(16) Nebraska (1-0) at UCLA (1-0)|
Saturday, September 8th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Jim Mora looks for his first signature victory as the Bruins' head
coach, as UCLA welcomes the 16th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Rose Bowl
for a non-conference battle.
Bo Pelini opened up his fifth season as Nebraska's head coach with a tone
setting, 49-20, triumph over the defending Conference USA champion Southern
Miss Golden Eagles in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers had their best offensive
performance (632 total yards, zero turnovers) since Pelini's debut with the
program. The win improved Nebraska's active September winning streak to 10
games and improved Pelini's record versus non-league foes to 15-2.
UCLA opens its 31st season at home in the Rose Bowl in this contest. Mora got
his first win in his debut with the Bruins, as a devastating rushing attack
fueled a lopsided 49-24 decision over Rice last week.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with UCLA by a count of 6-4. These two
teams haven't met on the gridiron since 1994 when second-ranked Nebraska
posted a 49-21 victory in Lincoln.
Nebraska's engine was charged by junior Taylor Martinez's excellence in the
team's opener. The Cornhuskers' signal caller earned the Big Ten Co-Offensive
Player of the Week award after appearing unstoppable, completing 26-of-34
attempts for a career-high 354 yards and five touchdowns. Martinez kept the
Golden Eagles guessing by spreading the ball out to 10 different receivers
before halftime. Martinez only gained 11 rushing yards against USM, but his
scrambling ability requires defenses to keep a spy on the athletic
"Their quarterback is dynamite," said Mora on Martinez. "I know going into the
game there were some questions about his ability to stand in the pocket and
throw and I think that he put all those doubts to rest with his showing on
Quincy Enunwa led NU's evidently deep array of wide receivers with six catches
for 70 yards. Tight end Kyler Reed was second on the team with 57 yards and a
touchdown on five grabs.
The Cornhuskers had the 18th best rushing offense (278 yards ) in the NCAA in
week one despite losing their superstar tailback Rex Burkhead to a knee injury
in the opening frame. Burkhead ran for 68 yards and a touchdown on just three
carries before exiting the game. Burkhead, who ran for 1,357 yards last
season, is listed as questionable for this Saturday.
Sophomore Ameer Abdullah (81 yards, 15 carries) and freshman Imani Cross (62
yards, 11 carries) were both utilized versus USM after Burkhead left the game.
NU held the Golden Eagles over 200 yards under their 2011 average of 461.4
yards per game en route to its 1-0 start. The task of shutting down an
explosive offense for the second week in a row is a primary concern of the
"I think they are explosive. Obviously, they had 650 yards of offense and
scored a lot of points in a hurry," defensive coordinator John Papuchis said.
"Their skill guys are explosive and athletic, and they are pretty solid up
front. We know we have a tough task going there, but we are preparing well for
Senior linebacker Will Compton is leading NU after one game with 12 tackles.
USM's offensive line was unable to account for all of Nebraska's playmakers,
which led to team totals of three sacks and eight tackles for loss.
The Cornhusker defense has the demanding assignment of slowing down UCLA's
elite rushing attack, which is powered by tailback Johnathan Franklin. The
Bruins gained 343 yards on the ground with 214 of those yards coming courtesy
of Franklin, who managed to break away for two 70-plus yard touchdown runs in
Redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley wasted no time making it obvious he is
going to be a dual-threat by racing for a 72-yard touchdown on his first snap.
Hundley also performed well as a passer in his collegiate debut by completing
75 percent of his passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns with only one
UCLA could give Martinez problems as its six sacks in week one were the most
in the country. The Bruins' defensive unit put points on the board with Damien
Holmes's 44-yard fumble return. Sophomore Eric Kendricks paced the team with
11 tackles for his third consecutive game with double-digit stops.
Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price, both starting senior cornerbacks, make UCLA
one of the strongest at the position in the Pac-12. Hester made his 25th
career start to become the first Bruin to appear in the starting lineup in
four straight season openers since 2005. Price, who actually leads the team
with 33 career starts, made four tackles and his second career interception at
Mora and UCLA have a shot at spoiling any hope Nebraska has of competing for
the national title. However, the Bruins need their freshman quarterback to
perform like a seasoned veteran or they will be left in the dust. The
Cornhuskers could encounter a problem relying on their underclassmen backup
running backs if Burkhead's injury renders him ineffective or unavailable. If
that is the case, Martinez's passing ability and leadership will be put to the
test by the hungry Bruins.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 31, UCLA 24
09/05 11:05:16 ET