Archive for the ‘Play Charting’ Category

Nevada Game Analysis – Part I

September 2, 2007

Ed. Note – Here is the first part of my Nevada breakdown. For a nice season opening comparision, be sure and check out the Louisiana Tech breakdown from 2006. Part II of the analysis will include personnel and formation tendencies as soon as I have a chance to watch the game again.


Date – September 1, 2007
Location – Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
Final Score – Nebraska 52 – Nevada 10

Key Stats Check
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Category Nebraska Nevada
First Down (+4) Efficiency 30/46 (65.2%) 9/23 (39%)
Red Zone Efficiency 7/8 (88%) 1/1 (100%)
Rushing Explosive Plays (+12) 8 3
Passing Explosive Plays (+16) 6 4
Turnover Margin 0 0
Passing Efficiency 131.18 59.53
3rd Down Efficiency 7/15 (47%) 1/13 (8%)
4th Down Efficiency 1/2 (50%) 1/1 (100%)
Total Offense 625 185

Nebraska was extremely efficient on first down against Nevada. They gained 4+ yards on 65.2% on their first down plays. This goes a long ways toward keeping the team on schedule with regards to down and distance. In contrast, Nevada managed 4 or more yards on 1st down just 39% of the time. As always, the better success you have on first down the fewer 3rd and long situations you will face.

On third down, Nebraska converted 7/15 (47%) third down opportunities against the Wolfpack. That is just slightly above the 2006 season average of 45% and far better than 2005 when the Huskers converted just 33% of the their 3rd down chances. The Husker defense shut down Nevada on 3rd down holding them to a dismal conversion rate of 7.7%. Only Penn State had a better defensive third down efficiency rating in week one.

The Huskers did an amazing job in the red zone converting 7/8 (88%) opportunities. The one trip inside the twenty Nebraska didn’t convert concluded with a QB kneel to end the game. In other words, they were as good as you can get in the red zone. Nevada converted a field goal in its only visit to the red zone.

The Nebraska offense produced 14 explosive plays. On the ground, the Huskers produced 8 gains of 12 yards or more. Marlon Lucky accounted for five of those runs, while Cody Glenn, Major Culbert and Roy Helu each had one run of 12 yards or more. The passing game produced 6 explosive plays. Six different Nebraska receivers caught passes of 16 yards or more in the opener including freshman Mike McNeil. Overall, the Huskers outgained the Wolfpack 625 to 185. The 625 yards of offense was the third highest total of week one behind Oklahoma and Louisville. Quarterbacks Keller and Ganz combined for passing efficiency mark of 131.18. Coach Callahan will want that number to improve as the season progresses. Nebraska will be looking to improve over their 2006 turnover numbers, which saw them lose 17 of their 25 fumbles. Unfortunately the turnover margin against Nevada was a wash, but Sam Keller’s lone interception was returned for the Wolfpack’s only touchdown.

Drive Summary
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Drive Starting Point Drives Points Comments
-1 to -10 1 7
  • Series B – 12 Plays/94 Yds – Lucky 16 yd pass from Keller
  • -11 to -34 6 14
  • Series A – 3 Plays/1 Yd – Punt
  • Series C – 3 Plays/1 Yd – Punt
  • Series D – 7 Plays/42 Yds – INT
  • Series G – 3 Plays/7 Yds – End of Half
  • Series K – 6 Plays/87 Yds – Castille 2 yard run
  • Series M – 9 Plays/84 Yds – Culbert 17 yard run
  • -35 to +35 7 31
  • Series E – 9 Plays/39 Yds – Lucky 1 yard run
  • Sereis F – 9 Plays/54 Yds – Castille 1 yard run
  • Series H – 7 Plays/65 Yds – Lucky 17 yard run
  • Series I – 5 Plays/54 Yds – Lucky 3 yard run
  • Series J – 7 Plays/28 Yds – FG
  • Series L – 5 Plays/19 Yds – Turnover on Downs
  • Series N – 12 Plays/47 Yds – QB Kneel/End Game
  • +34 to +11 0 0
    +10 to +1 0 0
    Totals 14 52 14 Drives, 7 TDs/1 FG Avg. Scoring Drive = 8 Plays/63.1 Yds

