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Winning Box Scores: Week 9

Amid a season and a tenure of close losses, Scott Frost's loss to Purdue was his least forgivable.

A week ago, Matt Wells found himself on the wrong end of a 160-3 record on Saturday and out of a job on Monday. 

Scott Frost likely had his own Matt Wells Moment on Saturday. He's still got his job as of this Tuesday morning writing, but it's hard to imagine him coming back from Purdue 28, Nebraska 23. More specifically, the way Purdue 28, Nebraska 23 happened.

Nebraska out-rushed Purdue's stable of running backs, 130-116. A modest victory, yes, but a victory.

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez out-passed his Purdue counterpart Aidan O'Connell, 269-233.

They scored first, forcing a Boilermaker punt and then moving 82 yards in 12 plays to take a 7-0 lead. They led 17-14 at the half. 

That right there should've been enough to win. More importantly, it should've been damn near impossible to lose. 

Teams that out-rush their opponents, out-pass their opponents, score first and lead at halftime are 174-4 so far this season. 

Like the three losers before them (Indiana, to Cincinnati; Marshall, to East Carolina; Florida, to Kentucky), Nebraska was undone by turnovers and missed opportunities.

Martinez hoisted four interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown and another that ended a drive with the Huskers trailing 28-17 with five minutes to play. 

The loss likely represents Frost's nadir, his point of no return. Nebraska is 3-6 this season: 3-0 in games decided by more than one score, and 0-6 in 1-score games. 

In nearly four full seasons, Frost is 5-18 in 1-score games and 10-8 in all others. 

For Nebraska fans, losing close games has to feel like water running downhill -- a force of nature that -- somehow, someway -- is going to find whatever path it needs to reach its final destination, no matter what. 

If there's any comfort for Huskers fans, they have company among powers of yesteryear that now grope for success like it's a long dead lover.  

-- This year-long has experiment has been an ongoing education in just how durable leads tend to be in college football. Far more often than not, the team that gets on top, stays there. 

On the season, teams that score first go on to win the game more than 72 percent of the time. Teams that win the first 30 minutes also win the whole 60 five times out of six.

Unless you're Texas.

Texas is mired in a 3-game losing streak in which it led all three games by double digits in the second half. The Longhorns' late game collapses become all the more striking when comparing how they began each three defeats:

-- A 75-yard touchdown on the opening play of the Oklahoma game, followed by a three-and-out, a blocked punt, and a 2-yard touchdown run.
-- An 11-play, 75-yard touchdown run, followed by a three-and-out to open the Oklahoma State game.
-- To open the Baylor game, an interception that turned into a 31-yard touchdown drive.

In those three weeks, every other FBS team that scored first and lead at halftime went 97-13. Texas was 0-3. 

Why did Steve Sarkisian's team drop all three games? Because they were out-scored 55-10 in the three fourth quarters. Why were they out-scored 55-10 in those fourth quarters?

Because they can't run the ball or stop the run. 

Texas ranks 114th in rushing defense and 115th in yards per carry allowed. The kicker: once opponents fall behind, their path to a comeback is through running the ball more. Oklahoma was a near 50/50 split, but Oklahoma State ran it 49 times and threw it 33, while Baylor ran the ball 42 times against 32 passes. 

Meanwhile, the team with the best running back in the sport can't run the ball. After averaging 345 yards against -- admittedly porous -- Rice, Texas Tech and TCU, Texas ran for 368 yards total in its last three games, its yards per carry dropping from 4.74, to 4.18, and then to 3.52. Up next: the No. 2 rushing defense in the Big 12, Iowa State. 

-- Michigan out-passed Michigan State, scored first, led at halftime and forged a tie in turnovers (2-2). Teams check those four boxes are 58-4 this season.

Forging that turnover tie was Michigan's undoing, of course. A JJ McCarthy fumble led to Michigan State's final touchdown, and Cade McNamara's interception ended the game. 

Our Week 9 numbers: 

-- Rush for more yards: 39-13 (.750)
-- Pass for more yards: 28-24 (.538)
-- Score first: 38-14 (.731)
-- Lead at halftime: 38-10 (.792)
-- Win turnovers: 32-6 (.842)
-- Win all five: 9-0 (1.000)

And the full 2021 numbers:

-- Rush for more yards: 451-126 (.782)
-- Pass for more yards: 334-244 (.595)
-- Score first: 418-161 (.722)
-- Lead at halftime: 457-93 (.831)
-- Win turnovers: 339-101 (.770)
-- Win all five: 100-0 (1.000)

Additional notes:

-- After climbing to No. 2 in the country, Iowa has become one of the worst teams in the country. The Hawkeyes have scored 14 points, gained 427 yards and coughed up seven turnovers during their ongoing 2-game losing streak. The Iowa attack hasn't been good all season, but now we see what happens when their per-game turnover margin flips from plus-2.5 to minus-3.

-- Minnesota is alone in first place in the Big Ten West, and its run game is a large reason why. The Gophers have run the ball 55-ish times per game for 5.82 a carry and four touchdowns in wins over Maryland and Northwestern the past two weeks.

-- I don't have the numbers to back this up, but Nevada and UNLV combined for 31 rushing yards. That's got to be on the short list for lowest combined rushing outputs all season.