The story before the game was a decided UCLA advantage that Bruins did not really feel comfortable with. The offensive line was a big question mark with the sudden departure of Alex Redmond and the news that Kenny Lacy would not return. But, I, like many others felt the coaching was our largest liability. Many hoped Noel Mazzone would have been hired away before tonight. Some questioned Tom Bradley's bend and break defensive mind set.
So how did it turn out?
The game began well, with UCLA receiving the kick off and the Bruins going 79 yards on 10 plays including one beautiful 32 yard run by Paul Perkins. The drive was capped off when Coach Mora went for it on 4th and 1 on the 23 yard line. Rosen would throw it 22 yards for what should have been a TD, but was ruled down on the 1. 1 snap later, and Perkins would pound it in for the Touchdown. Nebraska got the ball back on a Kaimi Fairbairn touchback. They then proceeded to march methodically down field aided by a 15 yard personal foul. 12 plays and 75 yards later, Imani Cross would punch it in for the 1 yard TD run. Score: 7-7 tie. UCLA's Roosevelt DAvis kicked off the next drive with a 35 yard return that was one broken tackle away from going the distance. Unfortunately we would go 2 yards on 3 plays before punting it right back. Nebraska ran off 5 plays for 32 yards when the quarter ended.
Nebraska continued to perform well, going 61 yards on 10 plays when Armstrong fumbled the ball on a QB run and gave it back. UCLA jumped on Nebraska right away with the help of a 60 yard pass to Kenneth Walker that would score a TD after 86 yards on 4 plays. BOOM. Score: 14-7 UCLA. Then it was the Bruin defense's turn, holding the Huskers to 5 yards on 3 plays, forcing Nebraska to punt. The Bruins began the next drive with a beautiful 36 yard run by Soso Jamabo. The drive ended with a 26 yard TD run by Nate Starks. 68 yards on 4 plays. Score 21-7 Bruins. The next Husker drive was helped out by a Wadood PF penalty which was then followed by a tough Jamal Turner 22 yard run. One play later, they walked untouched into the end zone. They would go 75 yards on only 4 plays. UCLA played along, Going 9 yards on 3 plays thanks largely to a bobbled snap that put us back 5 yards to start the drive. Nebraska took the field and proceeded to play Stanford ball, pounding away, including one Tommy Armstrong 26 yard run that set up a Andy Janovich TD run. 73 yards on 8 plays. The Bruins came out with only :52 left in the half. We promptly went 13 yards on 3 plays that ended with an intercepted Rosen pass. The Huskers took one snap and that ended the 1st half.
The 3rd quarter began with Nebraska receiving the ball. They already had the momentum. The Huskers pulled out the Stanford playbook and promptly began pounding the ball on the ground. Forced to defend the run, the Bruin defense became vulnerable to the pass, and the Huskers took advantage with a 22 yard one handed catch to Stanley Morgan. 78 yards on 9 plays. UCLA came out and promptly fell on their faces, going -2 yards on 3 plays. Punt Bruins Punt. The Huskers came out breathing fire and running at will, going 68 yards on 10 plays before a timely goal line stand forced them to kick the FG. Score: 30-21 Huskers. The Bruins came out needing a score to stay in the game, but began the drive with a false start penalty. Because that's just how we ball. We managed -5 yards on 3 plays and forced to punt. The players got a little chippy on the punt coverage, something that always indicates a lack of composure. Nebraska went back to the well and simply started running downhill. They ran and occasionally passed all the way to the Bruin 5 yard line when the Quarter ended. At this point, the Bruin offense had managed all of 6 snaps in the 3rd quarter.
The Huskers picked up where they left off, running with success, ending with a Tommy Armstrong 3 yard for a TD. 51 yards on 9 plays. UCLA took the field and began moving the ball through the air. Ground breaking. We went 76 yards on 8 plays in only 2:42 minutes. Makes you wonder why we weren't doing that earlier. We would at least score a 2 pt conversion to make it a one possession game. (8 pt diff) Score: 37-29 Huskers. Nebraska came back out and fell right into Bradley's trap, going 19 yards on 5 plays before punting. UCLA took over on the UCLA 27, and moved the ball well, going 56 yards on 7 plays, until the drive stalled in the red zone. A bad snap later and we were forced to kick a 46 yard FG attempt. Always reliable Kaimi Fairbairn missed the attempt. Nebraska took the field, but it was the Bruin defense that made the noise, holding -13 yard on 3 plays thanks largely to a 14 yard loss on an Ishmael Adams sack. We began the next drive on the 46 yard line. Abandoning the run entirely we went 8 straight pass plays for 22 yards, but, after 3 straight incompletes we were forced to go for it on 4th and 10. Josh Rosen narrowly avoided the sack but, threw the interception into the end zone. Nebraska got the ball back with 2:49 on the clock and ran the ball as well as the clock until they were taking the field in the victory formation. 48 yards on plays before the final kneel down.
Well that went about as bad as it possibly could have gone. After a fast UCLA start, Nebraska went to the Stanford playbook, and simply ran it down our throats. Naturally, facing a porous pass defense, Noel Mazzone made it a curious point to keep running the ball against a stiff Nebraska run defense. Twice after penalties gave us 1st and 15s to begin drives, we ran it on 1st down!! How does that make any sense to anybody?
Realistically, the Huskers won the game in the 3rd quarter, scoring 9 unanswered points while we managed only 3 offensive snaps. (not counting punt snaps.)
The Bruins woke up in the fourth quarter, scoring 8 points and stopping the Huskers on two straight drives making it a close game for one brief moment. But, it was not meant to be. But, that quick strike in the 4th quarter made me wonder something. Has anybody else noticed that in tough games, Noel Mazzone seems to pull one 4th quarter drive out of his pocket, like tonight, where we score quickly and easily? It makes me wonder why he's holding back. We could have really used that drive in the 3rd quarter.
This in turn makes me wonder something else. Are the UCLA coaches playing a conservative game "knowing" that if they can keep it within a score or two, they can score quickly and make it ball game? We saw some of that in the USC game, when the team seemed to lack some urgency until it was too late.
I had a lot of misgivings before this game due to the injuries alone. But, once again, the coaches have shown me there is no shortcoming as big as a poor game plan.