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carriker_adamBW (204K)

Dec. 31, 2016 – Tennessee game

Music City bowl analysis

Welcome, Husker Nation, to the Carriker Chronicles and today I’m gonna recap and break down the Music City Bowl between Tennessee and Nebraska. And I’ve got quite a few notes here written down so we can get into this thing in a little bit of depth! So let’s hop right to it, shall we?

I want to start off with some of the stats of the game. Now at one point, throughout the game, Tennessee had three times as many first downs as the Huskers did. And at the end of the game – here are some of the stats: total yards, the Volunteers had 521 total yards; Nebraska had 318. Tennessee had 230 rushing yards; the Huskers had 61 rushing yards. Average yards per rush: Tennessee averaged 6.1 yards per rush; Nebraska averaged 2.2 yards per rush. Of all the stats that I looked at after the game, the rushing discrepancy in the stats is probably what bothered me more than any other stat.

Now, as far as penalties, there really wasn’t a huge difference between the two teams when it came to the penalties. But what I noticed is that the Volunteers helped Nebraska out in a couple areas. Tennessee had three or four different 15 yard penalties! Basically, (they) were just being undisciplined. They also dropped two very long touchdown – well, what would have been long touchdown passes. They dropped two of them, so they helped the Huskers out in that department as well.

Now, as far as Ryker Fyfe – I thought he played pretty decent. And he had a gutsy performance. He had two touchdowns with no interceptions. And he’s got a pretty quick release – now I hadn’t noticed before, he tends to throw the ball quite a bit from a sidearm motion! Now that could have been cuz he was under quite a bit of duress throughout this game, but I hadn’t picked up on that before.

Josh Dobbs – the Tennessee quarterback had 118 rushing yards and he averaged 10.7 yards per rush. Now here’s a stat a lot of people will probably overlook or (it) might not get as much attention but I want to bring light to it because it’s a positive stat for a young player who’s had kinda an up and down season this year. The Nebraska punter, Caleb Lightbourn. He averaged 42.7 yards per punt and he had a long of 52 yards – his longest punt of the game. So he had a pretty decent bowl game after a kinda up and down starter – his first year starter as a Nebraska punter this year, so I wanted to point that out for you folks at home.

Now Tennessee. Their defense had really struggled at the end of this season, end of the regular season. So they focused a lot on tackling drills in their bowl game preparation practices and it really showed up quite a bit in the bowl game. Cuz they tackled very well! The Huskers on the other hand, missed quite a few tackles. And this seems to be something that just pops up every year! Whether it be once, twice, or multiple times a year. Over the past – I don’t know – four, five, six, seven years, so it’s really something I think the Husker coaching staff needs to focus on starting in spring ball, carrying over into fall camp going into next year is improving the overall team tackling for the Blackshirts going into next season. And one of the reasons Josh Dobbs – the Tennessee quarterback – had so many rushing yards, and I addressed this yesterday in my short gut reaction video I put out right after the game, was the defensive line for the Huskers was unable to contain him consistently throughout the football game. He broke containment several times. So I wanted to kinda explain how we’re taught to keep contain and how you’re taught to line up based on different quarterbacks that you’re playing. So if I’m a defensive end – I’m the right defensive end and you folks at home are the quarterback right there – I am taught to put my inside eye on your outside eye. And that gives me outside leverage. Now I’m supposed to keep that outside leverage throughout the play as I’m rushing the quarterback and things of that nature. Cuz as soon as I lose that, now you’ve got the corner of the edge to break containment on me.

When I would play guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning – guys who are phenomenal quarterbacks but not the best runners on planet earth, I would cheat in a little bit. Make my line to the quarterback a lot more direct and a lot quicker cuz those split seconds make all the difference in the world, and we’re not really worried about them taking off and running with the football. But when I play somebody like a Michael Vick who is way faster than just about anybody on the field, I wouldn’t go inside eye to outside eye, I’d go the wingtip of my inside shoulder pad to his outside shoulder pad. Because that’s the only way anybody can hope to keep containment on a guy like Michael Vick. So I just didn’t see the Husker defensive line doing that throughout the game with their alignments – adjusting it based on Josh Dobbs. And it wasn’t even just Josh Dobbs in the backfield breaking containment. It was the running backs and it was the other Tennessee players with speed who were able to get outside and break containment throughout the game on the Husker defense. And Andre (Ware) – former Heisman trophy winner who called the game – talked about this ad nauseam throughout the game. But he was correct! The Huskers were struggling to keep a leverage on the edge of the defense.

