The NUmbers Guy: Nebraska Analysis

WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) takes a look at the statistics behind the Northwestern Wildcats’ 29-28 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers with three up/three down.

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MY BRAIN!!! As a Northwestern Wildcat/New York Jets fan, things couldn’t get much worse for me this weekend. The ‘Cats dropped a heartbreaker to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Jets exhibited perfect incompetency in failing to take down the New England Patriots in a game the Pats tried their hardest to lose, and my second viewing of Paranormal Activity 2 left my bowels just as unsteady as the first. I would decide to give up on sports and report on politics, but apparently tweeting about Joe Biden’s sleeve tats just isn’t as fulfilling. So, I guess you’re stuck with me… you have my deepest sympathies. And because you’re stuck with me, you’re also stuck with my love for Bo Pelini facial expressions. We’ll have one for each point in the column, so prepare yourself.


16: Sacks recorded by Northwestern defenders this season.

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The big boys up front have been the key for the defense through the first eight weeks. After recording only 17 sacks last year, it was clear that the pass rush needed to step up, and they have. Saturday’s three-sack outing was their third-such performance of the season after achieving the feat only twice all of last year. Although he didn’t have a sack against Nebraska, Tyler Scott still leads the conference with six. He has also deflected four passes this season, taking the whole “Put Your Hands Up in the Air” thing to a new, way cooler level. I’m sure Pelini was pleased as punch about the penetration allowed by his o-line, leading to the “WHO ATE MY LEFTOVER SUSHI????” face.

178: All-purpose yards gained by Venric Mark.

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Remember that time when the coaching staff had Venric play defense last season? I’m starting to think this offense thing might work out for him. #TheFlyingV currently leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (183.8 yards per game) as he distanced himself from Ameer Abdullah, who is now averaging 174.7 yards per game. Venric left the game early with an undisclosed injury, and if he misses any significant amount of time, I will replenish the fountains of ancient Babylon with my tears before ultimately becoming dehydrated and singing showtunes in the ally by my apartment alone. Reports are that Venric’s 80-yard touchdown run left Pelini with the “I swear, I’m not secretly a mass murderer” face.

350: Days between missed kicks for Jeff Budzien.

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Before Saturday, Budzien’s previous miss was back on November 5th, 2011… against Nebraska in Northwestern’s 28-25 win in Lincoln. Budzien has been as consistent as one could possibly ask this entire year, and Saturday was no different. The 53-yard attempt was one heck of a kick, and the fact that it even got as close as it did to going through the uprights is commendable at the very worst. If Budzien had made that kick, he probably would have been obliterated by a Bo Pelini stare of death, so it’s for the best in the end.


38: Rushing attempts by Northwestern.

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During the non-conference schedule, the ‘Cats averaged 49.75 rushing attempts per game. In Big Ten games, they have averaged 38.75 attempts per game, and that falls to 32.33 if you don’t count the 58 attempts against Indiana. While the ground game wasn’t clicking like it has in the past, they still averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Although they lost Mark and his 7.4 yards per carry late in the game, the ‘Cats still seemed as though they were trying to force the passing game that wasn’t working at all. Maybe I’m just too enamored with the image of Patrick Ward shouting “PAT SMASH” and smushing the head of some poor defensive end to see this objectively, but I feel like the ‘Cats need to embrace the fact that they are a running football team now. Speaking of cats…

5-20: Northwestern only converted on five of their 20 third down attempts.

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To say that Northwestern’s offense struggled on Saturday would be a bit of an understatement. Of their 17 drives that didn’t end because the end of a half, 11 lasted three plays. The ‘Cats only had four drives that lasted more than two minutes, their longest being a 3:52 second drive that resulted in a Mike Trumpy touchdown run to give Northwestern a 28-16 lead. Trevor Siemian struggled throwing the football as he averaged 3.3 yards per attempt and completed only 43 percent of his passes. That said, he was put in a lot of bad situations, and the Wildcat receivers had trouble getting separation from the Cornhusker defensive backs. If Mick McCall plans to continue using Siemian like he has the last few games, Siemian will have to find a way to convert on third and long to keep drives going. With the way his defense played on third down, Pelini definitely cracked a smile. Maybe. Probably not.

169.75: Rushing yards per game allowed by Northwestern in conference games this season.

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This isn’t so much a problem from the Nebraska game as a disturbing trend that is developing. Northwestern allowed 72.75 rushing yards per game during the non-conference schedule, but since then, they haven’t held a team below 158 yards. Nebraska has one of the best rushing offenses in the country, but 201 yards is still an awful lot, especially when you factor in the early injury to Rex Burkhead. If Mark Weisman is back to full health this Saturday for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Northwestern could be in trouble. Just not as much trouble as muggles around Lord Pelini. I admit this one is a stretch, but the first suggestion when you do a Google image search for “Bo Pelini” is “Bo Pelini Voldemort,” and it’s not like I have any journalistic integrity to worry about. That went out the window about 28 NUmbers Guy columns ago. YET YOU KEEP COMING BACK.

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Just because I hadn’t gotten a chance to do use this one yet, here’s a picture of Pelini auditioning for a role as a proctologist. Despite the many faces of Bo Pelini, the ‘Cats are still 6-2, and the world is, shockingly, not going to collapse. The biggest things moving forward for the ‘Cats are injuries as both Mark and stud corner Nick VanHoose left the game and did not return. Chris Emma of Fox Sports (@CEmmaFox) has reported it’s a dislocated shoulder for VanHoose, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that it will allow him to suit up against Iowa. SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: Donations for Sportsathon are now being accepted! If you want to donate so we can keep giving you pictures of creepy faces and the only student radio coverage of Northwestern athletics, simply click on the hideous yellow box at the top of the page! Our 26-hour marathon will begin Friday at 7:00 pm and run all the way through Saturday at 9:00 pm! I’ll be doing play-by-play for the Iowa game, so listen and donate or I will be sad and drown my sorrows in cheap coffee and confetti cake. Save me from myself.

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