If you were to provide a simple summation of the Husker football team's offense last season, it would seem to be this: Good, sometimes real good, but standing in its own way of being great.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said as much before spring practice began.
There was a lot to like. But he was just as much thinking about the flaws.
“We turned the ball over too much,” Beck said. “We had crucial penalties. We've got to be better in pass protection."
We'll hit some of those subjects in highlighting the numbers that stick out about this Husker offense. Plus, talk of Kenny Bell, run-pass ratio and Taylor Martinez’s durability.
Away we go:
16: That’s how many of Nebraska’s 35 turnovers came in its territory last year. Certainly the defense had its issues. But the offense and special-teams fumbles (five lost fumbles on special teams) put the defense in some tight spots along the way.
Look at it this way: Nebraska allowed 386 points last season. And 118 of those came after turnovers.
We won’t overstate the obvious, but the cure for the fumbleitis must be found in 2013.
Check the season stats back to 2010 and you’ll find the Huskers have fumbled 112 times the past three seasons. Considering this, they’ve probably been fortunate to have lost only 49 of them.
8: Piggybacking off the last topic, this is the number of fumbles lost by Martinez last fall.
To be fair, he’s always handling the ball in an offense that has some risk and requires split-second decision-making in the zone-read game. And the senior quarterback’s strides, particularly as a passer, were evident last year.
But turnovers have remained a bugaboo, especially when combining his eight fumbles lost with 12 interceptions last season. Eight of those picks came in NU's four losses.
Ball security is the part of the game Martinez must improve on to put himself in the discussion of elite players in the country.
2,858: That’s how many rushing yards Martinez has in his career.
That is the most of any returning college player in the country.
Here’s another number: 3,890. That’s how many yards the QB put up last season to set a school record.
Here’s yet another number: 0. That’s how many snaps he missed because of injury last season. If he stays healthy this fall, he’ll likely have a good chance to break his record.
79: That’s how many yards junior Kenny Bell fell short last season of tying Johnny Rodgers’ record for most receiving yards in a season.
Bell finished the season with 50 catches for 863 yards and eight touchdowns. You might blame Mother Nature for him not reaching the record. He was very much in reach of it when the team went to Iowa City. Bitter cold and 30-plus mph winds made the passing game almost nonexistent that day. Bell didn’t have a catch in that game.
Now, Bell putting up more yards this year isn’t a given, even if he has improved as a receiver. After all, there’s Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner, who seems ready to bust out after emerging late last season.
Enunwa had 470 receiving yards in 2012. Turner had 417. In a friendly-but-competitive wide receivers room, how those numbers shake out in 2013 will be an interesting sidebar to the season.
35: That’s how many sacks the Huskers allowed last season. Giving up 2.5 sacks a game is not a good number. In fact, it ranked 90th in the country.
It also contributed to some of those turnover issues mentioned above. The issue has been a focal point of offensive line coach John Garrison, who this spring labeled pass protection on third-and-long the O-line’s Achilles’ heel.
“They’re going to come up and we have to handle them better,” Garrison said.
63/37: That was Nebraska’s run/pass ratio a season ago. To be more specific, it was a 63.5 percent run.
Will the Huskers throw the ball more this year? Martinez said recently he’d be fine throwing more than 30 times a game.
If Nebraska were to put the ball in the air 30 times a game this fall, it would be an increase, though maybe not as dramatic as some might first think.
Nebraska threw 378 times in 14 games last year – an average of 27 passes per game.