per play here, but Nebraska remained in the game via the big play. The Huskers hadn’t crossed the Volunteers’ 50 before Ryker Fyfe hit Cethan Carter for a 33-yard gain late in the second quarter. A 38-yard pass to Brandon Reilly resulted in the first touchdown and the Huskers would add three more explosive plays in the second half. Problem was, Tennessee had three in each half (not to mention a drop in each half that would’ve been almost certain touchdowns of 50-plus yards). The struggles in the run game were part of this, but losing this category is more on the defense.
Turnovers (Turnover Points)
Nebraska committed its first turnover since the Ohio State game and forced its first turnover since the Minnesota game. The latter — a big-time play from true freshman JoJo Domann to force the fumble — allowed the Huskers to pull within seven.
Finishing Drives (Points Per Trip Inside the 40)
Nice job by both teams here. Or a bad job by both defenses if you care to look at it that way. Nebraska was four-for-four on its scoring opportunities, Tennessee five-for-six with one long-range score to give you the final 14-point margin.
Another one that was played pretty straight up. Each team got set up with a short field via turnover, Nebraska cashed in its opportunity and prevented Tennessee from doing the same. The Volunteers got another short field when Nebraska had to go for it on fourth down late, but the game was effectively over at that point. Both punters deserve some mention here. Caleb Lightbourn averaged 42.7 yards on seven punts, while Trevor Daniel averaged 43.3 yards on six punts and had two downed inside the Huskers’ five. The larger takeaway for me, however, was that Nebraska — at least in this game — doesn’t currently have the margin of error necessary to play “straight up” against a team with the talent of Tennessee. The Huskers hung in anyway, but it never really felt like the Vols lost control of the game. Field position can do that.
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.