Hundley completed 16 of 24 passes for 294 yards and ran for 61. His passes found nine different receivers.
In a television interview afterward, Coach Jim Mora was clear about UCLA’s main focus in the game.
"Our goal today was to honor Nick," he said. "Our goal today was to come out here and have our players reflect everything that he meant to us and everything that was great about him so that his family sitting at home, Mel, Lori and AJ ... we did it for your son. We did it for your son."
Asked if the emotions slowed UCLA in the early going, Mora said, "I don’t like excuses. I think we were a little tight and that’s a really good football team over there. I just told the guys at halftime, 'It’s good to see you finally.' We finally showed up in the second quarter and started to play with a little bit of confidence."
Said Hundley: "There was a lot of emotions for this game… The second half we calmed down and played our game."
He said of Pasquale: "This was a game for him."
The third quarter was the deal: UCLA scored 28, Nebraska scored none. UCLA had 236 yards of offense in those 15 minutes, Nebraska had 47.
For the Huskers, it was "15 minutes of hell," as one fan tweeted at me.
We'll have plenty of reaction of course. But first, a quote from Bo Pelini. It was in reaction to a question about keeping this team afloat amid all the negativity that is sure swirl in the air in the days and weeks to come.
"I just told our team, you can't worry about what people are saying outside," Pelini said. "We know what we're capable of as a football team. You have to stick together in times like this. And I've said it over the first three weeks, my goal always is to win every football game. But we have to stay with the process of where we are as a football team and what we have to do to get better.
"And we can't worry about what people are saying outside. It's going to be negative. It's going to be negative by the fans, by the media, everybody. And in times like this all we can do is stick together. Because the only people that can fix it is us. That's the challenge that we have. And if we worry about what people are saying outside, then things are going to go in a bad way. Because I know it's not going to be favorable, it's not going to be good."
What went on was another performance like last year's disaster against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Or like last year's grease fire at Ohio State. Or at UCLA last year, or at Michigan and at Wisconsin the year before. When things go bad for Nebraska, they too often spin out of control.
"Somebody's got to step up and be a leader, make plays," defensive end Randy Gregory said. "Whether that's me, a DB, a quarterback, it doesn't matter. Somebody's got to step up and say something."
Gregory has played three games in a Nebraska uniform. Ultimately, the blame must land at Pelini's feet. He talked after the game about his offense "reading their press clippings too much" and the team playing not to lose instead of to win. Pelini said he wants the Huskers to "just turn it loose and have fun." But the next several days in Lincoln won't be fun for anyone in red, as the debate over whether Pelini will ever get this program over the hump will rage on.
He continues to insist his defensive scheme works while opponents exploit it with increasing success. Why can't Pelini steer his team out of these in-game tailspins? Pelini and his players were short on answers Saturday afternoon, and the local media seemed fatigued by asking the same old questions.
Nebraska fans are as loyal as any in sports, and families still lined the tunnel walk area after the game to offer encouragement to their heroes. But as the team trudged off the field, the UCLA eight-clap echoed through Memorial Stadium, drowning out what had been a school-record crowd.
"In times like these, we have to stick together," Pelini said. "The only people that can fix it is us."
After yet another ghastly performance, Big Red Nation might be too spooked to believe that is true.
The chorus of unity among players and coaches seemed to be, "UCLA didn’t do anything different in the second half" or "UCLA didn’t do anything we hadn’t prepared for."
So what happened?
"It’s a little hard to say," Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. "The second half started poorly. We missed some tackles on that first drive, they got some momentum and we didn’t respond well. UCLA didn’t change much schematically in the second half. To give you a great answer as to why we didn’t play better, it’s really hard at this point."
One big momentum play came near the end of the first half with Nebraska leading 21-3. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley slipped out of what seemed like a sure sack by Nebraska’s Avery Moss on third-and-12. Hundley scrambled 13 yards for a first down and the Bruins eventually scored to close to 21-10.
"That was huge play," Papuchis said. "The score was 21-3 at the time. We get him on the ground and they’re going to punt. The score should have been 21-3 going into half, no question about it. That was a momentum-shifter, right there."
That play may have made a difference, but doesn’t explain how UCLA rolled up 236 yards and 28 points in the third quarter alone.
"We were kind of scratching our heads a little bit," Nebraska defensive line coach Rick Kaczenksi said. "We had to stay gap-sound, but we had guys peeking into the backfield and that’s when they hit us with big plays. With the explosiveness they have with their skill positions, they make you pay."
For the second straight year, Papuchis was left to come up with answers after a disastrous defensive performance against UCLA.
