Nebraska’s Runs Against Minnesota and The New Play Clock Effect

We went into how we didn’t like the fact that Nebraska had Sims run the ball 19 times to get most of our yardage on the ground. This tweet resonated with me:

If you want your QB to stay healthy through the season, you can’t have them running that many times. Further, if you are going to run them, you need to teach them that an extra yard when you already have the first down isn’t worth it. Here’s a play that’s a good example, you already have a massive gain, just jump out of bounds and don’t get hit:

I probably just have PTSD from Taylor Martinez hurting his ankle getting tackled out of bounds like that, but the point remains, get out of bounds and don’t take the hits.

But what I really wanted to analyze was HOW Sims was running the ball. It’s one thing if Satterfield was just calling these things, it’s quite another if they are scrambles, zone reads, RPOs, etc. Let’s take a look.

Run Plays:
Sims QB sneak for 4 yards
Sims called pass and scramble for 6 yards
Sims zone read for 26 yards
Johnson for -1 yards
Ervin Jr for 0 yards
Sims QB wrap for 12 yards
Sims QB power option for 7 yards
Sims QB power for 4 yards
Grant 8 yards
Sims QB power for 5 yards
Sims QB draw for 8 yards
Sims QB draw for 9 yards
Ervin Jr for 7 yards
Ervin Jr for 3 yards

So let’s just analyze that first half there. I think Satterfield wanted to get the RBs involved, but the first two plays did not go well. The following 3 plays were all designed QB runs, and that can prove dangerous for us. But after those first two, things actually looked really good in that first half.

But how will Satterfield react when he goes to the film and sees the below? Take a look at our LT on these first two plays, he basically gets destroyed and the plays go nowhere:

Now, you could actually extrapolate that to the whole left side as Piper and Fidone both struggled on those plays as well. But the moral of the story is our LT is a liability currently as he gave up 3 sacks and is run blocking like that. Even on our longest rush of the day, our RB was drilled in the backfield by the man our starting LT was supposed to block:

I can get mad all I want about the playcalling, but if your guys aren’t blocking easily identifiable defenders, the OC is rarely going to be “right”.

Second Half
Ervin Jr for 1 yard
Sims QB draw for 7 yards
Ervin Jr for 27 yards
Ervin Jr for 4 yards
Grant -1 yards
Sims zone read for 8 yards
Sims QB power for 4 yards.
Sims zone read for 7 yards.
Ervin Jr 6 yards
Sims QB power 0 yards
Anthony Grant 2 yards (zone read give)
Anthony Grant 4 yards
Anthony Grant 5 yards (FUMBLE)
Sims QB draw 1 yard
Sims QB scramble 10 yards
Ervin zone read 4 yards

We take a look at the second half, and things get markedly better. We only had really a few bad runs here. Grant where we ran something of an outside zone/stretch play to the left and got bottled up, another where Grant fumbled, and then a Sims power that they were ready for.

Really the thing that is confusing is the fact that we said how Grant was a liability with putting the ball on the ground, and that’s why he was listed third on the depth chart:

But Grant led all rushers that weren’t our QB with 9 carries, and of course put the ball on the ground in the most crucial of spots. I try not to dive too deep into it, as Johnson had had a hamstring issue that popped up after Rhule made those comments so they were trying to be careful with #14. And maybe Ervin got dinged up, but it does make you wonder. Again, I won’t try to dive too deep into that.

Breakdown for Sims 19 Rushes:
11 QB designed runs (sneak, draw, power)
3 Zone Read Keeps
2 QB Scrambles
3 QB Sacks

That was quite a bit, I think we are going to need to use him against Colorado. But hopefully we can get it closer to 12 runs or so instead of 19. And Satterfield is going to have to show patience. Early in the game I assume Husker fans and even OC Satt will get frustrated. 1, 2, and 3 yard gains are going to be abundant as they stack the box. But stay the course, and those will turn into 4, 5, and 6 yard gains.

New Clock Rules for College Football

Over the first two weeks of college football, we have a small sample size of just how the new clock rules that are like the NFL where the clock doesn’t stop after first downs effect the game. Here is an early season look at the stats:

Even OC Satterfield made mention yesterday that the new playclock rules didn’t really come into his mind until they got to halftime and Nebraska only had 3 possessions the entire first half. Something that will probably need to be taken into account.

