Archive for May, 2007

2006 Game Analysis – Louisiana Tech

May 30, 2007

Date – September 2, 2006
Location – Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
Final Score – Nebraska 49 – Louisiana Tech 10

Key Stats Check
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Category Nebraska Louisiana Tech
First Down (+4) Efficiency 26/42 (62%) 12/23 (52%)
Red Zone Efficiency 5/7 (71%) 1/1 (100%)
Rushing Explosive Plays (+12) 5 2
Passing Explosive Plays (+16) 8 4
Turnover Margin +1 -1
Passing Efficiency 175.24 105.33
3rd Down Efficiency 11/16 (69%) 5/14 (36%)
4th Down Efficiency 1/2 (50%) 0/0
Total Offense 584 305

Nebraska did an excellent job of moving the ball on first down against Louisiana Tech. They gained 4+ yards on 62% on their first down plays. This goes a long ways toward keeping the team on schedule with regards to down and distance. The better success you have on first down the fewer 3rd and long situations you will face.

Speaking of 3rd down, Nebraska converted 11/16 third down opportunities against the Bulldogs. This was a vast improvement over 2005 when the Huskers converted just 33% of the their 3rd down chances. The Husker defense shut down La Tech on 3rd down holding them to a conversion rate under 40%.

The Huskers also did a great job in the red zone converting 5/7 opportunities. However, turnovers in the red zone prevented two more scoring opportunities. Louisiana Tech converted a field goal in its only visit to the red zone.

The Nebraska offense produced 13 explosive plays. In the passing game, the tight ends had a breakout performance and Mo Purify grabbed his first career pass gaining 28 yards on a first quarter completion. On the ground, Brandon Jackson showed a glimpse of what would become a great 2006 season with a 25 yard TD run. Overall, the Huskers outgained the Bulldogs 584 to 305 and quarterbacks Taylor and Ganz combined for an impressive passing efficiency mark of 175.24. The Huskers also won the turnover battle in the 2006 home opener, despite several fumbles and a Zac Taylor interception in the 1st quarter.

How Nebraska Scored
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Drive Starting Point Drives Points Comments
-1 to -10 0 0
-11 to -34 7 28
  • 13 Plays – Lucky, Marlon 13 yd run
  • 14 Plays – Glenn, Cody 1 yd run
  • 6 Plays – Phillips, J.B. 6 yd pass from Taylor, Zac
  • 7 Plays – Mueller, Josh 6 yd pass from Taylor, Zac
  • -35 to +35 5 21
  • 8 Plays – Herian, Matt 13 yd pass from Taylor, Zac
  • 5 Plays – Jackson, Brandon 25 yd run
  • 6 Plays – Teafatiller, Hunter 29 yd pass from Ganz, Joe
  • +34 to +11 1 0 Drive started on 15 yard line ended with INT on tipped pass
    +10 to +1 0 0
    Totals 13 49 13 Drives, 7 TDs, Avg. Scoring Drve = 8.43 Plays

    Nebraska got off to a slow start punting on their first two drives. The Huskers started their third drive at the Louisiana Tech 15-yard line following a muffed punt. Nebraska failed to capitalize, however, when Zac Taylor’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted.

    The Nebraska offense then got rolling and scored on its next four possessions. First, Matt Herian caught a TD pass late in the first quarter to get the Huskers on the board. The second quarter then saw TD runs from Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn. Tight ends J.B. Phillips and Josh Mueller then caught a pair of 6-yard tosses from Zac Taylor in the second half. Nebraska closed out its scoring with a tough 25-yard run by Brandon Jackson and a TD pass from Joe Ganz to Hunter Teafatiller. Teafatiller became the fourth Husker TE to catch a TD pass in the game.

    Overall Nebraska scored TDs on 7/13 drives in the game. The average starting position for Nebraska drives was their own 38-yard line. Louisiana Tech’s average starting position was their own 24.

    Run/Pass Split
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    Plays Number Yards Avg.
    Run Plays 48 252 5.2
    Pass Plays 36 332 9.2
    Total Plays 84 584 6.95

    Nebraska entered the 2006 season hoping to “pound the rock” and re-energize a running attack that had floundered in 2005. To that tune Nebraska ran the ball 48 times against Louisiana Tech. That would be more carries than Nebraska would have in all but one game during 2006.

    Because Nebraska ran an astounding 84 plays in the game, it also balanced its attack with 36 passes. The Huskers completed 24 of those passes and also threw 4 TDs in the game. The Louisiana Tech game would mark the first of five games in 2006 that the Huskers would average more than 5 yards per rushing attempt. The 9.22 yards per passing attempt was the sixth highest total for the Huskers in 2006.

