One of the most frustrating plays in football is a dropped pass.
The quarterback throws a perfect ball right into the hands of the receiver, but the receiver can’t hang on and the pass falls incomplete.
Through two games this season, dropped passes by Nebraska receivers have slowed down the rhythm of the offense, often times stalling a drive in crucial situations.
Based on my judgment, the Huskers have had five dropped passes in 2017—four of which happened in last week’s 42-35 loss at Oregon. With 73 pass attempts by quarterback Tanner Lee this season, Nebraska has a dropped pass rate of 6.85 percent.
Drops aren't tracked across college football, but some people do keep tally in the NFL. Granted there is a large talent gap between the NFL and Nebraska’s receivers, but no NFL team has had a higher rate since 2013, when the Detroit Lions dropped 7.1 percent of their 623 targets, according to SportingCharts.com.
Nebraska has had another half-dozen or so passes that should have been caught this season, but I wouldn’t consider them dropped.
Junior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. is responsible for over half of the team's dropped passes, with three. That’s a rate of 11.54 percent on his 26 targets.
On 11 targets, senior tight end Tyler Hoppes accounts for the other two drops, for a rate of 18.18 percent.
These five drops have occurred at critical moments in Nebraska’s offensive drives. Had these passes been caught, it may have changed the final outcome of the drive.
The first dropped pass of the season came on the opening drive against Arkansas State. After driving 28 yards, down to the Red Wolves' 9-yard line, Lee threw what should have been an easy touchdown reception to Hoppes in the back right corner of the end zone.
The ball hit Hoppes in the numbers, but bounced up into the air, eventually falling incomplete.
The Huskers failed to convert on third and 7, and were forced to settle for a field goal.
Nebraska had two more passes that could have been caught against Arkansas State, but weren’t considered for-sure catches.
Now we fast forward to last week’s game against Oregon. Nebraska had four dropped passes on 41 attempts for a rate of 9.76 percent.
The first dropped pass of the game came on the first pass attempt. Lee threw a nice 25-yard pass over the top of an Oregon defender to Morgan. The ball went through Morgan’s hands, off his facemask, and into the hands of the safety for an interception.
The Ducks took a quick 14-0 lead after the turnover, the start of a hole the Huskers couldn’t climb out of.
Nebraska’s second drop of the game occurred early in the second quarter with the team down by only a touchdown. The drop by Hoppes wasn’t as critical as the others, since he wouldn’t have picked up many yards on the play with the defender right on his back ready to make the tackle just beyond the line of scrimmage.
The final two drops occurred in the second half.
In the third quarter, on first and 15, from the Oregon 38-yard line, Morgan dropped a pass that would have put Nebraska in the red zone with chance to cut the deficit back to seven points.
Instead, the drive stalled after the incompletion. Running back Tre Bryant picked up just three yards on second down and Lee was sacked for a loss of 7 on third down, pushing the Huskers out of field goal range.
A similar sequence occurred midway through the fourth quarter. Morgan, again, dropped a pass that would have resulted in a first down. The Huskers failed to convert on third down and were forced to punt.
Just like against Arkansas State, Nebraska had another two passes that should have been caught, but again, did not qualify for a dropped pass.
If the Huskers are going to improve their consistency on offense, one thing that needs to change is the amount of dropped passes.