A year ago, it seemed Nebraska was unable to find a way to close out a game in the fourth quarter. It was one of the reasons Nebraska struggled in the first year under Mike Riley, but the Cornhuskers are having little problem late in games this season.
Through the first five games of the 2015 season, Nebraska was out-scored by opponents in the fourth quarter by a cumulative score of 45-55. It is worth mentioning that included a 23-3 fourth quarter advantage for Nebraska on the road against Miami, a game that was lost in overtime. After five games, Nebraska stood at an underwhelming 2-3 with an overtime loss at Miami, a loss on a Hail Mary by BYU and a fourth quarter stunner at Illinois. The only wins came against South Alabama and Southern Mississippi (who scored 21 points on the Cornhuskers in the fourth quarter). Three more opponents, including UCLA in a bowl game, would go on to out-score Nebraska in the fourth quarter in 2015. So far, through five games of the 2016 season, Nebraska seems to have improved in the final quarter, which is a key reason why the Cornhuskers are off to a nice 5-0 start.
Nebraska has outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter by a dominating 78-6 margin. It started with Nebraska pulling away from Fresno State by turning a 21-10 lead into a 43-10 victory in Week 1. In Week 2, Nebraska pulled away from Wyoming with a 28-0 outburst to go from a 24-17 lead to a 52-17 victory. Oregon has been the only team to score on Nebraska in the fourth quarter, but the Huskers scored one more point in the final quarter of a 35-32 victory. Yesterday, against Illinois, Nebraska pulled away once again by turning a 16-10 deficit into a 31-16 victory.
The stiffest challenges are still likely to come later for Nebraska, with Indiana and Purdue up next before getting to Wisconsin and Ohio State in the coming month, but this is a noticeable difference in Nebraska this season, and could be what helps power them to a run in the Big Ten West.
Helmet sticker to Reddit for the stat.