Sample size is small, but you can pretty much assume that most teams are going to average at least one less possession per game on average. Which makes holding on to the ball that much more important. Nebraska only got 9 possessions against Minnesota and turned it over 4 times, a whopping 44% of their drives ended in handing it to the other team. With at least one less possession per game less, those turnovers are even more of a back breaker.

And looking at last years Minnesota game compared to 2023, there’s an even wider gap. Last year Minnesota had the B1Gs best RB in Mo Ibrahim and leaned on him, which obviously milked more clock. Games were going to be shorter everytime you played the Gophers due to their philosophy. Minnesota only threw the ball 20 times last year, while attempting 45 runs, and Nebraska received 11 possessions that game, well below their season average. In 2023, Minnesota threw the ball nearly as many times as they ran it last year with 44 attempts and only 25 rushes. With that change, you would think more possessions. However as we said in the previous paragraph, Nebraska only had the ball 9 times. Here is a breakdown of Nebraska’s possessions last year:

Northwestern 14
North Dakota 12
Georgia State 11
Oklahoma 14
Indiana 16
Rutgers 14
Purdue 13
Illinois 13
Minnesota 11
Michigan 10
Wisconsin 10
Iowa 11
Average: 12.66 possessions per game

The reality is Nebraska will probably average between 11 and 12 possessions per game, for one less. The plays are actually probably going to be similar, drives just take longer as the clock doesn’t stop. And you watched Nebraska fans struggle with this in the first quarter of the Gopher game, as they were worried about Minnesota having a 10 minute vs 5 minute time of possession advantage. What ended up happening is once the kickoffs and quarters evened up, the TOP eventually evened out with both team having the ball for roughly 30 minutes each.

I don’t really mind the new clock rule, what bothers me is these new TV deals are just making it so that we have less football and more commercials:

You’re going to have to hang on to the ball more. And fans are going to have to realize that whoever gets the ball first is going to be leading the time of possession stat in the first quarter. It will all eventually even out, but that ball becomes even more valuable in 2023 and beyond with at least one fewer possession per game.

Join us tomorrow when we give our Colorado preview and prediction, talk about DC White’s built-in defense against a hurry-up offense, as well as our toilet reading and gambling picks!

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10 thoughts on “Nebraska’s Runs Against Minnesota and The New Play Clock Effect

  1. I mean looking at those Corcoran plays, he more than anything just whiffs on the block. Would seem to me to be mobility or angle issues , of which at this point don’t know how much of that is coachable.

    1. Pretty bad. If they weren’t trying to preserve Gottula’s redshirt I think they would have made a move. Teddy P seems like he’s ready so we will see what happens in Boulder.

  2. It’s starting to look like the off-season’s biggest loss was the late flip of Stanford transfer Left Tackle Walter Rouse from the Huskers to Oklahoma. Rouse started and played 48 snaps in OU’s first game. Woulda, shoulda, coulda, …..

      1. Great point! Kudos to Benhart – he received as much or more grief than Corcoran last season, but his PFF grade in the first game was in line with the rest of the offensive line (minus TC).

        A BIG IF: if TC continues to struggle, Teddy can’t regain/keep good health, and Benhart continues to improve. Might the staff consider moving Benhart to Left Tackle and Knaak (RFr transfer from Utah) take over at Right Tackle?

      2. It’s really tough to go from one side to the other. I almost think they would put Gottula in for those situations. They are wanting to preserve that redshirt though. I don’t think they feel Knaak is quite ready.

  3. This is Sims 4th year playing QB. If he hasn’t learned to look off receivers by now he probably isn’t going to change. I would roll him out more and give him a run/pass option. Having him sitting back in the pocket and reading defenses doesn’t appear to be a strength for him. Rolling him out should get the tight ends more involved with easier shorter passes one would think.

    1. I’m with ya, just giving the benefit of the doubt from what happened prior to to being in Lincoln. And it’s really becoming evident these coaches say things to try and pump up confidence. Between our OL play and his QB play i’m skeptical what to believe.

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