Monday, September 9, 2013
No. 23 Huskers out to settle score against Bruins
LINCOLN, Neb. -- 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 Huskers said they were caught off-guard by the 2012 Bruins, who had a new coach in Jim Mora and new quarterback in Brett Hundley.
There are no excuses this year for the Huskers (2-0), who have ample video of UCLA's 9-5 season and its 58-20 win over Nevada in its season opener.
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 win over Nevada.
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.
But they have a quality back in junior Jordon James, who had 155 yards and a touchdown in the opener, and a deep receiving group led by Shaquelle Evans.
Senior defensive back Ciante Evans said besides Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Hundley is the best quarterback he's faced.
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."