    Nebraska got off to a bit of a slow start with two punts and an interception returned for a TD in the Huskers first four drives. After a 3 and out on the first drive of the season, Sam Keller led NU on a 12-play/94 yard drive capped off with a 16-yard completion to Marlon Lucky. After then finding themselves behind 10-7 the Nebraska offense got rolling in the second quarter. After a 46-yard Cortney Grixby kickoff return, Lucky scored his second TD of the game on a 1-yard run that ended a 9 play/39 yard drive. Just a few minutes later Quentin Castille scored his first career TD to give Nebraska a 21-10 advantage.

    After 3rd quarter struggles doomed the Huskers in 2006, the Nebraska offense exploded in the third stanza against Nevada. The Huskers put together drives of 65, 54, 28 and 87 yards to bury the Wolfpack for good. The 28-yard drive was capped by a sight for sore eyes, in the way of a 46-yard field goal from true freshman Adi Kunalic.

    Overall Nebraska scored TDs on 8/14 drives in the game. The average starting position for Nebraska’s drives was their own 32-yard line. Louisiana Tech’s average starting position was their own 25.

    Run/Pass Split
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    Plays Number Yards Avg.
    Run Plays 70 413 5.9
    Pass Plays 26 212 8.2
    Total Plays 96 625 6.5

    I didn’t know what to expect from Callahan’s gameplan for Nevada. I figured he might try to keep the ball on the ground, but wondered about the durability of our running backs. No way, no how did I imagine us running the ball 70 times in any game during Callahan’s regime. The 70 carries led the nation for the first week of the season and was 10 more than Air Force, which ranked second nationally in rushing attempts. Nebraska’s 413 yards led the nation in week one. Seventy carries, an option or two and leading the nation in rushing? It feels like 1995 all over again.

    Amazingingly Nebraska ran 96 plays against Nevada, which tied the Huskers with Memphis for the most plays run during the opening week. Led by Marlon Lucky, Nebraska averaged 5.9 yards per carry against the Wolfpack, which was the 20th best rushing average during week one. The Huskers averaged more than 5 yards a carry five times in 2006. The 8.12 yards per passing attempt was lower than I would like to see, but was still good enough for 28th nationally after the first game.

    Play Selection By Down and Distance
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    Down Distance Runs Pct. Yds. Passes Pct. Yds.
    1st & 10 30 65% 193 16 35% 139
    2nd & 1-3 5 83% 13 1 17% 15
    & 4-6 11 92% 90 1 8% 6
    & 7+ 13 81% 62 3 19% 23
    3rd & 1-2 2 50% 3 2 50% -6
    & 3-6 4 67% 14 2 33% 29
    & 7+ 4 50% 13 4 50% 15
    4th & 2-3 1 100% 1 0 0 0
    & 4+ 2 100% 10 0 0 0

    As previously stated, Nebraska had great success on first down. Many coaches believe first down is the best down to keep an opponent off-balance by varying run and pass calls and keeping defensive coordinators guessing. Even with a heavy emphasis on the run in the game as a whole, Callahan still managed a 65%/35% run/pass split on first down. Surprisingly that is only slightly higher than the overall 2006 run/pass split on first down of 63% run/37% pass.

    Nebraska ran the ball almost exclusively on second down against Nevada. Rushing plays accounted for 85% of the second down play calls against the Wolfpack. A year ago Nebraska ran the ball 58% of the time on second down and just 48% of the time on 2nd and 7+.

    Third and short is another situation that Callahan attempts to keep the defense guessing. See the end of the 2006 Texas game in case you have forgotten. You’ll notice a 50/50 run/pass split on 3rd and 1-2 yards against Nevada. A year ago that split was 64% run/36% pass. That might be something to keep an eye on this year.

    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.