AP NEWS

Nebraska-Troy: Tracking the offense, defense

September 16, 2018

Tracking the offense

The game plan

Andrew Bunch spent much of the first half either handing the ball off or rolling out to extend pass plays. Nebraska (22 rushes, 14 passes before intermission) took a couple of shots downfield but was largely content calling off-tackle rushes and making quick throws to playmakers on the edges.

The adjustments

Nebraska broke a few chunk plays but generally remained limited in what it could do facing a physical Troy front seven and a point deficit throughout. Even with a few gifts from Troy, the Huskers couldn’t take advantage of open receivers and rarely made a key play when the moment presented itself.

NU star

Maurice Washington found some space to operate in his second collegiate game and immediately endeared himself to Husker fans with a few speedy runs around defenders. His 92 rushing yards were a game high, and he added three catches for 14 yards. That 6.6 yards-per-carry average will play any day.

Stat of the game

One: Number of times in 13 possessions Nebraska began a drive somewhere past its own 35-yard line. The exception came when NU started at Troy’s 8 after a muffed punt, but the Huskers had to settle for a field goal.

Final word

Not having a true running threat at quarterback on Frost’s run-pass options allowed Troy to stack the line of scrimmage, leaving Nebraska’s offense one-dimensional at times and simply ineffective at others. Three turnovers crippled Big Red’s efforts in the short term, but the O-line’s so-so showing — especially in the overall ground game (3.9 yards per carry) — saps much of the optimism from last week’s opener.

Tracking the defense

The game plan

The Huskers again varied their coverages, mixing in some early two-man fronts on passing downs with their 3-4 base formation. Three sacks highlighted the unit’s renewed aggression, though that trait also came back to bite the Blackshirts on a couple of key Troy runs and with two personal-foul penalties before the break.

The adjustments

Troy went conservative trying to kill clock late, and Nebraska was stout enough up front to get the ball back to its offense. But the big regret came on the 26-yard touchdown run that sealed the game for Troy against a four-lineman, five-defensive back look.

NU star

Will Honas took over heavy snaps at inside linebacker after Mo Barry was ejected early for targeting. The junior college transfer parlayed the opportunity into a team-high eight tackles and stuffed multiple Troy runs that got the Blackshirts off the field. He did miss a tackle on Troy’s second-quarter touchdown run.

Stat of the game

21: Games since a Nebraska cornerback snagged an interception before junior Lamar Jackson grabbed his first career pick in the first quarter. The last INT came from Chris Jones against Indiana in 2016.

Final word

This unit lapped special teams and the offense as Nebraska’s most effective unit against Troy, netting three more sacks and two quarterback hurries while responding well all afternoon in sudden-change situations. But the effort was incomplete, with the defense allowing the eventual winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and managing just one takeaway. The seeds are there for improvement.

AP RADIO
Update hourly