Nebraska vs. UCLA - 9/8/2012

Nebraska safety Daimion Stafford (3) struggles to hold on to UCLA wide receiver Shaquelle Evans (1) in the third quarter at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.

FRANCIS GARDLER/Lincoln Journal Star

Nobody really offered an exact number of Nebraska’s missed tackles against UCLA on Saturday.

“A lot,” Bo Pelini said.

"Two is too many, and I know we had more than two,” said senior safety P.J. Smith. “It doesn’t matter. We had two too many, bottom line.”

The exact number, at this point, probably isn’t of great importance, with the damage already done in the 36-30 loss.

Smith expressed frustration in knowing that many times, players were in position to make tackles, but didn’t wrap up properly and finish the play.

How does that get corrected?

“Practice,” Smith said at Monday’s news conference. “Just taking (players) down in practice. I’m sure we’re going to do that today in practice and this week, just tackling scout guys and bring then down to the ground. That’s all it is.”

Senior linebacker Will Compton said he believes that players sometimes go for the big hit or big play, rather than concentrating on wrapping up on initial contact.

“It’s just about want-to and mentality,” Compton said on improving tackling. “The coaches will touch on it. We’ll just go off their feedback. I think it’s just more want-to than anything else.”

While Pelini's team did tackle in fall camp scrimmages, the coach said they don't do it every day in August because of risk of injury.

Tackling, he said, comes down to fundamentals.

“I always believe that tackling a lot of times comes from getting your body in the right tackling position over and over and over,” Pelini said. "Not having your feet crossed over, not overrunning the football, always fundamentally evaluating those things. Maybe we didn’t do a good enough job with that."

* FRUSTRATING FILM: Smith watched film of the UCLA game Sunday, “and it wasn’t us,” he said.

“Nothing special they did, we just killed ourselves,” Smith said, referring to not only the missed tackles, but problems with communication.

“They were just doing a lot of motions to confuse us. If you’re not on the same page with your corner or your linebacker or something, big plays like that happen. That’s exactly what happened.”

UCLA had 11 plays that covered 23 yards or more.

* WILL TO DO BETTER: Compton admits he needs to do a better job in coverage when teams isolate him against running backs, like UCLA did.

Bruin running back Johnathan Franklin, who rushed for 217 yards, also caught three passes for 59 yards, including the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“I put myself in a bad position,” said Compton, a senior middle linebacker. “There were a couple of times we were in blitzes in Cover-1, and I should’ve kept my inside leverage better and I got too head-up, ready for both the in and the out. I’ve got to do better with that. I can, and I will do better with that.”

* BURKHEAD'S TIMETABLE: Rex Burkhead’s status has not changed, though Pelini did reveal a timetable that might provide some idea of when the senior running back would return.

Pelini said coaches were told Burkhead faced “like a 10-20-day recovery” from a MCL sprain suffered in the opener against Southern Miss.

If Burkhead recovers at that pace, it likely means a return this week or against Idaho State next week.

“It just all comes down to the doctors and Rex and how it plays out," he said.

* HIS TOUGHEST CRITIC: Ameer Abdullah said he felt he played "pretty average" Saturday.

"I felt like here and there I had some pretty good plays, but, obviously, when you watch films it's never as good as you think or as bad as you think," he said.

The sophomore running back had 16 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He performed well in pass protection, too. The one mistake? A fumble on the first play of the third quarter that led to a UCLA field goal.

"I got the exchange pretty quick. The guy got on me pretty quick," Abdullah said. "Just something I've got to be ready for, a guy coming in screaming off the edge to hit me immediately when I get the ball. I've got to get two hands on the ball when I'm in traffic."

* VALENTINE UPDATE: While Pelini said coaches will continue to expand the roles of true freshmen Aaron Curry and Avery Moss on the defensive line, he said Vincent Valentine is probably going to redshirt.

That is “what we were hoping,” Pelini said. “I think he will benefit a lot from redshirting.”

* STILL EARLY: It was a rough week for the Big Ten. The league went just 6-6, including three head-to-head losses to Pac-12 schools.

But it’s much too early for people to jump to grand conclusions about the league, Pelini says.

“There's a lot to be determined as to how the Big Ten is going to fare as the season goes on, or any conference for that matter,” he said.

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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