PASADENA, Calif. -- Not much went right for the Nebraska defense Saturday night.
The Huskers gave up 344 rushing yards and 653 total yards in a 36-30 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
Those numbers alone could cause the Husker defensive coaching staff some sleepless nights.
Missed tackles were part of the problem. UCLA senior running back Johnathon Franklin had 217 rushing hards himself, and many of those came after contact.
“We were in position at times. We just need to tackle better,” Nebraska senior defensive end Cameron Meredith said. “The yards after (contact) were just way too much. You can’t beat a good football team like that.”
Senior Johnathon Franklin burned the Huskers for 217 yards on 26 carries. Many of those yards came after contact.
No doubt a lot of credit has to go to the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Franklin.
“He’s a tenacious runner,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. said. “He’s hard to bring down. I think that people look at him and they think that he's a little running back. He’s not. He may be short, but he’s powerful. He’s got great lower body strength. He’s got a heart that just jumps out of his chest. He refuses to be tackled. He charges our team up.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley, a player the Huskers tried to recruit out of Chandler, Ariz., also caused NU considerable trouble. Hundley completed 21-of-33 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 53 yards on 12 carries.
“I thought Hundley played well, and I thought we contributed a lot to that,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “But I give him credit. He did a good job.”
Hundley had to leave the game for a series after taking a hit in the third quarter. Mora said Hundley needs to learn to avoid contact at times.
“He needs to learn how to slide, and he needs to learn how to take a knee,” he said. “Once he gets down those things, he might be able to avoid injury. He was very calm back there. Brett played outstanding. He doesn’t get flustered.
“When he comes to the sideline, he has a very good understanding of what happened, whether it was good or bad. He keeps his emotions in check. I thought our offensive line did an outstanding job giving him time. I mean, there were some throws out there where he could step into it and got through his progressions, which is good.”
UCLA had 372 yards and 24 points at the half. In the second half, the Bruins added just 12 more points to their total.
That may look like an improvement for the Husker defense, but Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis isn’t sure that’s the case.
“I think off the scoreboard, we gave up fewer points,” he said. “I don’t know if we played any better. I guess to a certain extent we played a little bit better, but certainly not up to our standards.”
Another old bugaboo that haunted the Huskers a year ago was giving up first downs on third-down plays. UCLA converted on 9 of 20 such opportunities on Saturday.
Papuchis said the Huskers may have to reevaluate what they’re doing defensively on third downs, because what they’re doing isn‘t working.
“We practice it, we stress it,” Papuchis said. “We’re going to have to take a good look at it as coaches and evaluate how we’re teaching it, how we’re executing.”
For whatever reason, the Huskers could never get any momentum going on defense. Papuchis said plays like the 92-yard touchdown run by Taylor Martinez in the second quarter should give the defense a burst of energy, but that didn’t happen.
“Quick strikes and scoring helps us,” Papuchis said. “There were some points in the game where I felt like we had momentum and we were getting ready to kind of make a surge and it just didn’t happen. We couldn’t, for whatever reason, pull away. We had (missed) opportunities and that came back to bite us, obviously, in the second half.”