Through its first four games of the 2022 season, Nebraska struggled mightily on defense.
The Cornhuskers entered this week 127th in the FBS in total defense, allowing 514 yards per game – the highest total of any Power Five team. After losing 49-14 to Oklahoma two weeks ago, the school fired defensive coordinator Erik Chinander.
Against Indiana on Saturday night, Nebraska’s defense looked more like its legendary 1971 iteration than its previously underwhelming 2022 variant. The Huskers held IU to just 290 total yards in a 35-21 victory. For the Hoosiers, the defeat and inability to produce on offense is not only troubling, but self-inflicted, according to quarterback Connor Bazelak.
“We beat ourselves tonight. We’ve got to blame ourselves,” Bazelak said. “I think it’s just being focused on the details. Doing the little things right. That’s what it comes down to. If you do the little things right and focus on the details, execute, then we win that game.”
Indiana’s offense mustered just two scoring drives all night long, both near the end of the first half. IU generated just 14 points against a defense that was allowing an average of 35.5 points per game, good for 115th in the country. 10 of the Hoosiers’ 15 offensive possessions lasted five plays or fewer, including six three-and-outs and a four-play drive that ended in a turnover on downs.
While Bazelak saw the Hoosiers’ offensive struggles as entirely their own doing, head coach Tom Allen also credited the troubling trends to the way the Huskers played and prepared during their bye week. He said the hosts did some things that he didn’t expect.
“There’s always a wrinkle,” Allen said. “You go through their game plan and the things that they do schematically that’s maybe different than somebody else. It’s just the sequences that they do, and they had two weeks to get ready for us.”
While Indiana’s offensive struggles were apparent for all but a brief period in the second quarter, the game-to-game regression was perhaps most noticeable in IU’s failure to move the chains on third down.
Entering the game, Indiana was 31st in the nation in third down conversion percentage, picking up first downs 47.3% of the time. Nebraska’s defense was 126th nationally on third downs, allowing a 52.5% conversion rate. When the two teams met in Lincoln, Indiana went just 2 of 15 on third down.
Indiana was uncharacteristically inefficient on third down against a defense that previously struggled to stop Northwestern and Georgia Southern. And it was just one of many ways in which things went terribly wrong for IU on Saturday.
“It’s not even close to being good enough,” Allen said. “Too many 3rd-and-longs, which makes it very difficult to convert. To me, it’s more about first down execution than anything. We need to be able to do a great job on third downs, so we’re gonna evaluate play calling, maximization and execution.”
Just about everything that could’ve gone wrong for the Hoosiers’ offense against Nebraska did, all day long – from missing top pass catchers D.J. Matthews and Cam Camper, to untimely penalties, to missed throws.
Heading forward, it’s a matter of cleaning things up internally ahead of a grueling Big Ten East schedule.
“I think we had a couple of drops on the outside, I missed a couple of deep throws, not giving the guys a chance, a couple penalties,” Bazelak said. “At the end of the first half, they couldn’t stop us, we just couldn’t do that in the second half. It wasn’t because of them, it was because of us.”
MORE GAME COVERAGE:
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- IU football: Highlights, stats, Allen and Bazelak press conferences after loss to Nebraska
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