February 7, 2016

Disappointing Husker season ends on high note: bowl win over UCLA

captainsIn a season that featured many games that Nebraska couldn’t finish, the Nebraska offense and defense both did their part in a come-from-behind win over UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl. Nebraska fell behind 21-7 midway through the second quarter, but rebounded with 30 straight points and held on to win 37-29.

“I could feel it on the sidelines, (the players) were really feeling it on the field,” said Coach Mike Riley after the game. “Excited to run, the line gets pumped up. That line of scrimmage was moving in our favor really nicely.”

The Husker rushing attack was the best it has been all season. Nebraska tallied a season-high 326 rushing yards, 151 of those yards coming in the third quarter alone.

“I’ve made a point earlier that what we eventually want to do next year is be in the top three in running the football,” said Riley. “When you can do that, then life goes better everywhere.”

Nebraska was led on the ground by freshman Devine Ozigbo. Ozigbo carried 21 times for 87 yards, adding a reception for another 15 yards. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. finished with 76 yards rushing and 174 yards passing.

“In the huddle, once we had one good play it kind of kept that motivation going,” Armstrong said after the game. “Offensive line kept feeding off of it, running backs kept running hard, making the right reads in certain situations and just kept getting first downs.”

Armstrong passed the 3,000 yard mark through the air in 2015, marking only the third time a Husker quarterback has reached that milestone.

Defensively, Nebraska held UCLA to only 67 yards rushing in the game, despite some success in the passing game by quarterback Josh Rosen. Rosen threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns, but tossed a critical interception late in the game. After that interception, Nebraska never gave the ball back and was able to run out the clock.

“I think for us as a defense, this season obviously we had some of those same situations,” said linebacker Josh Banderas. “It was good for us to kind of put that statement on it that we can finish games.”

Defensive tackle Maliek Collins said that’s been an important point throughout the bowl practices. “I think that’s just been our emphasis since we played so many tight games, just to finish strong and don’t give up that last touchdown or field goal to lose us the game.”

After the game, Collins announced that he would declare for the NFL draft, ending his Nebraska career after his junior season.

“I guess this would be the overriding memory right here, this win against UCLA: a team I’ve never beat as a Cornhusker, just sharing this memory with my teammates,” said Collins.

Nebraska closes the season with a 6-7 record, and now starts looking forward to next season. “At least we gave ourselves a chance to compete in a ton of games,” said Coach Riley.

“In this last month and a half we have played our best football, and we probably played our best football tonight. When a team can do that and fight through all the stuff that we did, that says a lot about the character of the young men in the program.”


Huskers tangle with UCLA in Foster Farms Bowl

fosterNebraska looks to end a down season on a positive note Saturday night against UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl.

Husker coach Mike Riley says the off-season begins now and the game against UCLA gives them a chance to improve in two key areas that plagued them in a 5-7 regular season that failed to meet expectations.

“One of them is turnovers and the other one is we have to run the ball better”, said Riley. “We want to get up in that top three in rushing and we are in the middle of the conference so those are a couple of things that can help everything be better.”

UCLA is 8-4 and enters as a nearly touchdown favorite. Kickoff in Santa Clara is 8:15p.m. and the game will be carried by ESPN.


Husker defense needs sound effort

Mark Banker

Mark Banker

Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker says the Husker defense will need to be sound and make plays on Saturday night to be successful against UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl.

Banker says the Bruins do a good job of creating the match ups they want prior to the snap.

“The quarterback has that responsibility from a run or pass standpoint at the line of scrimmage”, said Banker. “As the game progresses you will see them stop the cadence and look to the sideline so that somebody above can get them in the right call.”

Banker says it is a similar philosophy to the one Northwestern employs.

“The difference between Northwestern and UCLA is UCLA’s speed is much, much better.”

Bruins hope to contain Armstrong

UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley

UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley

The UCLA defense will try to contain Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong in Saturday night’s Foster Farms Bowl. Bruins defensive coordinator Tom Bradley says they are concerned about Armstrong’s ability to make plays outside of the pocket.

“He’s a heck of an athlete and he is somebody we are going to be smart about and understand leverage on the football with him”, said Bradley. “He does an excellent job with not only his feet but he throws and runs and does so many different things for them.”

Bradley says he is hoping the defense gets off to a good start and that is always a concern in a bowl game.

“It is not something we can ease into with them and we have been preaching that since we started practicing for this game.”

UCLA enters the game as about a touchdown favorite.

Run game a key for Nebraska

Danny Langsdorf Photo courtesy/huskers.com

Danny Langsdorf Photo courtesy/huskers.com

Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf says the Huskers want to run the ball when they play UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl on Saturday night.

The Bruins have the top ranked pass defense in the Pac-12 Conference but ranked just seventh against the run by giving up 187 yards per game.

Langsdorf says the Huskers need to run the ball well enough to stay out of obvious passing situations.

“This is an athletic and really good defense that will test us with their speed”, said Langsdorf. “We have to cover them up in the run game and make sure we get to the second level of the linebackers and create those big holes.”

The Huskers will conduct their third of four practices at Laney College in Oakland on Thursday afternoon following a tour of Alcatraz.