Matt Rhule understands something has got to change for Nebraska’s offense. Fortunately, the Huskers have a new piece — and a year of work — to try and fix what was a disastrous showing on that side of the ball in 2023.

Last season, the Huskers were 123rd in the country in scoring while averaging 18 points per game, and it was not hard to find a culprit. Nebraska finished tied for dead last in the country with 31 turnovers and was 132nd nationally with a -17 differential.

For context, Illinois was the next worst Big Ten team in turnover margin, but the Illini finished at just -8 for the season.

A trio of Nebraska QBs combined to throw 16 interceptions in the process, and Heinrich Haarberg — the lone holdover from that group — led the team with 7 interceptions. Haarberg was also the worst of the group in terms of completion percentage at 49%, though he did lead the Huskers in the rushing department.

That type of performance may lead some fans to believe limiting turnovers is of the utmost importance for Nebraska, but Rhule sees a two-edged sword at play. The Huskers certainly want to cut down turnovers, but they are also trying to avoid handicapping players and thereby stifling explosive plays.

“You want to win the explosive play battle but also the turnover battle. If you win one without the other, you’ll be really conservative and you won’t beat yourself but you won’t be explosive,” said Rhule in a conversation with Greg McElroy. “You can also be explosive and beat yourself, so finding that balance.”

What it all boils down to for Rhule is execution and making sure the players on the field revert to their training. If a mistake happens when making the right play, Nebraska can live with the results overall.

“If your guys are doing what they’re trained to do, we’ll live with the results. If all of sudden instead of taking 3 and a hitch they take 3 and 2 hitches or they try and pump fake — that’s where we’re trying to coach that away,” Rhule explained. “We’re trying to say ‘Hey, do exactly what you’re trained to do and trust yourself.’

“…I don’t want our players to play with fear, I want them to play with confidence. But that confidence has to come from their execution and their precision, knowing they’re going to do in the moment exactly what they’re trained to do.”

Who wins the battle?

While Rhule did not get into the specifics of which player is leading for the QB1 job, Haarberg and 5-star freshman Dylan Raiola continue to be the favorites to land the job. Based on his spring game performance, Raiola looked like the guy, but that outing is still far removed from live college football.

No matter who gets the job, their performance will be crucial in Nebraska’s chances to eclipse a preseason win total of 7.5. FanDuel has the over 7.5 number listed at -114 while the under is listed at -106, and fans can use Tradition’s sports betting apps in Ohio to track the latest odds and offers.

While Rhule wants to avoid getting too conservative on offense, it’s hard to not pinpoint turnovers alone as the biggest cause for concern for the Huskers. The defense should once again be among the best units in the country, and simply avoiding beating themselves could be the key to Nebraska bucking recent trends and getting back to a bowl game.