In 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.”