UCLA plays at Nebraska on Saturday in a rematch of last season's 36-30 Bruins victory at the Rose Bowl. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the story lines:
Hits and misses
UCLA's offense ignited two weeks ago in a 58-20 season-opening victory over Nevada, with 647 total yards.
Nebraska's defense gave up 602 yards in the season opener against Wyoming, with the Cornhuskers barely holding on for a 37-34 victory.
Nebraska, which used to be known for we-will-break-you defenses, rebounded a bit in a 56-13 victory over Southern Mississippi last week, giving up 284 yards. But pylons and tackling dummies might have created a better workout. Southern Mississippi has lost 14 consecutive games.
Missed tackles have been a problem for Nebraska, and UCLA coordinator Noel Mazzone will be trying to get the ball to UCLA's backs and receivers in one-on-one situations.
This has been a difficult week for UCLA. Receiver Nick Pasquale died after being hit by a car Sunday, and the Bruins have had him on their minds all week.
There have been tributes — linebacker Eric Kendricks taped a "3" to his No. 6 jersey so it read "36," Pasquale's number. The Bruins will wear a "36" patch on their jerseys. Nebraska players will have "36" on their helmets.
There will be a moment of silence before kickoff. Californians for Nebraska will donate proceeds from opportunity drawings during watch parties at the OC Tavern in San Clemente and Danny K's in Orange. There is a memorial service Sunday in Pasquale's hometown of San Clemente.
UCLA players have been sheltered from the media all week and Coach Jim Mora stopped talking to reporters after Tuesday.
How the Bruins channel their emotions once the game begins will determine a lot.
It's always an easy call to say quarterback play will decide things. It's an even easier-than-usual call to make with this one.
On one side is UCLA sophomore Brett Hundley, one of the rising stars in college football. He accounted for four touchdowns against Nevada, two passing and two running.
On the other side is senior Taylor Martinez, who, like Hundley, is a dual threat. He ran for 1,019 yards and threw for 2,871 last season.
UCLA had some trouble with the zone-read option against Nevada. Martinez excels at that.
The Bruins have a young and inexperienced secondary.
Martinez has been known to put passes — and games — up for grabs.
Two field goals — from 35 and 22 yards — by Ka'imi Fairbairn were the six-point difference in UCLA's victory over Nebraska last season. Fairbairn also missed from 36 and 34 yards in that game.
Nebraska kicker Pat Smith is a transfer from Western Illinois. He has made 19 of 24 field-goal attempts in his career, but is only one of three from beyond 40 yards.
Nebraska fans are extremely polite, incredibly knowledgeable and loud … very, very loud.
UCLA has not been in this type of college football Mecca since traveling to Austin to play Texas in 2011. Only 10 players from that team remain on the roster, and two of them are injured — defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and running back Damien Thigpen.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun