PASADENA, Calif. –- Things I know and think I know:

Taylor Martinez was good for much of Saturday night's game.

He needed to be great.

For Nebraska to have defeated UCLA, he would have needed to be nearly as sharp passing the ball as he was the previous week against Southern Miss.

One thing to consider going forward: Southern Miss' defense was poorly prepared and at times downright awful. Video doesn't lie.

Martinez took advantage, completing 26 of 34 passes for a career-high 354 yards and five touchdowns. Given the Golden Eagles' shoddy defense, Martinez's aerial show was somewhat misleading.

He tumbled to Earth on Saturday night, going 0-for-6 in the fourth quarter, with an interception, as Nebraska lost 36-30.

The Huskers' woeful defense put unwieldy pressure on the junior quarterback. Still, through three quarters, his numbers were efficient -- 17-for-25 for 179 yards. But he was at times loose with the ball, reminiscent of last season. He could have been picked off at least a couple more times.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Nebraska inexplicably abandoned the run, contributing to Martinez's late struggle.

With 6:50 remaining in the game, and NU trailing 29-27, the Huskers had an awful three-and-out. Martinez's first-down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage, his second pass was almost picked off, and his third attempt wasn't even close to his target.

UCLA was coming hard after Martinez. How about a draw play? Or a simple handoff? After all, Nebraska had just finished a possession on which it rushed eight times for 79 yards.

On Nebraska's next-to-last possession, Martinez was picked off on second-and-10, leading to UCLA's take-control touchdown.

Bottom line, Martinez isn't as good as his season-opening performance, but not as bad as his 0-for-6 showing in the fourth quarter against UCLA.

For much of Saturday night's game, he continued to show he's made marked improvement as a passer and field general. Expect that to continue.

He trotted off the field after the game with his head held high -- good to see.

* Nebraska obviously has multiple issues on defense. It would be unfair to pin everything on one position group.

But it starts with the front four.

As one might expect, the Huskers’ defensive line recruiting was spotty in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 classes.

One could make a case that of 11 scholarship defensive linemen in those classes, six haven’t panned out, at least not yet.

That's bound to haunt a defense.

* Nebraska’s offensive line drew raves for its performance against Southern Miss, and rightfully so.

How about against UCLA?

“I think at times, good, and at other times, not good,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said.

“It was very inconsistent -- very inconsistent. So, offensively, we were very inconsistent.”

It’s fitting, because the program has become inconsistent.

The wild mood swings -- plenty of promise one week, a troubling loss the next -- are taxing on everyone.

* Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has been patient and generally pleasant with the media of late. He says he’s turned over a new leaf. This week, however, will test him. There will be tough questions. There will be intense scrutiny and negativity from a fan base that is probably as confused as it is angry, and rightfully so.

There’s no way to stop that negativity from reaching the players. Pelini has expressed concern about that issue in the past.

Bottom line, he needs to show strength and poise for the good of his program.

Let others panic.

* Scary thought I: Nebraska's defense in the Big 12 (or Pac-12, or I guess wherever).

* Scary thought II: Nebraska vs. Oregon or USC in the Rose Bowl. Sheesh.

 

 

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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