PASADENA, Calif. – Nothing came easy on this night. Even the walk to the buses was uphill.
Bo Pelini deemed the night “embarrassing” and his Nebraska players’ dazed expressions on the way up that hill showed they shared that assessment.
“Nobody likes to lose,” said senior linebacker Alonzo Whaley. “You can say, ‘Oh, it’s UCLA, it’s not that big of a deal.’ I wanted to be perfect my senior year. I feel like I lost a national championship. It’s tough.”
Nobody was tougher on himself than Whaley after Nebraska’s 36-30 loss Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
When asked about what the defense needs to do to fix itself, he pointed the query at himself.
“Start on me. Bad tackling. Something we have to get fixed or guys like me can easily be replaced,” Whaley said. “I just need better tackling and as a defense we didn’t tackle well, either. That’s what killed us most of all.”
Whaley seemed particularly frustrated on one third-quarter sack opportunity he missed when UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley eluded his grasp, turning a possible loss into a positive gain.
Whaley also almost took down Bruins’ running back Johnathan Franklin for a loss in the fourth quarter. But Franklin got away, scooting down the sideline, swerving through Huskers until he was finally tackled 54 yards later.
UCLA did not score on that drive, but the big play helped turn field position back in the Bruins' favor.
Pelini wasn’t thrilled with the tackling in NU's opener, either. It was a warning sign, but not an undoing against an opponent such as Southern Miss.
But it proved to be against UCLA, which piled up 653 yards, the second-most a Husker defense has surrendered.
“There were a lot of times we had them in our grasp,” Pelini said. “It killed us. I mean, it killed us.”
Whaley said good tackling is about having want-to.
“You have to want to get a guy down, want to make that tackle,” Whaley said. “And either you want to or you don’t want it, it’s that simple.”
The sting of Saturday’s loss will have to be short-lived.
The season goes on, with Arkansas State coming to Lincoln this Saturday.
Whaley said he’d be ready to work hard again Monday.
“But at the end of the day, you really have to evaluate yourself,” he said. “You have to be hard on yourself in order to get better and fix the things that you weren’t good at.”