The 2021 season didn’t go all that great for Nebraska, but 2022 is a new year and Scott Frost and his team have a fresh start to try to turn this thing around.

For Frost, this may be his last opportunity. This, despite the fact that he is one of the legendary names in program history. A 3-9 record is just not going to cut it, so these 5 statistical trends from last year are most important for the Cornhuskers to reverse.

Win the close ones

This is without a doubt the most important statistical trend for the Huskers to fix in 2022. Not only will it be straight-up demoralizing for Nebraska to continue losing close games, but it would prove that Frost doesn’t have what it takes to get the Huskers over the hump in clutch moments.

Nebraska lost 8 games by 1 score last season. That included a 23-16 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma on the road and a 23-20 overtime loss to No. 20 Michigan State in East Lansing.

Oh, there was also the 32-29 loss to No. 9 Michigan in Lincoln, the 35-28 loss to No. 19 Wisconsin and the 28-21 loss to No. 17 Iowa to end the season.

That’s a bunch of close losses against ranked opponents. Winning games like that in 2022 will be crucial for Frost in order for him to keep his job.

2.7 yards per punt return won’t cut it

Speaking of close games, the field position battle is key in every game, but it becomes even more important in crunch-time situations. Special teams win and lose games — and often times a few yards, if not inches, can mean the difference.

The issue for Nebraska in 2021 was that the Huskers got almost nothing out of the punt return unit — meaning they had very little advantage in the field position battle.

Nebraska averaged just 2.7 yards per punt return, which was dead last in the Big Ten. Embarrassingly, that’s only 27 total yards gained on punt returns all season.

Needless to say, that has to change. 

Too many penalties vs. ranked opponents

The Huskers were a relatively clean team penalty-wise when they went up against unranked opponents. In 7 games against unranked teams, the Huskers committed 32 penalties for 273 yards. That’s just 39 penalty yards per game against unranked opponent, which was the third-best mark among Big Ten squads.

The problem, as we’ve seen above, is that the Huskers failed to close games out against ranked opponents, and penalties were undoubtedly a huge reason why.

In fact, the Huskers had the third-most penalty yards allowed per game in the Big Ten against ranked opponents. They lost 53.4 yards per game against ranked opponents, which was only better than Maryland and Illinois.

Clearly, Nebraska played tighter in the big games, and that’s something that needs to change.

Protect the QB — especially on the road

Nebraska gave up 29 sacks last season, which put the Huskers in the bottom half of the Big Ten. Even more concerning, though, is that many of those sacks came while on the road, which points to communication and game-plan problems by the offense.

In fact, the Huskers were tied as the worst road team in the Big Ten when it came to giving up sacks in front of the opposing fans. The Huskers allowed almost 4 sacks a game on the road, a total of 19. Only Northwestern was as bad, and the Wildcats were terrible last season.

Improve time of possession

Penalties and sacks were a problem for the Huskers in 2021, so naturally, time of possession wasn’t in their favor. Outside of turnover margin, few stats will tell the story of the game more. A good offense that controls the tempo of the game will eat the clock, and a defense that forces turnovers and three-and-outs will keep the clock out of the control of the opponent.

With that in mind, Nebraska had the 10th worst time of possession in the Big Ten last season (28:53).

Imagine if the Huskers had the ball for just 1 more minute in each of those close games they lost in 2021. Just how much different would the season have looked if time of possession was more on their side?

OF course, it doesn’t tell the whole story, but combined with the stats above, a picture has been painted of a very bad football team. In order for 2022 to be a success, these stats can’t be replicated.