Not Ready for Primetime…Yet

We knew it was going to take an unbelievable effort and perfect execution to come home from L.A. with a win. Unfortunately that did not happen and it is clear that Nebraska still does not have the talent to match up with Top 5 teams. We are improving and the final score was anything but embarrassing. Much will continue to be made about the playcalling. Fans expected Callahan to open up the offense rather than attempt to control the clock with the running game. For those upset that more passes weren’t thrown, watch the game again. Taylor rarely had time to set his feet against the USC pass rush and when he could look down field, no one appeared to be open. Overall, we had a number of chances to make something happen and didn’t. When you don’t take advantage of your opportunities as an underdog, the more talented team is generally going to walk off the field victorious.

With that said, lets take a look now at how we stacked up with regards to my keys to victory.

Scripted Plays
The first 20 plays included 12 runs and 8 passes. We were able to produce just 57 yards of total offense from these plays, not counting a 28 yard gain on a fake punt in our second series. Callahan showed a pretty good run/pass split in his openers. Due to a variety of reasons, he chose not to stick with this formula and Zac Taylor attempted just 8 passes the rest of the game.

First Down Efficiency
Nebraska ran 20 first down plays versus the Trojans. Of those plays, seven produced gains of four yards or more. This generated a first down efficiency rate of 35%. That was well below our 2006 average of 68%. I had hypothesized that Callahan would want to keep the USC defense guessing by mixing up the run and the pass on first down. Instead, Callahan stuck almost exclusively with the run as running plays accounted for 16 of the 20 first down calls. A lower than desired first down efficiency rate created a number of third and medium and third and long situations. Nebraska struggled with these, converting just 5/14 third down opportunities (36%).

Turnover Margin
There was just one turnover in the game. Unfortunately it proved costly for the Huskers. Marlon Lucky fumbled a handoff on Nebraska’s first play of the second half. USC scored just a few plays later swinging the momentum and changing the nature of the game for the Huskers. The Nebraska secondary also dropped several interceptions in the second half allowing USC to get away with their mistakes.

Red Zone Efficiency
Nebraska was perfect from the Red Zone. Unfortunately the Huskers only reached this area of the field once on Saturday. USC, on the other hand, continued their amazing Red Zone performance by converting 4/5 of their opportunities into touchdowns.

Explosive Plays
Nebraska managed three explosive plays from its passing game. The first came on a fake punt early in the first quarter. The other two came on back to back plays at the end of the third quarter and led to the Huskers’ only touchdown.

Defensively, we could not contain USC’s talented attack. The Trojans produced 10 explosive plays. Five of those came through the air, while the other four came from their talented running backs.

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