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If the going gets tough for Nebraska, the pressure goes out the door. More specifically, when the defensive line lacks pressure, everything else seems to fall apart around it.
During the matchup with UCLA, Nebraska's young defensive line did a great job in the first half of putting Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley in many uncomfortable situations.
Hundley was forced to make quick plays that resulted in only a single field goal for most of the first half. Things began to shift when Avery Moss missed the sack on 3rd-and-12 towards the end of the first half.
From there, UCLA took control.
Defensive coordinator John Papuchis began to craft a more conservative and controlled approach to rushing the quarterback as a result. Unfortunately, this did nothing but allow Hundley more time in the pocket. The Nebraska secondary was then forced to cover UCLA's receivers for extended periods of time. Hundley took advantage of that and made the plays needed.
From there, the pressure from the Nebraska defensive line crumbled. The controlled rush led to player errors that were difficult to correct. Head coach Bo Pelini thought his team looked like it had seen a ghost.
By the end of the third quarter against UCLA, Nebraska very well may have. Small mistakes added up and Hundley was given all the time and room to make plays.
Going forward, Nebraska will need to bring the pressure up front. To accomplish this, leaders will need to step forward, something the Lincoln Journal Star's Steve Sipple recently commented on. In his article this week, he said:
In the absence of overflowing talent, a defense had better possess a killer instinct and at least a couple of forceful leaders. We’ve seen scant evidence of a killer instinct in Nebraska’s 2013 defense. Listening to coaches and players, forceful leadership (think Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom) also may be lacking.
The Nebraska defense has been getting burned. It's time for that to stop. During the bye week, Pelini and Papuchis need to address the lack of leadership and the lack of pressure. Without either, the Huskers will continue to crumble when the going gets tough.