Midway through the second quarter, I almost tweeted something about #teamSunshine with the Huskers up 21-3. The Blackshirts were playing very well, and the offense was having a decent day. But I held off, because it was still early. And my fear turned out to be justified, as things collapsed from that point. Nebraska struggled on both sides of the ball the rest of the way, and got blown out.
And struggled is being nice. More accurate terms might be collapsed. Imploded. Self-destructed. It started with Brett Hundley escaping Avery Moss on third and long in the second quarter. Then on UCLA's opening play of the third quarter, Harvey Jackson whiffed on tackling Jordon James. Then Ciante Evans whiffed on a tackle. Touchdown UCLA. On that drive, UCLA had 64 yards after first contact.
Maybe the offense could switch the momentum. Nope, the offense went three and out. Brett Hundley went on a tear, a perfect 8 for 8 passing. When he wasn't making plays with his arm, he was making them with his legs. Nebraska's offense wasn't making any plays. Pass blocking broke down. Jamal Turner and Tyler Wullenwaber dropped passes. Other than Ameer Abdullah, nobody was making plays on either side of the ball.
Suddenly, it was 38-21. A bad 20 minutes of football flipped the game. And "bad" is probably being generous. Horrific is probably closer. I'm sure you used stronger adjectives during the game that are unsuitable for use here.
I told my wife at the end of the third quarter that I thought I was going to get sick. Well, I kept my Val's halftime pizza down, but it doesn't feel any better 24 hours later. So with that, here's the report card.
QB: The big question is how injured was Taylor Martinez's foot? Supposedly it happened prior to the game, but after Nebraska took the 21-3 lead, Martinez simply didn't look the same running the ball. He missed several open receivers, and for some reason, far too many of his passes were short screens. Was that the results of audibles or was that by design? I would have liked more intermediate passes to loosen up the Bruins, who appeared to stack the box much of the day. I understand why option plays are in the playbook, but Tim Beck needs to call fewer of them when Martinez is in the game... UCLA destroyed nearly each one. Here's an idea if you want Martinez to run the ball: how about running a zone read. Grade: D-
RB: Ameer Abdullah was the lone bright spot on the day from my perspective. Tough running inside and outside. The fumble was unfortunate, but probably more the result of a great play by Anthony Barr than a failure by Abdullah. Imani Cross should have seen more action as well. Grade: B+
WR: Kenny Bell had some nice catches, as did Quincy Enunwa. But Jamal Turner, Sam Burtch, and Tyler Wubbenwaller had key drops that could have helped keep the defense off the field. Bigger still would have been getting production out of the tight ends; I didn't expect that we'd miss Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed as much as we have. Grade: D-
Offensive Line: Some decent run blocking, but pass protection was a mess as the game unfolded. Grade: D
Defensive Line: If there was something I felt better about on Saturday was watching the young defensive line being disruptive at times. Defensive ends Avery Moss and Randy Gregory had eight tackles each, and combined for five for losses. But the inability to contain Brett Hundley turned out to be a mental stumbling block for the line; they lost focus and lost their aggression...and that only made things worse. If there was a silver lining to be found in this game, it was here. Grade: C
Linebacker: Josh Banderas did have 11 tackles, and Michael Rose had a big stop. We have some talent at linebacker, but it's going to take time to emerge and develop. Grade: C-
Secondary: I don't know if Stanley Jean-Baptiste got lucky or just made a great read. Either way, it was a nice interception. But aside from that play, it was an awful performance by the secondary. Receivers were left free by just about everybody. Early on, Hundley's inaccuracy gave the Blackshirts a second chance, but eventually, everybody got burned. Ciante got toasted, Jean-Baptiste got burned, Harvey Jackson got roasted, and Andrew Green was, well, Andrew Green. Corey Cooper cleaned up with some tackles, but his personal foul for leading with the helmet on a tackle kept a UCLA touchdown drive alive. Grade: F
Special Teams: Jamal Turner made a bad situation worse by attempting to field a misplayed punt. The best rule is that unless nobody (and I mean NOBODY) is around, just get away from a punt when it's bouncing around on the ground. Mauro Bondi inexplicably had a kickoff go out of bounds. I don't have an issue with the fake punt call; it didn't work, but considering the situation, it was a good idea. I do take issue with the idea of changing the trio of upblockers for a fake. Unless you want to replace Brodrick Nickens permanently on punt coverage as the upblocker, the fake works best when you use your usual personnel and formation. Don't tip things off. Grade: D
Coaching: I'm in the minority on this, but I don't think Nebraska's defensive problems are scheme. It's execution. But it's the responsibility of the coaches to get the execution right. The execution problems are nothing new, and that's why this is becoming a tired excuse. Offensively, I have no idea what Tim Beck was thinking on Saturday. We were running the ball fairly well with Ameer Abdullah. Option runs by Taylor Martinez were disasters narrowly averted. And when UCLA kept loading the box, what's the point behind running so many screen and swing passes? Shouldn't you try to exploit the green UCLA secondary in those situations? Grade: F
Overall: F And it's not even close.
Elsewhere in College Football
B1G: F Michigan nearly lost at home to Akron. Penn State lost to Central Florida.
Referees: F How the heck did Michael Batlan's crew not see that field goal go wide right? And that end of the Wisconsin game, where they let Arizona State fall on the ball to run the clock out was downright criminal.
SEC Defense: ??? OK, maybe JFF is that talented... but c'mon. 1,196 yards of total offense between A&M and 'Bama?
Notre Dame: D Yay. Nice comeback victory over that B1G power Purdue.