RUNNING GAME (D)
Taylor Martinez is clearly not the same threat running the football that we’ve seen before this season. Whether it’s because of injury – he was in a walking boot after the game – or excellent defense is debatable; both Martinez and offensive coordinator Tim Beck say injury isn’t an issue. But the senior quarterback does look hesitant. As for the running backs, why not try Imani Cross a few more times after his three carries for 19 yards?
PASSING GAME (C)
First, the good: Martinez is money on the fade passes into the end zone, as we saw yet again Saturday. Kenny Bell showed some nifty jukes to gain extra yards. Quincy Enunwa ran an excellent route for the game’s first touchdown. Now, the bad: Martinez was off-target – a lot – and particularly early in the game, high and long on his attempts. Protection wasn’t as good as we’ve seen, either.
AGAINST THE RUN (C)
It looked early in the game as if Nebraska had stopped the UCLA run and would make the Bruins one-dimensional. That didn’t last. The game turned on Brett Hundley’s third-down scramble late in the second quarter, but when Paul Perkins busted a 10-yard TD run up the middle, things really changed in defending the run.
AGAINST THE PASS (D)
Again, Nebraska seemed to set a strong early tone with yet another first-quarter interception by Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Then old problems surfaced, particularly the one-on-one plays and missed tackles, including two big whiffs by senior cornerback Ciante Evans. Nebraska had pressure early on Hundley but couldn’t sustain it; John Papuchis said he didn’t want to blitz more often because he was concerned about UCLA motioning to an empty backfield.
SPECIAL TEAMS (D)
I continue to be astounded by Nebraska’s problems on punt return, dating to last season, really. If the Huskers aren’t fumbling, they’re fielding balls inside the 10-yard ilne – a no-no – or letting balls roll an extra 20 yards. Sam Foltz can not only punt, he can also tackle, as we saw on his takedown in the second quarter following a 26-yard return on Foltz’s 54-yard punt.
GAME MANAGEMENT (D)
You could point to a few turning points in Saturday’s game, but one that has to make the list is when Nebraska couldn’t sustain a drive and run out the final 4:48 – or at least a big chunk of it – in the first half. Quincy Enunwa seemed strangely absent on some key second-half plays. Penalties again were an issue.
PLAY CALLING (F)
Beck said UCLA was loading the box and daring Nebraska to throw, so why not some deep play-action passes, rather than the assortment of bubble screens and short throws? And it didn’t seem as if Nebraska had a problem running the ball against a loaded box when Imani Cross had carries of 8, 6 and 5 yards in the first half. He wasn’t heard from again. Perplexing.
This remains a very mentally fragile program. For whatever reason, Nebraska doesn’t have the mental toughness to overcome adversity. We’ve seen it many times over the last six seasons, but probably not to this extent in a home game. One or two bad things happen, and, suddenly, an avalanche. Can one missed sack of Hundley in the second quarter really wreak that much mental havoc on a defense?