If a UCLA fan were watching the Bruins take on Nebraska in Lincoln on TV and left during the middle of the second quarter, with the 23rd ranked Cornhuskers leading 21-3, well…
That fan missed an awful lot, to say the least, in light of what Jim Mora’s team did during the game’s last 30 minutes.
Not that the Bruin fan should have been blamed too much for leaving due to the fact that the Cornhuskers, clad in special black shirts and desparately wanting revenge for their 36-30 loss to UCLA a year ago, pushed Jim Mora’s team around on both lines of scrimmage in the first two quarters.
Taylor Martinez threw three touchdown passes for Nebraska in those first 30 minutes, the senior quarterback playing like a man possessed to get revenge for last year’s defeat at the Rose Bowl.
Martinez ended up with 203 yards passing, completing 21 of his 35 throws.
I wish someone had a tape recorder in the UCLA locker room to listen to what Mora had to say to the team at halftime, because whatever the coach said worked big time as the 16th ranked Bruins virtually turned into the Incredible Hulk, scoring 31 unanswered points and leaving Memorial Stadium as silent as a library as the Bruins got a convincing 41-21 win before a record crowd of 91,471 mostly red-clad fanatics.
Save for a couple of spots of blue in that crowd.
UCLA’s defense completely bottled Nebraska up in the 3rd and 4th quarters, shutting them out with linebacker Anthony Barr contributing 11 tackles and three forced fumbles, while Brett Hundley threw all three of his touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to Shaq Evans (28 yards), Phillip Ruhl (12 yards) and Nate Iese (three yards).
As for Martinez, he was the personification of the Bruins’ clamping down in that second half as he finished with minus-13 yards in ten carries.
Ameer Abdullah led the Huskers with 98 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Hundley, who accounted for 354 yards – 296 of them in the air – joined the party after Jordon James, who rushed for 106 yards on 22 carries, got things started with a three-yard scoring run with 8:56 left in the third.
The redshirt sophomore completed 16 of 25 passes on the day.
The Bruins totaled 504 yards, but in an important development, they only committed three penalties for 21 yards – a HUGE improvement from what they’ve usually done in that area.
I’m sure it’s safe to say that Nick Pasquale, who tragically passed away on September 8th, served as a galvanizing motivation for his Bruin teammates, particularly in that second half as they wore patches on their jerseys with Pasquale’s number, 36, on them.
“This is something we can feel proud about,” Hundley said afterwards. “We started playing the way Nick always played.”
In a classy move that’s typical of Nebraska, the Cornhuskers wore a #36 decal on their helmets, with their student section releasing 200 blue and gold balloons after a pre-game monent of silence.
Mora acknowledged Nebraska’s touching gesture, stating at the post-game press conference:
“I want to start by saying a very heartfelt thanks to (Nebraska) Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, head coach Bo Pelini, the Husker Nation, their fans, their students, and their players for the compassion they showed us this week. I thought it was an incredible gesture they made here, and I think it kind of shows the class here at Nebraska.”
This win is, obviously speaking, a statement triumph for the Bruins as the 18-point deficit marked the biggest comeback by a Nebraska opponent at Lincoln ever.
“A lot of people said last year was a fluke,” Barr commented, in regards to UCLA’s 36-30 win at the Rose Bowl. “We were listening to that and had a chip on our shoulder coming in here.”
The way things are going, this UCLA squad has a good chance to be 5-0 when they go to Palo Alto on October 12 to face top-six Stanford; they face New Mexico State and open Pac-12 Conference play against Utah and California – three winnable games - before then.
New Mexico State Aggies
PLACE: Rose Bowl
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
A full preview of the New Mexico State game will appear on this site on Thursday.