There was the good, then it just got plain ugly.
It was the big one that got away on a well-planned fishing trip. Nebraska let this one slip by.
Up 21-3 and seemingly in the driver’s seat, UCLA steamrolled back into the game… scoring 38 unanswered while shutting out the Husker offense in the second half.
For the first time since 1948, the Bruins come into Lincoln and hand the Huskers a loss at home, 41-21.
Nebraska got off to a great start in the first half. Stanley Jean-Baptiste snagged his third interception of the season, leading to an 11-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Martinez to Quincy Enunwa. Following a UCLA field goal (Kaim Fairbairn, 44-yards), the Martinez-Enunwa combination struck again for a 14-yard touchdown.
Huskers would add seven more points behind a 22-yard Martinez to Kenny Bell touchdown pass. With 57 seconds left, Bruins running back Paul Perkins scored on a 10-yard touchdown run, cutting into Nebraska’s 17-point lead before halftime.
But then the wheels fell off…
Second half was a nightmare for the Huskers on all phases of the game. Offense faced numerous three-and-outs while UCLA seemingly scored at will. The Bruins put up 28 points on a defense that seemed solid in the first half. It was the first time in school history the Huskers allowed that many points in a quarter.
The Huskers allowed just 206 yards of total offense in the first half. For the third quarter alone, the Bruins jammed 236 yards in total offense to Nebraska’s 57 yards.
So what happened?
“I get a feeling our guys are not of playing to win, we played to not lose,” Head coach Bo Pelini says. “That”s the wrong way to go about it.”
“I don’t know.”
Pelini says when things started going the other way the team lost a sense of what their job was. Missed opportunities hurt the Huskers.
On several plays, Martinez missed open routes, including a wide open Kenny Bell down field without a single white shirt near him. Indecisiveness to run or pass also hurt the Husker’s chances.
There was no doubt, Nebraska’s offense struggled once again. Pelini says he did not think that would happen, since the “cylinders” were running throughout all of training camp.
“We have not been in a rhythm for three straight week,” Pelini says. “We’re gonna sit down, figure this out and turn this around.”
Offensive coach Tim Beck echoed what Pelini said. On several occasions throughout the game, it seemed the running game was working. However, Beck went with several flat and screen routes that were stopped in place. Beck says the running game was “deceptively” working until he saw something in the UCLA defense that prevented his running schemes from working.
Then again, nothing was working.
Defensively, there were several missed tackles. Something, Pelini says, they work on practice consistently. The offensive three-and-outs also hurt the defense, with UCLA’s offense capitalizing on the worn-down Blackshirts.
A Bright Spot
If there was any good from this game, it was not on the football field but in the stands. Husker fans gave a moment of silence for UCLA wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who was killed after being hit by a car last week. The student section let go several gold and blue balloons and held up a sign saying “Two Schools, One Team”. Husker players also wore a number 36 sticker on each helmet, Pasquale’s number.
“I thought it was an incredible gesture they made here,” UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. says. “I think it kind of shows the class here at Nebraska.”