    Play Selection By Down and Distance
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    Down Distance Runs Pct. Yds. Passes Pct. Yds.
    1st & 10 21 60% 151 14 40% 61
    & 15 0 0 0 1 100% 18
    & Other 2 50% 0 2 50% 30
    2nd & 1-3 4 67% 12 2 33% 19
    & 4-6 6 67% 30 3 33% 3
    & 7+ 8 67% 26 4 33% 57
    3rd & 1-2 4 50% 15 4 50% 39
    & 3-6 3 50% -2 3 50% 34
    & 7+ 0 0 0 3 100% 41
    4th & 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
    & 2-3 1 50% 7 1 50% 0

    One of the reasons for Nebraska’s success on 1st down in the game was its ability to keep the defense guessing. Many coaches believe first down is the best down to keep an opponent off-balance, because the defense really has a difficult time knowing what is coming. By utilizing a 60/40 run/pass split on first down, Callahan and the Nebraska offense kept the Bulldogs guessing and set up several 2nd and 3rd and short situations.

    On second down the Huskers ran 67% of the time. This is a number that would stay about that high throughout the season. When faced with a 2nd and short-to-medium, chances are Nebraska is going to run.

    The most interesting item to note on third down is that the Huskers faced just three 3rd and long situations in the game. Interestingly Nebraska converted 2/3 of its 3rd and long opportunities against Louisiana Tech. One was the 28-yard completion to Purify and the other was a 13-yard completion to Hardy. The lone 3rd and long the Huskers failed to convert came on a drop by Hardy that would have gone for a first down.

    Personnel Breakdown
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    Personnel Runs Pct. Yds. Passes Pct. Yds.
    2 WRs 12 80% 112 3 20% 4
    3 WRs 4 16% 17 21 84% 178
    2 TEs 12 63% 28 7 37% 37
    3 TEs 13 76% 69 4 24% 52
    4 TEs 6 86% 19 1 14% 31
    Totals 47 245 36 302

    One of the strengths of the WCO is the ability to utilize multiple formations and personnel groupings. Often a single play can be run from any number of these groupings creating a playbook that seems almost endless. In the 2006 opener, Nebraska highlighted the flexibility of its personnel groupings. We see these represented in the table above. You can click on the formation names to see a screen capture of the formation as it appears pre-snap.

    The biggest thing that jumped out while charting the Louisiana Tech game was the use of the 4 TE set. I honestly had not noticed the regularity with which we used this grouping until now. I was aware that we often had three TEs on the field, but hadn’t always noticed the fourth. I wasn’t alone. Several times during the play-by-play Jim Rose told the listening audience that we were aligned in a 3 TE set, when really all four were on the field. I know because I stopped the tape numerous types and recounted. You also might notice the arrows in the picture of the 4 TE set, just to ensure I wasn’t hallucinating. My hunch was that Callahan devised this “jumbo” package to help jump start the running game. Given that we threw just one time out of this formation against the Bulldogs (a play-action toss to Herian for a 31-yard gain), my hunch seems correct.

    The other grouping that sticks out is the 3 WR set. While we see this personnel grouping used a lot against LATech, what is interesting is how it was used. Of the 25 times we used this personnel grouping, all but seven came from a shotgun formation. In addition, of the 17 plays with 3 WR from the shotgun seven came while Nebraska was in its 2-minute offense late in the first half. That 14-play drive saw Nebraska complete 7/9 passes, pick up five first downs and overcome a Kurt Mann personal foul. Cody Glenn capped the drive with a 1-yard TD run.

    2006 Analysis

    May 29, 2007

    My first attempt at analyzing games from the 2006 season should appear in the next day or two. The write-ups should look similar to what is going on at this fine USC blog.

    I am very interested in your feedback. What stats/analysis would you like to see? I’ve been pulling out what is interesting to me or what is believed to be important by various coaching books or comments. At this point, however, I am absolutely buried in data. Any question someone has about down/distance/gain/personnel/tendencies, etc., I can probably answer. The difficulty lies in trying to persent the data in a meaningful way. In other words they will remain “works in progress”. But if you have particular questions that you would like me to attempt to answer, I will do my best to get to it.

    For instance, I am curious to see how many times Nebraska ran the toss sweep last year prior to the Marlon Lucky halfback pass against Texas. I should be able to answer that exact question in the next few weeks.