Now, as you folks know, I’m very active – and interactive – on Twitter, on Facebook, the social medias, and I had several people hit me up with a couple of things. And one of those things, when they were describing the Huskers and their performance throughout this game, they threw out words like slow, and soft, and uninspired. I HATE using words like that to describe the Huskers. But at the same time, I’ve got to be objective and I’ve got to be honest. I pride myself on being honest. And there were times throughout the game where Tennessee was just more physical than the Huskers were. And this is much different than the last two times the Huskers played Tennessee in a bowl game – albeit, those bowl games were many many moons ago. But that was something that I noticed throughout the game and other people noticed as well. Tennessee (was) just being more physical than the Huskers were on Friday in the Music City Bowl.

Now, some of the stats in the first half kinda show the discrepancy in the physicality in the game and the way Tennessee approached it versus Nebraska. Particularly in the first half, and I’m just gonna throw out some of those stats. Tennessee had 19 plays in Husker territory in the first two quarters of play. Nebraska had only two plays in Volunteer territory in the first half of the game. And on first down plays, the Huskers really struggled in the first two quarters of the game. On their first down plays they averaged one and a half yards per play on those first downs. And thank goodness Brandon Reilly was healthy for this game and I wished he’d been healthy more this season – been able to help us out more throughout the season cuz he provided a huge spark that the Huskers really needed in this bowl game. He had 98 yards receiving and he averaged 24.5 yards per catch and he had two touchdowns. And it wasn’t until late in the second quarter when he had his first touchdown catch and provided a little bit of juice that the offensive coaches started to open up the playbook just a little bit. I felt like they were protecting Fyfe. I felt like they were predictable on offense. They were trying to be a little bit too safe with the play calling on offense and they finally opened it up. We finally made things interesting and a little bit exciting. At least for a little bit in the second quarter and the second half of the game, especially when they quit being so vanilla on offense.

Now, when you’re down 117 starts, and what I mean by that is you’re down Tommy Armstrong as your quarterback, Jordan Westerkamp as your receiver, Nate Gerry on defense. Statistically, those are three of the best Huskers ever and those guys were out for the game. And when you’re already an underdog in the game – I say man, “Forget being safe! Let’s open up the playbook. Let’s have a little fun!” Ya know, Fyfe, he’s a fifth-year senior. He’s got a couple starts under his belt. So they finally opened up the playbook. We got a little bit of spark, and Brandon Reilly played extremely well.

Now, some of the other things people hit me up with on social media – were asking me why the DBs were playing so far off? Our DBs were playing so far off the Tennessee wide receivers. And I think a lot of it is because when you’re out a guy like Nate Gerry in the secondary and then Antonio Reed, who played well in the first half, ends up getting hurt. Carted off the field at halftime, so you’re down to your third string safety – and Tennessee has a lot of speed and explosive players on the outside and on the edges. So we’re trying to prevent those big plays and the deep balls over the top. So that’s why the secondary I think was so far off a lot of the game. Kinda the bend but don’t break mentality on defense. And I don’t have a huge problem with that, just because of the capabilities that the Volunteers have on offense.

Now, obviously the season didn’t end the way we wanted – whether it be the bowl game, whether it be some of the losses down the stretch to end the season. In fact the first seven games of the season when we were 7-0, the Huskers scored 24 points or more in every single one of those seven games. But in our three losses heading into this bowl game, we didn’t score 24 points a single time. Now we hit 24 against Tennessee, but like I mentioned before, they were a struggling defense coming into this bowl game.

Now I’m not going to go a whole lot of depth into the coaches today – I’ll do that next week. But, I’ve already talked about being a little bit safe and vanilla in the offensive play calling. On defense – now keep in mind last Wednesday I predicted the score of this bowl game would be Tennessee 34, Nebraska 27 so I predicted the Volunteers would score 34 points. So I wasn’t surprised that they put up 38 points – remember, this is an offense that averaged over 50 points their last four games of the regular season! Now I’m not saying 38 points is okay, or it’s acceptable or anything of that nature. I’m just saying I wasn’t shocked or surprised.

But like I mentioned, I’m going to go more in to depth on the coaching staff next week. There will not be videos Monday and Wednesday, it will be Tuesday and Thursday – possibly Saturday – I could have a little fun with something that’s going to happen on Saturday. Just a two-minute video. I may or may not put it out, so look for that Saturday maybe. But definitely Tuesday and Thursday next week. Because of New Year’s and people getting Monday off. Then we’ll get into our regular schedule the following week, get back into that. But Tuesday and Thursday – Tuesday I’m going to look back at the season, hand out season grades. Offense, defense – this includes the coaches. I’m saving that for Tuesday. Thursday, I’m gonna look into what we can look forward to for next season. Prior to signing day, who’s coming back and things of that nature. So Tuesday and Thursday. Happy New Year, enjoy the college football playoff, Go Big Red and always remember to THROW THE BONES!