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Hot Reads: The Defense That Nearly Doubled the Length of the Field

March 29, 2018

"On Oct. 8, 2009, my understanding of football changed," Bill Connelly writes as a way into this SB Nation story about Ndamukong Suh signing with the Rams. But before that it's a lot about the 2009 Blackshirts, and you can always sign me up for that.

Post-2001, that 2009 season is the "best" Husker season, right? It was only one side of the ball, but it was the closest thing Nebraska's had to "greatness" over the last 15 years. That defense was elite by any definition.

As Connelly, a Missouri grad who was at that Oct. 8 game in Columbia referenced above, puts it:

Without blitzing, the Huskers’ four linemen thoroughly defeated any opposing line (even eventual BCS runner-up Texas’), and in pass-rushing situations, teams had no choice but to keep the running back in as a sixth blocker. That created a 7-on-5 advantage for the rest of the defense, 7-on-4 if the QB wasn’t a runner. A secondary that featured future pros Prince Amukamara, Larry Asante, Dejon Gomes, Eric Hagg, and Alfonzo Dennard didn’t need that much help, but got it anyway.
. . .
This was an absolutely unfair defense. I love nothing more than a defense that turns the trenches into a bar fight, creates anarchy, and lets its other defenders swarm the ball with numbers advantages.

"Unfair" is a good way to put it. Suh was unfair in 2009, a one-man pressure package who led the team in tackles as a defensive tackle, and he made the defense as a whole almost impossible to handle by the end of the season. When Texas got its second back on Dec. 5 for what would be the game-winning kick, I remember thinking, "Suh will block it," because Suh seemed to make every essential play that year.

I was honestly shocked when he didn't.

Everyone probably has their favorite number to encapsulate that defense. Mine happens to be this one: Nebraska's yards per point allowed that season was 26.01. Think about that for a second. An offense had to cover a quarter of the field to score one point. Do the math on that and a touchdown and extra point required 182.07 yards on average. 

No team since at least 2005 has even topped 25 in yards per point allowed per cfbanalytics.com. Most years the best defense in the country isn't even close.

Year National Leader Opp. Yards/Point
2005 Alabama 23.91
2006 Ohio State 21.96
2007 Cincinnati 19.62
2008 USC 24.64
2009 NEBRASKA 26.01
2010 Missouri 22.17
2011 LSU 23.17
2012 Notre Dame 23.92
2013 Florida State 23.18
2014 Ole Miss 20.87
2015 Ohio State 21.20
2016 Auburn 21.20
2017 Alabama 21.86

When I think of Nebraska's 2009 defense, that's what I think of: It was the defense that nearly doubled the length of the field.

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