Huskers' Offense Still Searching for that Finishing Move
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Huskers’ Offense Still Searching for that Finishing Move

November 18, 2019

Nebraska averaged 23.5 yards per point Saturday. That is, objectively, as bad as it can get for an offense. The metric itself underscores a finishing move. The worst team in the country right now at “finishing” is Akron. The Zips average 24.9 yards per point. Bowling Green is next, at 22.7. 

One game, obviously, does not a season make, and trying to extrapolate the Huskers’ average against a good Wisconsin defense (one that ranks fourth nationally in red zone drives allowed and red zone scores allowed, and ninth in yards per point allowed) over an entire season to prove some kind of point would be missing the actually-important point. 

Saturday, isolating the conversation to just the offensive side of the ball, showed progress. In a number of areas. It did not show a finished product. 

Nebraska is still looking for its finishing move, something that has eluded the group all season.

“I know how close we are,” Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “I think most of the team knows that, too. We are going to keep on striving to get better and fix those little things.”

Break Scott Frost’s first two years into quarters. The first half of Year 1, Nebraska averaged 23.3 points a game. The Huskers averaged 36.7 over the last half of Year 1, then 31.8 points over the first five games of this season and 19.8 over the last five games. 

The difference in yardage over the same four quarters is interesting: a 31.3-yard improvement from the first six games of Year 1 to the last, then a 37.4-yard improvement from the first half of Year 2 to the last half of it. 

A two-touchdown improvement in scoring doesn’t happen because of three extra first downs a game, does it? And a 10-point dip in scoring certainly doesn’t happen when getting those same three first downs. 

“A little more grit, a little more want, that’s what it all comes down to,” said junior right tackle Matt Farniok when asked about finishing. “We’ve done it pretty much all year, we’ve proved that we can move the ball, we’ve proved that we can really do what we need to do before, but we need to find just a little more something, whatever it is, we need to find a little bit more within ourselves across the boards. There’s no wishing that we’re gonna score, we are going to score. There’s no other second thoughts about it.” 

The vibe immediately after the game from Frost and then Monday afternoon with the benefit of film was generally the same: positive.

“I thought Adrian looked more like the Adrian we all expected Saturday,” Frost said. “I think Dedrick [Mills] is continuing to get better and I think he will continue to get better. … A lot of his success Saturday was due to some other people, too. The offensive line blocked really well and I thought it was our best game. The offensive coaching staff did a good job scheme-wise and getting them in some good situations. We blocked a little better downfield.”

But 21 points was worse than the 27-point output at Purdue, and that was a bye week ago. Wisconsin is a better defense, but Nebraska was 118 yards better on offense against the Badgers than the Boilermakers. And the 21 points is worse than the 31 against Indiana three weekends ago.

“We just need to win,” Frost said. “That’s it. You can’t put any more on it. In some ways, winning is a habit and losing is a habit. I think there are a few too many guys on our team who are conditioned to not win. We need to flip that and make sure winning is a habit. To do that, you have to get one, and it’s been too many weeks since we’ve gotten one.”

Nebraska is riding a four-game losing streak. It has lost five of its last six. The “0-6 close to Year 2 after an 0-6 start to Year 1” narrative lurks around the corner. 

Notable players on offense have removed social media from their lives. Too much negativity. It all changes with one victory. Beating Illinois by four on the road, before Illinois figured out how to be good, and beating a terrible Northwestern team by a last-second miracle field goal all serve purposes. 

Validation.

“Just kind of let us see it work,” Farniok said. “We know we’re better than what we started and we’re better than we were but it’s always nice when you have to get what you really want. At the end of the day, the only thing we really want is a win. Right now we need to find a way just to simply finish. 

“A win would be huge for us,” added Martinez. “Obviously, we need two more wins to get into a bowl game, and that’s what we want to do. It’s going to start this week against Maryland. We don’t have any other choice. That’s our mindset. I think it would be big for us and big for our team.”

Finish. The “we just need a win” storyline is tied a lot closer to the yards-per-point struggles than first glance would suggest. Find that finishing move and Nebraska can put games away. Finish offensive possessions and Nebraska can feel good about itself. 

From 2009 to 2015, Oregon was 75-4 when scoring at least 31 points in a game.

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