    New Project Husker Videos

    May 29, 2007

    You can check out Project Husker IV Parts I and II below. These are the creation of frequent DXP commenter DT and are amazing as always. Enjoy. I promise to get something worthwhile from me up here in the next day or two.

    Happy Memorial Day

    May 27, 2007

    Enjoy the streaker at Lincoln’s Haymarket Park during a Nebraska-Texas baseball game. WooWoo!

    Pythagorean Projection – Nebraska and Expected Wins

    May 23, 2007

    The Pythagorean projection is an approximation of a team’s wins based solely on points scored and allowed. This concept was made famous by baseball analyst Bill James who discovered that the record of a baseball team could be very closely approximated by taking the square of team runs scored plus the square of team runs allowed.

    Later statistician Daryl Morey of STATS, Inc. attempted to apply the formula to many sports. The basic Pythagorean projection formula looks like this:

    What Morley found was the formula worked best for other sports if the exponent was tweaked. For example, for the NFL, the exponent is 2.37 instead of 2. The Pythagorean projection works remarkably well for the NFL. According the 2006 Football Prospectus:

    “Out of 18 Super Bowls played since the 1987 strike season, 11 were won by the team that led the NFL in Pythagorean Wins, while only seven were won by the team with the most actual victories”.

    Using this information as a starting point, I have attempted to examine the Expected vs. Actual Wins for Nebraska from the Osborne era through Callahan’s first three years. For my analysis I utilized the 2.37 figure of the NFL. The results of the analysis are listed in the table below.

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    Coach Year Games Points For Points Against Expected Wins Actual Wins
    Callahan 2006 14 428 256 10.8 9
    2005 12 296 252 7.13 8
    2004 11 275 298 4.98 5
    Solich 2003 13 322 188 10.16 10
    2002 14 383 335 8.10 7
    2001 13 449 189 11.52 11
    2000 12 456 213 10.3 10
    1999 13 411 150 11.91 12
    1998 13 383 183 11.08 9
    Osborne 1997 13 565 197 12.01 13
    1996 13 512 153 12.30 11
    1995 12 421 150 11.04 12
    1994 13 421 145 12.04 13
    1993 12 421 176 10.65 11
    1992 12 427 172 10.75 9
    1991 12 454 208 10.37 9
    1990 12 413 147 11.05 9
    1989 12 492 174 11.06 10
    1988 13 474 182 11.78 11
    1987 12 423 133 11.27 10
    1986 12 416 150 11.02 10
    1985 12 398 136 11.13 9
    1984 12 359 105 11.38 10
    1983 13 624 186 12.30 12
    1982 13 493 137 12.40 12
    1981 12 349 103 11.37 9
    1980 12 439 93 11.70 10
    1979 12 380 131 11.11 10
    1978 12 444 216 10.16 9
    1977 12 315 200 8.95 9
    1976 13 416 181 11.41 9
    1975 12 367 137 10.94 10
    1974 12 373 132 11.06 9
    1973 12 306 163 9.80 9

    Some have since utilized the formula as a crude measure of whether a team has over- or under-achieved. From this perspective if actual wins than expected wins that team has “over-achieved”. Notre Dame blog The Blue-Gray Sky completed a similar analysis of their team last year. Like BGS, I tend to see the formula more as a measure of a team’s luck over the course of a season. As BGS states:

    “…because what the Pythagorean method really measures is how many games you were supposed to win based on a strict measurement of points scored and points given up; it’s not a measurement of how good a team really is. Perhaps another way to talk about it is in terms of Fate: which teams were “luckiest”, and which teams were snakebitten.”

    So we could see the 2006 Huskers as a team that under-performed according to this measure. After all, the team’s expected wins were 10.8 and their actual wins were 9. Or we could think about the luck or lack of break’s the team experienced. Like say a 22-20 loss to Texas on a late fumble or a 17-14 loss to Auburn that included a “risky” fake punt.

    But whichever way you choose to view the Pythagorean projection (and there are many), it is an interesting statistic in college football. I continue to hope that CFB moves toward the statistical analysis that is now commonplace among the MLB blogosphere. My plan is to continue to help usher Nebraska football coverage into the “Moneyball” era with pieces such as these.

