PASADENA, Calif. — For 60 minutes Saturday, the Rose Bowl was UCLA’s personal offensive playground.
For the most part, the Nebraska defense didn’t do a whole lot to stop the party.
The numbers logged by UCLA’s offense in Saturday’s 36-30 victory are stunning in a number of ways. For the Bruins, it was a showcase for the home fans of a breathless, fast-break attack from new coach Jim Mora that would make the school’s basketball team jealous.
For the Huskers, it was a not-so-gentle reminder that the defense has a long way to go.
“I don’t really know where it (the defense) rated, but I don’t think we did good enough,” Nebraska defensive end Cameron Meredith said. “They (the Bruins) had a few big plays that really killed us. You never really know what play is going to lose the game for you. I feel like all those plays contributed to the loss.”
Back to the numbers, and there are some big ones, so take a deep breath: The Bruins totaled 653 yards — 344 rushing and 309 passing — and piled up 26 first downs on 94 plays. That led to a huge advantage (37:40 to 22:20) in time of possession. UCLA redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley played like a future All-American with four touchdown passes and no interceptions, even bouncing back from an ankle injury late in the game. Running back Johnathan Franklin had 276 yards from scrimmage — 217 rushing — and the game-clinching touchdown late in the game.
"That running back (Franklin) is a great football player,” Meredith said, “probably one of the best backs we’ll face this year. Their quarterback, as a freshman, did a great job. I just had to give credit to UCLA.”
The number that won’t show up in the box score is missed tackles by the Huskers. How many were there? A dozen? Two dozen? Coaches may have that number when they watch the game film Sunday, and the players won’t be happy to hear the total.
“We can coach better, we can execute better and we can tackle better,” Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. “There wasn’t one thing you can look at that I thought was our breakdown. We missed a lot of tackles, we didn’t execute great and we didn’t coach great. That’s a bad combination.”
As bad as the final numbers were, the Husker defense actually played better in the second half by getting more pressure on Hundley. But the Nebraska offense struggled in the second half and the defense found itself in some very difficult field-position situations.
“We were in position a lot of times to make a play, we just need to tackle better,” Meredith said. “UCLA’s yards after tackle (or contact) was just way too much. You can’t beat a good football team like that.”
Papuchis said he thought the Huskers would be able to get to Hundley with pressure, but that didn’t really happen until the second half. Even when pressure came, though, missed tackles would keep Nebraska from getting a stop.
“(Missed tackles) went from being something we could chalk up to a first-game thing (last week) to being something, obviously, we have to get better at or we’re looking at the same results week after week,” he said.
Meredith was already looking where the Huskers go from here.
“Everything is still out there for us to get what we want, and we want to win the Big Ten championship,” he said. “We’ll take it week by week. We want to end up back here in January (for the Rose Bowl), that’s our ultimate goal. We start league play in a couple of weeks, and next week we’ve got to beat Arkansas State and just go from there.”