Who knows what the Missouri game will actually come down to, but Nebraska’s ability to convert on third down will certainly be key. Thus far, Nebraska is converting 45.83% of their 3rd down attempts, which ranks us 20th nationally in this statistic. On the road, however, we’ve been absolutely brutal, converting just 3/15 attempts (20%)at Wake Forest. That’s just not going to cut it in Columbia.
An important component of 3rd down success is the emergence of big play guys who step up when it’s time to move the chains. If you think back to 2006, the go-to guy on 3rd down was Maurice Purify. In 2006, Nebraska threw to Purify 23 times on 3rd down resulting in 14 receptions. Of those 14 completions, 11 garnered first downs and three resulted in touchdowns. It’s early in 2007, so we’re still waiting for our 3rd down weapon to emerge…or are we?
I took a closer look at Marlon Lucky’s numbers for the year and was surprised by what I saw from him, especially on 3rd down. In the table below we have Lucky’s rushing statistics on 3rd down for 2007.
What jumps out immediately is the eye-popping average yards per carry. Did anyone realize that Lucky is averaging 7.77 yards per carry on third down? That’s pretty impressive. By digging a little further I was able to put that figure into perspective.
In this table we have the nation’s Top 10 players in average yards per carry on third down plays (with a minimum of 10 carries).
But yards per carry is really only way to look at third down backs. Another and perhaps more important variable is the running back’s ability to convert on 3rd downs. Once again I looked at the statistics and found that Lucky has turned 8 of his 13 third down carries into first downs. That’s a third down conversion percentage of 61.54%.
So how does that stack up nationally? Below we see the Top 10 nationally for running backs in terms of 3rd down conversion percentage (Again minimum of 10 carries). Currently Lucky sits 9th nationally in this category.
These numbers tell me that Lucky’s contributions are being overlooked by many of us (myself included). He’s proven so far that he can come up big when the offense needs yards and we haven’t even talked about his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. To help illuminate this part of his game I also examined his receptions on third down.
I have to admit, I was surprised to see how infrequently we’ve thrown to Lucky on third down. However, he has had some success proving that he must be accounted for on every down, and is always a danger to move the chains for the Husker offense.