Sloppy Play Dooms Nebraska at UCLA
Nebraska didn't need to play a perfect game to beat UCLA, but they needed a better effort than the one they showed. The first play from scrimmage was an interference penalty by the Huskers that nearly led to 3 points by the Bruins. When the NU offense took the field they began the day with a false start. That led to a three and out by the Big Red before a 13-yard shank of a punt gave UCLA the ball just outside the red zone. One play later, the Blue and Gold had their first touchdown. At that point you knew it was going to be a tough game.
The Huskers answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by an Ameer Abdullah touchdown. Jason Ankrah forced a fumble to stop the next Bruin drive. The teams traded punts before Taylor Martinez ran 92-yards for a touchdown. UCLA answered with a field goal to pull to 14-10. Kenny Bell opted to return a ball from deep in the end zone, giving NU poor starting field position on the ensuing drive. The Huskers were forced to punt and a UCLA drive assisted by some poor tackling that left Nebraska trailing 17-14. The Big Red answered with another Abdullah touchdown but the Bruins responded with a touchdown of their own. The Huskers managed to tie the score with a field goal as the first half expired to make it 24-24.
Abdullah opened the second half with a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. That set up a short field goal for UCLA. The Huskers saw their next drive end on a dropped pass on third down but forced a punt to mount a field goal drive to tie the game at 27-27. NU turned the Bruins over on downs but went three and out. Another bad punt by the Huskers set up UCLA at midfield. The Blackshirts held but the Nebraska offense was backed up to their own end zone. The Huskers put together a gutsy drive but then Brett Maher missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.
The NU defense held again, but the offense was forced to begin the next drive from their own five yard line. On the first play, Taylor Martinez was tackled for a safety and the Huskers were forced to kick trailing 29-27. A comedy of tackling errors transpired on the next Bruin play from scrimmage putting UCLA back in the red zone. A missed field goal gave NU some hope, but the offense went 3 and out. After pinning the Bruins on their own 15, the Blackshirts let them drive into Husker territory again. But a Will Compton sack gave the Huskers a chance to win the game with just over 3 minutes remaining and 80 yards to go. Martinez promptly threw an interception. That set up the decisive Bruin touchdown that put the game out of reach.
Nebraska added a fairly meaningless field goal that set up an on-sides kick attempt. UCLA recovered and converted a first down after some more missed tackles to wind down the clock.
This should go down as a team loss. Every unit made critical mistakes. Just too many to overcome. The offseason talk about greater discipline and accountability rings a bit hollow right now. A potent Arkansas State offense comes to town next week, so no time for self pity. A clean, strong effort by every unit will be necessary to get the victory.