Nebraska turnover bug: 10 turnovers in 10 quarters

The turnover problem that plagued Nebraska a year ago has
returned with a vengeance.

The Cornhuskers head into this week’s trip to Penn State with 10
turnovers in the last 10 quarters. In the last five games, they’ve
had 16 turnovers and only three takeaways.

They had five turnovers in Saturday’s 41-28 loss to Michigan
State – the most since they lost the ball eight times in a loss to
Iowa State in 2009. Michigan State converted the turnovers into 24
points.

”Dumbfounded. Just dumbfounded,” offensive coordinator Tim
Beck said. ”We put a lot of emphasis on it, and for the most part
this year we’ve been a lot better. Those mistakes today were …
ugh, I can’t put a finger on it.”

During the spring and in preseason practice, coaches had put the
offense through special drills focusing on ball protection. They’ve
seen no improvement. In fact, the Huskers have gone from being
108th nationally in turnover margin to 110th.

Nebraska (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) won the turnover battle in three of
its first five games and was even in the other two.

The recent problems have coincided with the change at
quarterback, from the injured Taylor Martinez to Tommy Armstrong
Jr.

Armstrong has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled twice in
his last four games. Against Michigan State he threw an
interception in the first quarter, fumbled in the second and again
in the third on a play from his 1-yard line.

That last fumble, on the exchange from center, set up a Michigan
State touchdown that made it a 13-point game late in the third
quarter.

All five of Nebraska’s turnovers against the Spartans occurred
on its side of the field, with three inside the 25. The Spartans
had touchdown drives of 8, 22 and 3 yards.

”It’s frustrating,” linebacker David Santos said, ”but we
play defense with the mindset that we’re going to get the stop
every time.”

Compounding the Huskers’ problems Saturday was their defense’s
inability to get off the field. Michigan State converted 11 of 21
third downs against a defense that had ranked third in the country
in third-down defense at 27 percent.

”That could be one of the biggest stats of the game,”
linebacker Michael Rose said.

Beck and the offensive players probably would disagree. Since
2010 the Huskers are 21-1 in games in which they are plus-turnovers
and 15-14 when they are even or minus-turnovers.

Five turnovers were simply way too many.

”You can’t beat a bad team with five turnovers,” Beck said,
”let alone a team like Michigan State. You can’t give them
opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. They’re going to
win.”