Hot Reads: Need Yards? Dial Devine Ozigbo's Number.
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: Need Yards? Dial Devine Ozigbo’s Number.

October 15, 2018

"I was going to put it on Devine [Ozigbo] to get us the first down," Scott Frost said on Saturday after Nebraska had watched a 14-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate in the loss to Northwestern. He was talking about the Huskers' planned fourth-down play call in overtime.

Rather than send Barret Pickering out for a 33-yard field goal attempt –– he had missed a field goal and extra point earlier in the game –– Nebraska opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Wildcats' 16. It was a strange decision (though only definitively "wrong" in hindsight) but makes a little more sense knowing that Frost was calling Ozigbo's number.

No. 22 had played a great game to that point. One of the best games in the country according to the grades at Pro Football Focus. Ozigbo landed on the scouting site's national team of the week after rushing for 159 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns.

Ozigbo did all he could to get Nebraska their first win of the season even if they came up just short as he forced 12 missed tackles on his 22 carries against Northwestern. He punched in two touchdowns and had 116 yards after contact.

Saturday's performance was Ozigbo's second big game in two weeks. The senior set a career high with 170 yards on 17 carries, again with two touchdowns, against Purdue at the end of September. Outside of sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman, Ozigbo is probably the Huskers' most consistent offensive weapon this season.

Freshman running back Maurice Washington shows flashes of big-play potential almost every time he touches the ball, but hasn't consistently churned yards like Ozigbo has. Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez is really good for a true freshman, but still looks like a true freshman at times. Senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. draws a ton of attention, which is reflected so far in his receptions total.

When Nebraska has needed tough yards this season it has typically gone to either Spielman or Ozigbo. It went to Spielman in overtime after a false start made it third-and-6 instead of third-and-1. Spielman gained 5 yards.

It was supposed to be Ozigbo's turn after that on fourth-and-1, but he never got the chance thanks to a low snap. It's kind of the perfect summary of Nebraska's season thus far.

Frost mentioned (begrudgingly) Nebraska's in-game win probability after the game. (It reached 98.7 percent at one point.) But I like Bill Connelly's postgame win expectancy better. Rather than making real-time calculations of win probability based on margin, field position and time, the postgame numbers take all the stats from a game and say "here's how often Team X wins the game with these stats."

Even though many of the traditional statistical categories were even at the end of Saturday's game, some key stats were tilted in the Huskers' favor. Based on that, Nebraska could have expected to win that game 84 percent of the time. It's the third time this season the Huskers have been in the black on the stat sheet (Colorado, Troy) but came away with a loss.

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