Turnovers struggle with consistent trend for Nebraska

LUKE MULLIN Lincoln Magazine Star

When Scott Frost took over as Nebraska’s head coach after the 2017 season, there was no doubt that he brought Erik Chinander with him.

Of course, Frost brought all of the UCF personnel to Nebraska, but the defensive coordinator perhaps deserved more of it all. That’s because Chinander’s 2016 defense had 26 turnovers and the 2017 group was ranked 2nd nationwide with 32 turnovers.

Chinander’s aggressive defense may not have led the NCAA within the allowed distances, but having the extra ball produced for Frost’s fast-paced offense was an integral part of UCF’s undefeated season.

The duo aimed to bring the same soccer style to Nebraska, in hopes of building a competitive defense that could continue to make high turnovers.

“I’ve been to many places where you practice catching on the third inning after blits and quarterback, but then when it’s time to really do it, you play it safe,” Chinander told the Journal Star in 2018. If you really want to generate revenue, don’t think you can do it.”

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More than four years later, it is clear that Chinander’s vision was never fully reflected in NU’s performance on the field. 21 turnover performance in 2019 was the best of Chinander’s tenure, but still not enough to achieve a positive turnover difference.

To be fair to Chinander, NU’s endorsement problems run much deeper than a man’s, or even a decade’s.

Dating back to 2002, Nebraska has finished with positive turnover margin just three times (2003, 2009 and 2016). The Huskers have also even finished twice (2006, 2019), but with 15 seasons remaining, NU’s rivals have also lost more turnovers away from home than the Huskers.

Since 2002, Nebraska has lost 236 balls and saved only 142; Interceptions are more even, with Nebraska scoring 251 and forcing 267 during this time. That’s a -78 turnover gap over the past 20 years, including seven seasons where NU finished the season by a margin of -10 or worse.

Early on when Chinander was Nebraska’s defensive coordinator, the Huskers were not far from where they wanted to be. The 2018 defense was ranked 57th nationwide with 20 mandatory turnovers, and the 2019 grouping moved up to 34th place with 21 mandatory turnovers. The Huskers finished with a turnover margin of -2 in 2018 before even finishing in 2019, but NU fell in the turnover division in the following seasons.

In the 2020 season shortened by COVID, Nebraska was ranked 103rd nationally with seven mandatory turnovers, and not even a veteran group with a few NFL talents could change that in 2021. Nebraska had 13 turnovers last season, ranking 104th in the country.

Entering the 2022 season, Chinander knew that this had to change.

“We need to get a few more sacks and we should get a few more turnovers,” Chinander said in late July. “I want more and more, but if we can get one more sack per game, one more turnover per game. We did a good job getting the ball last year. We didn’t throw enough punches. and enough clumsy recovery, so we’re really concentrating on that as we start fall camp. “

Still, Nebraska has won the endorsement gap in one of their four games so far this year, with a -2 endorsement gap on their season total. The Huskers are currently ranked 48th in the country with five mandatory turnovers, and that was certainly a factor in interim head coach Mickey Joseph’s decision to fire Chinander.

“Chinander is a good man and a good coach, but the numbers just didn’t match,” said Joseph. “I didn’t see us improve. For four weeks, from week one to week four, I didn’t see us getting better.

It is no coincidence that NU ranks in the last five nationwide in total defense. Even teams that can’t stop their opponents from driving 60 or 70 yards on the court can make their lives easier by making turnovers, something NU has been dealing with for years.

As Bill Busch takes over the reign of the Husker defense, there are many different areas that require his attention.

When asked on Tuesday what kind of defense he would like to see for the remainder of the season, Joseph didn’t immediately score a turnover.

“A defense that stops the run, stops the crossing and keeps people out; that’s a good defense,” said Joseph.

But the numbers don’t lie—Nebraska’s turnover issues have contributed heavily to their five-season losing streak.

Despite all his success at UCF, Chinander was unable to rectify the situation. Regardless of whether or not Busch could make it through the final eight games of the season, these troubles plagued Nebraska between coaching, defensive plans and conferences.

With such a deep trend, it would take more than a week or two to fix.

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