    As it stands, the analysis was hardly earth-shattering, but was an interesting undertaking nonetheless. Some things of note:

  • Check out how consistent Nebraska was during the 1980s and early 90s. Even managing to score 421 points three straight years.
  • One of the first things I did was jump to some years I felt the Huskers under-achieved (1987,1992,1998). Lo and behold, the formula agrees!
  • I don’t see a whole lot of “over-achieving” going on. Have we really been that unlucky through the years?
  • You can read more about the Pythagorean projection at:
    Pigskin Pythagoras
    Football Outsiders

    Blaine Gabbert Videos

    May 21, 2007

    In the first, he discusses his ability and some of the schools he was originally looking at.

    Erin Andrews Picture of the Week

    May 18, 2007

    Outside of non-stop bickering from Mizzou fans regarding the Gabbert commitment, there just isn’t that much going on in Husker Nation.

    I’ve secured some tapes of 2006 games so I can add details to my efforts to chart every offensive play. I hope to have that completed sometime before the 2007 season. Actually it shouldn’t take that long. Hopefully it will prove to be a worthwhile endeavor. I’ve already had tons of fun analyzing the data that I do have. But then again, I’m a big nerd.

    It Will Be More Meaningful Come February…

    May 16, 2007

    …But as of right now, Blaine Gabbert is committed to Nebraska. This is a pretty big deal given that Gabbert is a highly sought after QB recruit out of Missouri. Gabbert apparently selected Nebraska over Mizzou and Alabama. So take that Nick Saban!

    Again my emotions are tempered until he actually signs on the dotted line. In the meantime I’ll have to get used to having a QB around for a few years by the name of Blaine. I don’t know why, but I can’t help picturing Andrew McCarthy’s character from Pretty in Pink everytime I hear that name. Blaine. Heh.

    I planned on getting a more meaningful post up tonight. Unfortunately the editors of the textbook I teach from decided to switch editions just in time for summer school. Rat Bastards. Seriously I don’t know how anyone in academia gets used to this. Redoing all of my lectures, exams, handouts, etc., during the two week break between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the first session of summer school is less than pleasant.

    How Important is Maurice Purify

    May 14, 2007

    I finished charting the 2006 season this weekend. As a result, we get to see some findings from my first level of analysis. With Purify’s assault dominating Nebraska coverage, I decided to attempt to determine his relative worth to the team.

    On the surface Purify had 34 catches for 630 yards and 7 TDs in 2006. He averaged 18.53 yards/catch. He also carried the ball one time for 1 yard and threw a 28-yard TD pass to Terrence Nunn against Missouri.

    He was also responsible for perhaps the greatest moment of the 2006 season. I’ll take any excuse to post this again.

    All of that is great, but doesn’t really tell the whole story. For that we need to go a little deeper. When I did that, I was a little shocked by what I found.

    First, of Purify’s 34 catches, 29 went for either a first down or a touchdown. In other words 85% of Mo’s receptions either moved the chains or put points on the board. That is pretty much unbelievable.

    Purify was perhaps even more impressive on 3rd down. For me this is where a go-to wide receiver earns his keep. In Mo’s case, Nebraska leaned on him big time on 3rd down. Here is what his third down numbers look like.

    Nebraska threw to Purify 23 times on 3rd down and he made the reception 14 times. Of those 14 completions, 11 moved the chains and three resulted in touchdowns. These are just amazing numbers on third down for any receiver, yet alone a JUCO transfer in his first year in the offense.

    And if you weren’t already impressed enough the average distance Nebraska faced on third down on Purify’s completions was 6.06 yards.

    So. yeah, if Purify misses any time next season we can more than assume that Nebraska will miss him. Especially come third down.

    Erin Andrews Picture of the Week and Some Help

    May 11, 2007

    Ok, so I mentioned a pet project the other day, and I could use some help with it. I’ve decided to chart every play from Nebraska’s 2006 season. So far I have 10 out of the 14 games done. This should be pretty cool once I have it done as it will allow for even deeper analysis. I will be able to break down play selection by down, distance and field possession and hopefully highlight some tendencies. I’ll also be able to better analyze the value of individual players based on their contributions at important times in the games.

    Where I could use some help is in locating game footage. So far I’ve been limited to using the official play-by-play data sheets to extrapolate the information. I would like to be able to use game tape to add the formations, type of pass or run, etc. Unfortunately I no longer have any of the games from last season. My DVR sucks! So if you or anyone you know has any of the games on DVD/Tape or electronic file I would love to get my hands on it.

    My thought process is that this might be as close as we as fans can get as far as getting into Callahan’s head. I feel somewhat qualified to take this on as my never-ending insomnia gives me ample late night opportunities for data entry and my stat-geekery knows no bounds.

    So anyway, if you or someone you know can help you can contact me at JAdams1277 (AT)