The Nebraska Cornhuskers got off to a good start with their 49-20 victory over Southern Miss in the season opener. Now the Cornhuskers will travel to California to take on a UCLA team that beat Rice 49-24.
UCLA has not been very good over the last decade, but the Bruins look like a team that is ready to turn its program around. New head coach Jim Mora might be the perfect fit for UCLA.
This will not be an easy victory for the Cornhuskers. Here are five keys for the Cornhuskers to bring home the victory over UCLA...
No one really knew what to expect from quarterback Taylor Martinez heading into the game against Southern Miss. There were reports that Martinez worked on his throwing mechanics during the offseason, but the only people who knew exactly how much he improved was Nebraska’s coaching staff.
Martinez looked like a new quarterback on Saturday. Martinez completed 26 of 34 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. He broke a Nebraska passing record in a season-opening game for passing yards. The record was previously held by Joe Gantz.
Nebraska will need another strong performance out of Martinez against UCLA.
Last week Rice was able to gain 358 yards on UCLA’s defense. Nebraska should be able to move the ball on the Bruins, but it will take a strong performance from Martinez to do so.
When running back Rex Burkhead was injured last Saturday, Nebraska did not miss a beat on offense. Everyone on the offense stepped up their game.
The offensive line was a question mark heading into the season. On Saturday it provided time for quarterback Taylor Martinez to find the open wide receivers and opened holes for the backup running backs to run through.
The player that shined the most after Burkhead exited the game was running back Ameer Abdullah. In his first game carrying the load at running back, Abdullah rushed 15 times for 81 yards. Abdullah added four receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Burkhead is listed as questionable for Saturday's game against UCLA. Even if Burkhead does play, he will probably be limited in the amount of carries he receives in the game. Nebraska will need another solid performance by backup running backs Abdulla, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross.
If I had to rate Nebraska’s defense on its performance against Southern Miss, I would give it a C.
The Blackshirts were in the right position last Saturday to make plays, but continued to miss tackles. Nebraska has had tackling problems for two seasons. It must correct this issue if it is expected to beat the good teams on its schedule.
If Nebraska expects to take the step to the next level, it needs to improve its tackling on defense. If it misses too many tackles against UCLA, it could be a long day.
Last week UCLA had three scoring plays over 70 yards. Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin has blazing speed. He carried the ball 15 times for 214 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s game against Rice. Nebraska must tackle Franklin when it gets a chance. Once he gets into the open field, he is impossible to catch.
UCLA’s quarterback Brett Hundley could also be a problem for Nebraska’s defense.
The Blackshirts have had problems containing mobile quarterbacks. Hundley is a dual-threat quarterback who could give the Cornhuskers problems on Saturday. Last week Hundley completed 21 of 28 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 68 yards and another touchdown.
Nebraska must make UCLA work for each touchdown it gets. If UCLA is able to have big plays like it did last week, Nebraska will be in for a long night.
Nebraska players are used to playing in front of the 82,000 Sea of Red each week at Memorial Stadium, but nothing compares to the Rose Bowl.
It would be easy for the players on Nebraska’s team who have never traveled to California to get caught up in the bright lights of the big city. Nebraska must treat this game as a business trip and not a vacation.
Nebraska seems to be a team that is focused on winning the Big Ten championship. I do not believe coach Bo Pelini will allow the players to get sidetracked by the glamour of Hollywood.
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