TRACKING THE OFFENSE
NU star: Ameer Abdullah. The sophomore had to carry the load with Rex Burkhead out, and he did a nice job. Abdullah finished with 16 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Highlight: Take your pick. Lots to choose from, especially in the first half. The most exhilarating came in the first quarter, when quarterback Taylor Martinez went 92 yards on a zone-read keeper for a touchdown.
Busted plays: NU’s first three snaps from scrimmage were disastrous. That was a wasted drive for NU. There were also two key drops on third down, one by Jamal Turner and another by Kyler Reed.
Our take: Nebraska moved the ball with relative ease in the first half, but after halftime, it was a different story. UCLA’s adjustments were negligible, the Huskers said afterward. Yet NU never found its groove again. The offensive line struggled at times to create running lanes and keep the UCLA pass rush under control. Martinez was rattled because of it. In the end, too many penalties, a couple of ill-timed turnovers and several mental mistakes doomed NU.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
NU star: Daimion Stafford. The senior safety seemed to get more comfortable as the game went on. He finished with eight tackles and two pass breakups, helping keep the Huskers in it.
Highlight: As he pulled down running back Jordon James, defensive end Jason Ankrah found the football and ripped it out. Stafford recovered the loose ball at the NU 13-yard line, spoiling a UCLA scoring chance.
Busted play: Lots of miscommunication. Lots of poor fundamentals. All night long. But on the 49-yard pass from Brett Hundley to Steven Manfro, the Huskers let UCLA’s slot receiver run right through their defense without any resistance.
Our take: Without consistent pressure from the defensive line, Hundley sat back and torched the NU secondary. Well-designed crossing routes and an occasional swing pass seemed to be the most effective play calls for UCLA. Nebraska blitzed at times, but the results were hit and miss. But beyond the strategic decisions and the occasional mismatches (like a speedy running back on a linebacker), what hurt the Huskers most was their inability to tackle. Several little-to-no gains turned into big plays, especially in the second half.