The UCLA Bruins traveled to Lincoln after an emotional week to take on a Nebraska Cornhuskers team motivated to exact some revenge for their defeat last season in Pasadena. Jim Mora was confident his team could meet the challenge of playing in a hostile road environment before the game started, but things quickly changed following kickoff. Throughout the first half, Nebraska has played with more energy than the Bruins and physically manhandled UCLA in the trenches.
Nowhere was this fact more evident than at the end of the first quarter. Nebraska took control of the football on their own 8-yard line and engineered a 92-yard, 17-play drive that chewed up almost seven minutes of the game clock. Taylor Martinez was able to lead the Huskers down the field with ease using power running plays and play-action passes to methodically push their way down the field. UCLA’s defensive front was simply powerless to stop them.
Adding to the struggles, UCLA has been completely unable to get the Nebraska crowd out of the game. Brett Hundley fumbled on the first offensive play of the game for the Bruins (though UCLA retained possession) and threw a bad interception on the second drive that has kept the Lincoln faithful in full throat throughout the entire game. That has fueled the energy level of the Huskers on the field and helped them maintain their advantage throughout the half.
Outside of a strong drive at the end of the half, UCLA has simply been out of sorts offensively while getting pushed around defensively. Hundley has been off the mark with his throws, the running game has been unable to get going and receivers are struggling to get separation from the Nebraska defense. On the other side of the ball, UCLA has been forced to load the box to try and stop the running game of Nebraska (unsuccessfully) which has opened up the young secondary to big plays from Martinez, who finished the half with three touchdown passes.
Mora will need to keep the rhythm that the Bruins found at the end of the half going after the break if UCLA has any chance of rallying in this game. Hundley has to break off some big plays like he did in the final drive and hope that the defense figures out this Nebraska offense to give him the opportunity to get the Bruins back on top late in Lincoln.