"There was a deflated look on the sideline," he said. "What really ended up hurting us in the second half was our inability to tackle and stop the run on first down. At the beginning of the game we were holding them to 2 and 3 yards on first down. As the game went on, they had a lot of second-and-5s. That’s a tough down to play."
FIVE THINGS WE STILL DON’T KNOW
1. Who steps up and makes plays consistently for this Nebraska defense, which needed a boost in the second half Saturday?
2. Where does NU quarterback Taylor Martinez’s running threat figure into the Huskers’ offensive plans right now?
3. Was this Nebraska offense overrated going into the season or does it just need to iron out some kinks and find a rhythm?
4. How does Nebraska go about regaining some respect before November with two byes and no marquee games over the next six Saturdays?
5. What will the temperature be like across the state as Husker fans digest the worst nonconference home loss since 1961?
Entering Saturday, one check mark in head coach Bo Pelini's favor had been that in six seasons at least his team hadn't been "housed at home.''
Now, even that positive is gone. Worse, fans like Beachler responded with a shrug.
"I'm as big a Husker fan as there is, and it still bothers me (to lose),'' he said. "But I've seen it before. I've become conditioned to it.''
When passion and ire give way to apathy in your "money'' sport, you have a problem.
This game carried the virus of previous Nebraska meltdowns, complete with the puzzled looks from coaches, the sad body language of players and the growing quiet in the stands.
It's a long season. Nebraska is 2-1 and plays in an average-at-best league (hey, Michigan, nice escape against longtime doormat Akron). Maybe a Big Ten title is still attainable.
In an extended post, the quarterback of NU’s back-to-back national championship teams in 1994 and ’95 had this to say:
"After letting it sink in for about 4 hours I still struggling. It’s time to get rid of the defensive play caller, the Dc, lb dl and db coaches. I hate saying this but this crap is getting old. How in the hell do you not make adjustments or put your players in the position to compete? If this is what is going to happen for the remainder of the season, count me out. I don’t care if we lose a game but the way we are losing is just not what #Nebraska fans deserve. I have fought, bled, and cried over this program. I didn’t do all that for the program to become what it has today. Time for change! I will comment about the offense this week on Tommie’s X’s and O’s. Trust me you don’t want to miss it. #Huskers"
How did this happen again? That is the crux of the problem. Nobody here knows.
Maybe it's obvious. What we saw here Saturday was a microcosm of what this program is right now.
These are good kids. They get good grades. This program does good things, like the moment of silence for the late Nick Pasquale of UCLA, including releasing yellow and blue balloons. Nice touch all around. They knock these things out of the park.
This isn't about scheme or fundamentals or execution. And if I hear Pelini or another coach point the finger at execution, I'm going to scream. Execution goes on the coach's tab.
But execution existed in the first half. The scheme worked. The routes were covered, the pass rush smothered Brett Hundley. The offense seized the moment after an interception and a botched UCLA punt. Maybe it was the Huskers' turn.
Then it happened. Just before the half, Hundley was scrambling around, and Avery Moss had him, but Hundley got away. He made a play. UCLA got new life and scored. It was 21-10 at the half.
A tough one. But not a play that should change the game. Not a play that should start the snowball effect.
Then there was the fake punt. Nice idea, down 31-21, with 1:11 left in the third quarter. Shake things up. Stop the snowball.
Wrong idea, giving the honors to big Brodrick Nickens, who lumbered for 2 yards but fell a yard short. Isn't there someone more swift afoot than a big defensive tackle? Pelini said "that's what we thought was there." It wasn't there when UCLA had time to recover.
Again, that's not a play that decides the game. It's part of a bigger picture and a larger question with this program.
What is the foundation of Pelini's program? Does it have one?
This does not look like a case of the yips. It's a pattern that has repeated too often. Hang tough early. Face some adversity. Back down. Start the snowball.
The Bruins had real adversity to deal with this week. They gave a clinic on toughness, in front of 90,000 Nebraskans who expected their coach to do the same when he was hired.
But when the going gets tough, the tough guy's bunch is anything but.
Waiting for the day when Nebraska can play a top 25 team on national TV and not get destroyed. Maybe bad for recruiting? That's just me— Scott Shanle (@scottshanle) September 14, 2013
@scottshanle be glad u weren't there! Guys just walking around,heads down,gassed! Everything Blackshirts pride themselves on wasn't there!— Jason Peter (@jasonpeter) September 14, 2013
@scottshanle My Husker observation, is that they are playing for themselves not the squad, mentality is everything! Selfishness destroys!— Mike Brown (@21MB30) September 14, 2013
Every man, woman, and child is celebrating right now. 38-21 Bruins.— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) September 14, 2013