Something about the Nebraska Cornhuskers looked different in the second half of their eventual 34-27 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes last Saturday night. Through two quarters of play, the Huskers just couldn’t get anything going. They mustered up a paltry six points and, in the process, looked like they expanded all of the energy that they had for the entire game.
Magically, though, in the third quarter, it all turned around. Behind the timely, clutch takeaway ability of Lavonte David, Nebraska was able to get the ball back into the offense’s hands after going down 27-6. This time, the unit didn’t throw the opportunity away. Quarterback Taylor Martinez managed to score on the subsequent play and, just like that, the Huskers were back in the game.
So what changed? Why did Nebraska suddenly look so much more efficient in the second half than they did the first? As noted by the good folks from The Independent, it’s because they altered their offensive scheme.
As they got the ball back, down 21 points part of the way through the third quarter, the Huskers offense went into what Tim Beck refers to as “bone personnel.” Essentially, they introduced a slightly altered version of the wishbone formation – where it’s just Martinez in a pistol set with Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green beside him, Rex Burkhead behind him and two receivers -- with no tight ends -- ready to go.
On that first scoring drive following the David takeaway, Martinez faked to Green and then took it himself down the middle of the field for what would ultimately be a touchdown. The Husker quarterback went untouched the entire way.
“When you have fast guys who can get outside, it changes how they can defend you,” running backs coach Ron Brown said afterwards. “Ameer and Rex did a nice job blocking that play and Aaron carried out the fake. Taylor made a great decision.”
Speed, speed, speed.
It’s instrumental to the formation, something Martinez certainly has, and precisely the reason that there were no tight ends in sight on that given play. After using this new, quicker scheme to secure two touchdowns, Nebraska reverted back to its bread and butter – the run attack. In the wake of putting up only 10 yards in the first half, Burkhead finished with 119 yards and a score for the game. As a team, the Huskers ran for 144 yards on 22 attempts in the fourth quarter.
“It was a very emotional game,” Beck noted. “I’m very proud of our players on both sides of the football. We never panicked; we just believed we could do it.
“We talked to the offensive line about it being a game on them. We missed some things in the first half in the running game and that’s our staple. We pieced together some first downs and we started to roll.”
Did he Huskers stumble onto a winning formula that will be applicable in future outings? Only time will tell, but Brown did point out that this idea of wearing down the opposition had worked before.
“We stressed tempo in the second half,” he said. “They’ve got big guys up front; huge guys. But, they got tired. Miami tired I might add. That’s what happened in (the national championship game) and it happened tonight.”
With a week off to work out the kinks in their offense, it will be interesting to see what Nebraska looks like in their next game versus the Minnesota Gophers.
The Huskers and Gophers are due to square off on October 22 at 3:30 p.m.