Hot Reads: A Slow Start to Weaponizing a Quick Tempo at Nebraska
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hot Reads: A Slow Start to Weaponizing a Quick Tempo at Nebraska

September 25, 2018

On the list of issues Nebraska football needs to fix right now, playing faster is way down the list. Right now the Huskers' relative lack of pace through three games simply underscores that things aren't running efficiently at the moment.

Right now, this is the "slowest" team Scott Frost has had. The Huskers are averaging 2.41 plays per minute. That ranks 56th nationally and fifth in the Big Ten, but it's down from UCF's pace a year ago (2.52, 32nd) which was down from Frost's first year in Orlando (2.74, 14th).

For the most part, it's not hard to understand why. The Huskers, according to Frost, "tried to stay pretty basic" against Troy with backup quarterback Andrew Bunch. Michigan simply smothered the Huskers from the start. Ten of Nebraska's 14 drives against the Wolverines spanned four plays or fewer.

No team's trying to pick up the pace on a three-and-out.

That really leaves one game to serve as an example of what the offense should look like.

"At times early on we looked like a team that we need to look like, particularly in the Colorado game," Frost said Monday.

Go back and look at that drive chart and it's not hard to see what he's talking about. Ten of the Huskers' 14 drives in that game covered at least six plays, but none of them took longer than 3 minutes 7 seconds. The Huskers were able to use tempo as a selective weapon because the Huskers were having some success on early downs early in drives.

It becomes something of a chicken-and-egg scenario. Is the Huskers' offense struggling because it hasn't been able to use tempo very often, or has it been unable to use tempo very often because the offense is struggling elsewhere. It's hard to separate the two, so all we know at this point is it isn't what the coaches want it to be.

And that made quarterback Adrian Martinez's answer to a question of "what does this offense do well?" yesterday pretty interesting.

"I think it is going to be our ability to capitalize on tempo," Martinez said. "When we get that first first-down and really start to roll we can run the ball and get the defense scrambling a little bit. I would say that that is our biggest advantage. I think against Michigan we obviously struggled to get that first first down and that kind of handicaps our offense in my opinion."

Going to be. Hasn't been yet. At least not consistently.

If you're a Husker fan looking for reasons to be hopeful that Nebraska can still turn this season around, that might be the best source. Nebraska's best weapon –– the foundational principle of the whole approach, the thing the quarterback immediately identified –– has been holstered most of the time so far in 2018.

And if the Huskers ever get it unholstered, the improvements on offense could be pretty quick.

Stock Advice from Joe Klatt

The Grab Bag

  • Nebraska setter Nicklin Hames has an early start on matching some Husker greats.
  • Frost said most of the team is frustrated by Nebraska's 0-3 start. Why isn't it everyone asks Derek Peterson in his latest column.
  • Greg Smith has started doing a daily recruiting notebook. You can check out the second installment here.
  • Husker hoops kicks off practice on Tuesday. Coach Tim Miles offered some thoughts on the season ahead on Monday.

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