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Nebraska on Offense

Get ready for the spread option

Troy v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Nebraska is struggling on offense this year (19 ppg 118/130) to say the least. The transition to the the power spread Scott Frost brought with him from UCF hasn’t been smooth.

To be fair, Adrian Martinez was supposed to be the man at QB, but injured his knee in the season opener against Colorado. Martinez brings a quarterback run to the offense that makes it significantly more difficult to defend.

Nebraska’s base formation

They like to run a 3WR bunch to the field side of the field, while leaving a single WR isolated on the boundary side. They move the slot receiver around a good bit.

They always have a running back, but they will empty out the backfield on occasion. They also like to start their running back out wide before bringing him into the formation to get a look at the coverage.

3 Options

This play is Nebraska at their best. They put the defense in a bind with numerous options.

Option 1: Hand Off - RB Power

Nebraska runs power as one of their base run plays. They are blocking this like running back power. You can clearly see their LG #67 pulling around the RG and looking to pick up the linebacker in the B guard. This pulls the linebackers (yellow) to the strong side of the formation.

Option 2: WR Screen

The wide receiver (green) drops, making himself available for the WR screen in the run/pass option game. At any point the quarterback can pull up and throw the screen pass. This keeps the free safety on the strong side of the formation.

Option 3: QB Backside Run

This is still a zone read. In this play, the QB is reading the back side DE/LB (red) in the Colorado scheme. Purdue runs a similar base defense. The power and screen options on this play has the entire defense flowing to the strong side of the formation. If the DE/LB doesn’t make the play, there isn’t anyone on the back side to make the tackle.

Option 1: Hand Off - RB Power

The quarterback pulls the ball, eliminating the RB (blue) power option, but the threat of the run has pulled both LBs (yellow) to the strong side of the formation.

Option 2: WR Screen

The WR (green) is still in play, and this holds the safety (purple) on the strong side of the formation. Keeping the backside of the defense wide open.

Option 3: QB Backside Run

The QB (pink) sees that the entire back side is emptied out, and he’s 1 on 1 with the DE/LB (red). If makes one man miss, there isn’t anyone to stop the backside run (light blue).

This is where a healthy Adrian Martinez makes a huge difference in the Nebraska offense.

The Colorado DE/LB (red) has this play shut down. He ignored the run fake and is position to drop the QB for a loss, but he makes a huge mistake. Instead of containing the back side of the play, he goes for the tackle.

Adrian Martinez (pink) makes the DE/LB (red) miss and he’s off to the races with only the endzone to stop him.


The Nebraska scheme will put Purdue in this situation. The backside DE/LB has to contain this play. It’s tempting to sell out for the TFL, but there is no support on the backside and a missed tackle is going to result in a touchdown.

Purdue must remain disciplined against this look, because you’ll see all 3 options in this game.