Nebraska has all of four takeaways this season. The Huskers have played one fewer game than most teams, but that ranks 121st nationally.
And it might be a bit surprising given what Erik Chinander's defense were able to do in two years at UCF. The Knights ranked in the top 20 in takeaways in both 2016 and 2017. The Huskers lack of takeaways this season has made 2018 an interesting test for this brand of defense. We hadn't really seen what it looked like without a high number of takeaways.
Now we are. Why?
"We're OK knocking balls down," Chinander said Tuesday. "I felt like Antonio Reed had a chance to make another pick [against Wisconsin]. I felt like Cam Taylor could've made a pick if he'd made a break on the ball. We're celebrating after a knocked down pass. Passes aren't supposed to get knocked down, they're supposed to be intercepted. We've got to be disappointed with a knock down and mad that we didn't get the pick. We've got to do a better job stripping the ball. We've got to do a better job when we get to the quarterback of getting the ball out. Lack of speed and/or getting more people to the ball is really what causes turnovers and we need to fix it."
That's a pretty comprehensive appraisal of the lack of turnovers. An accurate one, too.
Nebraska ranks 28th in pass breakups ("knock downs") per game, but 107th in interceptions per game. It's percentage of interceptions-to-passes defended (8.33%) ranks 124th. National average through six weeks this season has been 19.6 percent. As Chinander noted, the Huskers are creating opportunities for interceptions but not converting them.
The fumbles recovered-to-fumbles percentage is a little better, but not good. Nebraska has recovered two-of-six this season (33.3%), which ranks 99th against a national average this season of 49.8 percent. The Huskers have forced two fumbles this season, 107th nationally.
But thanks to the high number of pass breakups, Nebraska's actually forced an average number of takeaway opportunities (forced fumbles-plus-passes defended). The Huskers are averaging 5.2 per game, which ranks 61st. Factor in the number of plays defended, however, and Nebraska is creating a takeaway opportunity on 7.08 percent of plays (84th).
Still, what was true a week ago is true now: Nebraska has earned a little more on the takeaway front than it has actually received.
Why? Randomness will always have an impact on turnovers, but Chinander used a key word on Tuesday –– "speed." UCF ranked second and 11th in TakeOpps per game in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
What's the one thing you could reasonably assume UCF had when this staff arrived in December of 2015? A decent amount of speed.
The good news for Nebraska, this week at least, is that Northwestern isn't a high takeaway team so far in 2018 (5, 111th) either. The Huskers haven't won the turnover battle in a game yet. Maybe Saturday's the day.
The Grab Bag
- Jacob Padilla offers a couple of quick updates on Nebraska basketball.
- In this week's Lo-Down former Husker Lauren West looks at building a defense-first volleyball culture.
- Greg Smith takes a look at a Husker commit having a big senior season in his daily recruiting notebook.
- After a week prepping for Wisconsin's heavy sets, the Huskers are back to what they know best –– defending the spread.
Today's Song of Today
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.