Nebraska had its best offensive showing of the young season against Northern Illinois, tearing up the Huskies both on the ground and through the air en route to a 44-point performance. The success rate was different in week three, but so was the personnel and how Nebraska used it.
During the first two weeks of the season, Nebraska gave its opponents a heavy does of 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) with 73.5% of its offensive snaps (disregarding penalties and kneel-downs) using 11.
The Huskers changed things up against Northern Illinois, however. Nebraska was in 11 personnel on just 34 of its 65 offensive snaps (52.3%). However, if you exclude the final drive plus one play featuring all reserves, Nebraska’s top units were in 11 personnel just 43.6 percent of the time.
What we saw in week three was a ton of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers). The Huskers used two tight ends on 31 of their 65 snaps (47.7%), but again, taking out the cleanup snaps at the end that percentage spikes to 56.4%.
Nebraska passed the ball 20 times out of 11 personnel, completing 13 of 20 passes for 206 yards (10.3 yards per attempt). Nebraska had gains of 41, 30 and 27 yards in 11 personnel. The Huskers only ran the ball 14 times out of 11 personnel, gaining a total of 40 yards including 24 on one carry. Nine of Nebraska’s runs were stopped for 3 yards or less including three for loss. In total, Nebraska averaged 7.5 yards per play out of 11 personnel.
The run/pass split was flipped in 12 personnel. The Huskers carried he ball 19 times for 188 yards (9.9 yards per carry). The run game was pretty boom-or-bust, however. Nine of those carries were stopped after 3 yards or less, eight went for between 4 and 11 yards and two of them went for 60-plus. Through the air, Nebraska was only 6-of-12 for 80 yards (6.7 yards per attempt). The Huskers gained 8.6 yards per play in 12.
Nebraska is definitely pass-heavy in 11 and run-heavy in 12, and the success rates show why that might be the case.
Nebraska used two skill-position groupings more than any others. The first includes Dedrick Mills, Jack Stoll, Austin Allen, JD Spielman and Kanawai Noa and Nebraska used it on 15 snaps. The second, which got 13 snaps, is Maurice Washington, Jack Stoll, Wan’Dale Robinson, JD Spielman and Kanawai Noa. The third most common lineup (eight snaps) was the the reserve unit of Rahmir Johnson, Kurt Rafdal, Darien Chase, Miles Jones and Jaevon McQuitty (which also featured Noah Vedral at quarterback and the back-up offensive line).
Below is a breakdown of the snap counts.
- JR Dedrick Mills = 26
- SO Maurice Washington = 21
- FR Rahmir Johnson = 8
- SR Wyatt Mazour = 6
Washington got a little banged up during the third quarter and Nebraska sat him the rest of the game, but he and Mills got pretty even reps. It’s worth noting that Nebraska subbed in Mazour at running back during the Huskers’ hurry-up touchdown drive just before halftime. Johnson made his Nebraska debut in the fourth quarter.
- JR Jack Stoll = 55
- SO Austin Allen = 28
- SO Kurt Rafdal = 13
Stoll played every snap that the first string offense was out there. Rafdal got a couple of snaps in 12 personnel but saw most of his action in garbage time.
- JR JD Spielman = 48
- SR Kanawai Noa = 43
- FR Wan’Dale Robinson = 23
- FR Darien Chase = 18
- SR Mike Williams = 14
- SO Jaevon McQuitty = 10
- FR Miles Jones = 10
Spielman and Noa are clearly Nebraska’s top two wideouts based on their usage. Not didn’t see a catchable pass come his direction during his first two games as a Husker but he and Adrian Martinez finally got on the same page against Northern Illinois as the graduate transfer recorded three catches for 51 yards including a touchdown.
Robinson saw 18 of his snaps at receiver and five as the only running back on the field, though he didn’t get anything going as a runner (two carries for no yards). True freshman Darien Chase made his Nebraska debut and got more than just garbage time minutes, mixing in with the starters earlier in the game. He caught one pass for 13 yards.