12:00 PM ET, September 14, 2013
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, NE), Lincoln, NE
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Minutes after his team finished its win over Southern Mississippi, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini reminded his players that they have a score to settle this week against UCLA.
"They're coming into our house, and we owe them," players said Pelini told them before he walked out of the locker room.
Pelini on Monday downplayed but didn't dismiss getting even as an incentive for the 23rd-ranked Cornhuskers in their meeting with the No. 16 Bruins (1-0) on Saturday in Lincoln.
Last year, the Huskers lost 36-30 in Los Angeles and gave up 653 yards -- the second-most ever against a Nebraska defense.
Pelini said an estimated 300 of those 653 yards came after Nebraska defenders had made initial contact. The coach doesn't expect his players to forget that.
"I would hope, and I'm pretty positive, our team is motivated no matter what the situation," he said. "It just so happens we played this team a year ago, so if that provides our guys with extra motivation, so be it. I would hope it does. Hopefully that motivation will come in the form of great preparation, because that's how you win a football game."
The result of the visit to Lincoln might feel secondary to UCLA. The Bruins' bye week after a 58-20 season-opening win over Nevada was interrupted by tragedy as walk-on wide receiver Nick Pasquale was hit by a car and killed while walking in his hometown of San Clemente on Sunday.
Coach Jim Mora closed all practices this week to the media, and UCLA players weren't made available for comment.
"Our players are dealing with it each in their own way," he said. "We think that's the right way to do it. The important thing is they're together. This is a very close team and they care desperately about each other."
Pelini said the university's thoughts and prayers were with Pasquale, his family, and UCLA.
"That's a lot bigger than any football game," he said. "Obviously, this has got to be a very difficult time for them."
The Bruins will wear a No. 36 patch on their jerseys the rest of the season. Mora said Nebraska's players will have a sticker with Pasquale's number on their helmets and there will be a moment of silence before Saturday's game in his honor.
Pelini will certainly be focused on making sure UCLA doesn't sneak up on Nebraska again. The 2012 Bruins had a new coach in Mora and new quarterback in Brett Hundley, but the Huskers (2-0) now have ample video of UCLA's 9-5 season and its opening win over Nevada.
Hundley is well-established as one of the nation's top run-pass threats, and he's earning some mention as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
He threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 63 yards and two more scores in the victory over the Wolf Pack.
The Bruins no longer have Johnathan Franklin, who ran for a career-high 217 yards against the Huskers, or big tight end Joseph Fauria, who caught two TD passes.
Hundley accounted for 358 yards of total offense and four touchdowns against the Huskers. One of the things that make him such a challenge is his ability to avoid pressure while his receivers work to get open.
"We have to cover longer. That's our job," Evans said. "Extended plays are going to happen Saturday. We have to get used to it and practice it throughout the week."
Pelini said his young defense has been mostly on point with its tackling, but he based that on games against Wyoming and Southern Miss.
The degree of difficulty increases significantly against the Bruins, whose spread offense creates space and one-on-one matchups for its playmakers.
Last year's loss to UCLA was the Huskers' closest of the season and a precursor to defensive meltdowns against Ohio State on the road, Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.
"It was our first loss and it was a loss out there that we feel we shouldn't have had," defensive end Jason Ankrah said. "It's one of those losses we took into our offseason program, and it provided motivation."
Evans said UCLA "deserved every bit" of the victory last year.
"All the losses are a sticking point, especially when you want to win them all," he said. "We remember them. We remember this one as a team. Hopefully we'll come out with a sense of urgency this week."
Top 25 Overview
Two of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country square off in UCLA's Brett Hundley and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez. This is the return game from last year's contest, which UCLA won at home 36-30. Despite a close win against Wyoming, the Cornhuskers are one of the best teams in the Big Ten behind head coach Bo Pelini. The Bruins are coming off a bye week with a heavy heart, following the death of wide receiver Nick Pasquale.
|Avg Points Allowed||20.5||29.3|
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez has thrown for 3 pass TD in all 3 games this season. Entering this season, Martinez had 3 career games with 3 pass TD. Last year against UCLA, Martinez did not throw a single pass TD.
If UCLA is going to trail early, Nebraska may be the best option... Entering Saturday, UCLA is 1-4 in its last 5 games in which it trailed after the 1st quarter with the lone win coming last season against Nebraska (trailed 14-7).
The 28 points allowed by Nebraska are the most allowed in the 3rd quarter in any game in school history.
Taylor Martinez started off strong while Brett Hundley struggled early, resulting in Nebraska getting out to a 21-3 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. From that point on, it was pretty much all UCLA, as Hundley put up a QBR of 94.0 (12-15, 9.2 yards per play, 3 TD) compared to Martinez's 10.5 (10-19, 3.1 yards per play, 1-for-9 on converting 3rd downs) as UCLA scored 38 unanswered to come away with an impressive win in Lincoln.[+]
Entering Saturday, Bruins are 1-21 when trailing by double figures at halftime since 2006. Only win over span came in 2009 EagleBank Bowl vs Temple. UCLA hasn't done it in a TRUE road game since 2005 at Washington State.
Taylor Martinez has struggled since the end of last year against quality competition. He did well in Nebraska's first 2 games this year against non-BCS AQ opposition, but his below average performance vs UCLA continues a disturbing trend going back to the end of last season against AQ opponents.[+]
Taylor Martinez - Last 9 Games vs BCS AQ Opponents
Nebraska was outscored 31-0 by UCLA in the 2nd half.... It's the largest 2nd-half deficit for Nebraska since 2004 at Texas Tech (-42) and it's the Huskers' largest at home over the last 10 seasons.
Through 2 games this season, Hundley has shown major improvement compared to how he finished last year, when the Bruins ended the year with consecutive losses to Stanford before getting blown out by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. In the 2 convincing wins this year - vs Nevada and at Nebraska - Hundley has a QBR over 50 points higher than he did during that 3-game skid.[+]
Brett Hundley - Last 5 Games
Nebraska's 17-play TD drive in the 1st quarter was just the 2nd TD drive of at least 17 plays for the Cornhuskers in last 10 seasons. Also had a 17-play TD drive at Minnesota in 2011.
This is the 3rd time in his career that Taylor Martinez has 3 Pass TD in the first half of a game. (2012 vs Southern Miss, 2010 vs Oklahoma State)
ESPN Stats & Information