As the college football season was completed with Thursday night's BCS National Championship Game, it finalized the NCAA statistical rankings for the season. And a quick look at those statistics confirms what most Nebraska fans and college football observers already knew-Nebraska had one of the nation's most dominant defenses and one of the top Blackshirt units in recent memory.
Here is a quick run-down of how the 2009 Nebraska defense ranks nationally and when compared to Nebraska's other top defenses in recent years, and a quick look at Nebraska's rankings in those categories each of the past three seasons.
Nebraska finished the season ranked first nationally in scoring defense at 10.4 points per game. The Blackshirts gave up just 14 offensive touchdowns, shut out two opponents and held eight of 14 opponents to 10 points or fewer, the most of any school in the nation. The last time Nebraska led the nation in scoring defense was in 1984 when NU allowed 9.5 points per game. This year's opponent scoring output per game was the lowest since 1984.
Nebraska's improvement of 18.1 points per game allowed from 2008 to 2009 was easily the best in the nation.
2007...37.9 ppg (114th) 2008...28.5 ppg (80th) 2009...10.4 ppg (1st)
Nebraska finished seventh nationally in total defense, allowing an average of 272.0 yards per game. The 272.0 ypg is the best for a Nebraska defense since the 1999 defense allowed 252.3 yards per game to finish fourth nationally in total defense. That is also the last time NU ranked higher than seventh nationally in total defense. The Huskers ranked second in the Big 12 in total defense, trailing only Texas, marking the second straight season NU has ranked second in the league in total defense.
Nebraska allowed an average of 3.99 yards per opponent snap in 2009, one of only three teams to allow less than four yards per play (TCU, Texas).
Nebraska held 13 of 14 opponents below their season average in total offense.
2007...476.8 ypg (112th) 2008...349.9 ypg (55th) 2009...272.0 ypg (7th)
Nebraska finished the season ranked first nationally in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 87.28. This marks the second time in the past seven seasons NU has led the nation in pass efficiency defense. NU also led the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2003, when Bo Pelini was defensive coordinator.
In terms of passing yardage allowed, Nebraska finished 18th nationally at 178.9 ypg, the fewest passing yards per game allowed by Nebraska since 2003.
Nebraska allowed just seven passing touchdowns this season, the second-fewest in the nation behind Tennessee's five passing TDs allowed. Nebraska opponents completed just 47.76% of their pass attempts, the fourth-lowest opponent passing percentage in the nation.
Nebraska was seventh nationally with 20 interceptions.
2007...130.22 Eff Rating (75th) 2008...133.95 Eff Rating (82nd) 2009...87.28 Eff Rating (1st)
2007...244.7 ypg (84th) 2008...233.4 ypg (89th) 2009...178.8 ypg (18th)
2007...8 INT (104th) 2008...12 INT (59th) 2009...20 INT (6th or 7th)
Nebraska allowed an average of 93.1 yards per game on the ground to finish ninth nationally in rushing defense. This year marked NU's highest national finish in rush defense since allowing 77.1 yards per game in 1999 to finish sixth against the run. This season is the first time since 1999 NU has allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing per game.
2007...232.1 ypg (116th) 2008...116.5 ypg (21st) 2009...93.1 ypg (9th)
Red Zone Defense
Nebraska led the nation in Red Zone defense, by allowing opponents to convert on just 64 percent of their trips inside the Nebraska 20-yard line. Opponents scored 11 touchdowns and kicked five field goals in 25 red-zone chances against the Blackshirts. The 90 red-zone points were second only to Alabama and the 25 overall drives inside the 20 were third in the nation.
2007...NA 2008...76 % (19th) 2009...64 % (1st)
Nebraska finished tied for second nationally in sacks at 3.14 per game. The Blackshirts recorded a total of 44 sacks in 2009. That total is the most since 2005 and the fifth-most since 1981 when sacks began being tracked as an official statistic.
2007...1.08 pg (112th) 2008...2.69 pg (14th) 2009...3.14 pg (2nd)
Individually several Nebraska defensive players ranked among the national leaders in numerous statistical categories, including...
Ndamukong Suh...14th nationally in tackles for loss per game, 15th nationally in sacks per game
Prince Amukamara...19th in passes defended per game
Matt O'Hanlon...19th in interceptions per game
Nebraska's defensive dismantling of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl also continued impressive post-season performances under Pelini-led defenses. In three bowl games as Nebraska's head coach, Pelini's Blackshirts have allowed an average of 37.7 rushing yards, 164.3 total yards and 8.0 points per game.