Second Half Struggles

I had wrote about this back in January or February on the other site, and I saw it brought up on another message board. So I think it’s important to talk about it now. So I grabbed my data from a few months back and want to dive into it.

When the staff first got here, you heard things like “teaching how to win” and “changing the culture” or even “Riley culture”. But the one glaring thing that stood out to me was how bad things got for us in the second half. Take a look at the trend right here:

2018 we lost the second half 152 to 163, and were 4-5-1 against P5 opponents.

2019 we lost the second half 127-147, and were 3-6-1 against P5 opponents.

2020 we lost the second half 60-113, and were 1-6-1 against P5 opponents.

That is a pretty awful trend, and quite frankly something I didn’t expect when this staff showed up. I heard a lot about how we needed leaders, and Frost inherited a bare cupboard, etc. But if that’s the case, why is the second half going the way it is? There are 4 reasons in my opinion that this could be happening…

First reason is a lot of times people bring up depth as an issue for second half woes. You get worn down because your same guys are on the field all the time. Another great indicator of depth is special teams and how you do there, it’s no secret we were awful there. The problem I have with depth being the issue, or a valid reason, is each year we are getting worse in this category. So even if it is depth, whos fault is that? In year 3 if it is depth, I think that’s more of an indictment on this staff than a reason.

The other one is “lack of leadership” but I again don’t really buy into that one for the same reason I don’t buy into depth. So Frost was given a bare cupboard, but the reason we were good in the second half was because he inherited good leadership and then from that our leadership has gotten worse every year? Quite honestly, if this is the reason we are probably in trouble.

So that leaves us with two others that I assume are the reasons:

Other coaches adjusting to us, and us not adjusting. Quite frankly, Frost and staff do pretty good at the beginning of most games scheming up. But once the opposing coaches figure out what we are attacking, we seem a bit dead in the water. Didn’t we score on THE Ohio State first drive last year? But what adjustments are we really messing up? Because for example in 2019 against Iowa, our defense started with 4 straight 3 and outs! In fact, out of the 7 possessions Iowa had in the second half, they had 5 punts, 1 fumble, and a field goal, and we STILL LOST. We were tied going into the 4th quarter with the Hawkeyes, and we couldn’t muster a score in 4 attempts.

That was 2019 of course, but it’s pretty evident that we need Frost and Lubick to do much better adjusting out of the half and even during the course of the game. It’s pretty evident that is where we can improve tremendously.

Lastly, could it be strength and conditioning? It’s no secret i’m one of the only people in the state that dislikes what we do in the weight room, but if we are truly a leader and innovator in this area, shouldn’t the second half start to be better for us? In 2019 we got outscored 34-14 in year 2 of our S/C in Boulder, and I heard such atrocious excuses like “you can’t prepare for that altitude.” You had the opposing FIRST YEAR COACH saying this:

For the record, I don’t think it’s that we are weak or things like that. I just think HOW we train makes our bodies just get worn the heck out. And further, what worries me is we have really good depth defensively, but defensive adjustments haven’t been our problem (see the 2019 Iowa description I gave). So it’s up to our offense to be better with adjustments and to not wear down in the 2nd half. Can we do it?

Something to keep an eye on.

Comment below!

10 thoughts on “Second Half Struggles

  1. I’ve been really struggling with this question, too. Not only has the regression gotten worse year over year, it seems consistently bad within season — so even teams we should be pounding have strong second halves against us. (Maybe the one exception is Rutgers last year?). Great stuff as always.

  2. SSO, have you heard anything about adjustments being made by the S&C staff over the last few years? or is the approach still the same?

    1. I actually liked some of the things I saw on Twitter from them this year, they had some sprint based stuff. And I was encouraged last year when they had kids just going to Holmes and running hills, etc. I think we put too much stock in squatting heavy. But that didn’t help last year either (even though we may have moved stuff off site).

      I think they are adjusting, but their base will always stay the same.

      1. Weird, I thought we had this state of the art lab that could tell our coaches what work is needed per player…

      2. I think we have a situation where we can see how much “good weight” a player can put on, but not sure what that’s getting us at the moment.

  3. We have a running joke that the mark of a true SF coached husker team Always gets beat or beats themselves in the 2nd half. The joke is hardly funny, but when was the last time we made better halftime adjustments & won the 2nd half against a quality opponent…..or anybody not named Rutgers? It’s 1 thing to script plays over the course of a week & quite another to make in game adjustments & expose found weaknesses. I certainly hope this gets fixed; if so, I the sky is the limit. If not, my liver will need help.

    Great website btw!! Keep up the good work!

    1. I think that probably is the issue right now. Like I said, I’ll take Frost scheming with the best of them… however, i’m not sure how well we can adapt and adjust when the bullets are flying. I have examples of Chinander doing it, just not much for Frost. I’m hoping the Lubick for Walters move helps there.

  4. Great write up and you bring up some good points. I will say my coaching experience is limited to video games so I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to adjustments with football, but I feel there are adjustments to be made no matter the job or activity you do. There are always going to be issues that pop up to overcome and tasks that can be refined and improved. I would think that if coaching is your job, you would work to improve your weakness as a coach just as you would look to improve your weaknesses as a team. I question why we are not getting better at half time and in game adjustments. I kind of followed Frost at UCF and if I remember correctly, there were games during that undefeated season that they had leads and blew them in the second half to hold on at the end. I don’t feel like this is something new to Frost. Is it something he can ever get better at? Or is the old dog not going to learn new tricks? I hope its just part of the growth process as a head coach and these things can improve in the future.

    You are not alone with not being a fan of what is being done in the weight room. Again I am limited in this department to my experience as a player in high school and don’t know the ins and outs of a college S/C program. I remember we had one summer weight program that focused on four main lifts (bench, squat, dead lift, hand cleans) with others dabbled in. I put up a lot of weight and looked good. However, then we switched to a strength training program that focused on body lifts, dumbbells, and using weights in the movements for our specific sports. I can say I felt stronger even though I was using less weight and had better results on the field. I think any program has to adjust to the times and what is required for the style of play. Especially at D1 level, I would think you would need to have your strength and conditioning fit your style of play and I don’t feel like we always do that. If we want to play is space then we shouldn’t make them good at playing in a phone booth. If I were a coach, I would want to do whatever needed to put my players in the best position to be successful especially if we have pro scouts telling our prospects that we they did was wrong and these are the changes you should make. I would think there would also be things that could be done to decrease certain injuries and strengthen ligaments. Now I have zero idea if our S/C staff is doing these things or not, but I feel like we run into the same issues each year without much different results.

    1. Ya, I just don’t like the “we finally look like a big ten team” but it is giving us our worst results since the 1950s. I’ll take guys like Jerald Foster, Tanner Farmer, Brendan Jaimes, Khalil and Carlos Davis all day long. I’m just really confused how anyone is excited about it.

      Heck, even if we go above .500 that’s only the third winning season for Duval in 12 tries. I don’t like those odds.

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