Four-Down Territory: UCLA Honors Pasquale, Downs Nebraska
By Christopher Wuensch
A breakdown of UCLA's 41-21 come-from-behind win over Nebraska:
Brett Hundley found himself in an unfamiliar position at halftime of UCLA’s Week 3 matchup against Nebraska — trailing on the scoreboard.
A combination of a struggling Bruins struggling running game and a revved-up Cornhuskers defense saw UCLA fall behind, 21-10, at the half on Saturday in Lincoln. Hundley and the Bruins rallied in the second half, pouring on 38 uncontested points to seal the win. UCLA now has outscored its opponents, 72-7, in the second half this season.
The sophomore has stared down a halftime deficit in just six of his 16 career starts as the Bruins' quarterback. Three of those halftime deficits, not coincidentally, came in UCLA’s final three games last season: losses to Stanford (twice) and Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.
He’s entered a halftime with a tie score just once … last year against Nebraska. UCLA won that game in much the same fashion, using a 41-7 second-half effort to dismantle the Huskers.
The notion of the Bruins as a “second-half” team is a bit of a misnomer for the Hundley-era Bruins. They’re quite balanced. Since taking over duties under center as a freshman, Hundley and UCLA have averaged 19.5 first-half points to 17.3 in the second half. All told, the first-half Bruins have outscored the second-half Bruins, 313-278.
Brett Hundley will get his share of credit for the Bruins’ win over Nebraska, and deservedly so. But there’s no way UCLA goes to 2-0 without the Bruins’ defense.
UCLA wobbled a bit in the first half, yielding 21 points. But Nebraska never found the scoreboard again.
UCLA’s offense scored four times in the third quarter to wrest the game away from the Cornhuskers, sandwiched between three Nebraska punts, a turnover on downs and a fumble recovery.
UCLA gave up 353 yards to Nevada and followed that up by giving up 331 to Nebraska — only 147 them in the second half.
All told, the Bruins have outscored opponents (Nevada and Nebraska) by a combined 72-7 in the second half of games this season. It was an impressive showing for a unit that oftentimes is overshadowed in the Pac-12 by the defensive likes of Stanford and Southern California.
One thing Stanford and USC don’t have is Anthony Barr.
Barr might be the best linebacker in the conference. The senior, who converted from running back last season, finished the day with 11 tackles, 1.5 TFL for 20 yards and three forced fumbles. Yes, three forced fumbles.
Head coach Jim Mora has this Bruins squad playing like a team and everyone is getting a chance to get involved.
Jordan James rushed for a 105 yards and Shaquelle Evans hauled in 97 yards through the air. Each found the end zone. Those are some modest numbers for a team that posted 506 total yards and 41 points.
Hundley passed for 294 yards and three touchdowns. What’s remarkable is the sophomore’s ability to share the wealth. Nine Bruins caught passes — with five of them garnering at least 20 yards.
Conversely, six UCLA players helped the Bruins rush the ball for a combined 211 yards.
According to the Associated Press — who cited STATS — the 18-point lead surrendered by the Cornhuskers is the biggest deficit overcome by a Nebraska opponent in Lincoln since at least 1996 (STATS and Nebraska's sports information department don't have complete records prior to '96). Washington and Colorado each overcame 12-point Huskers leads on the road in 1991 and 1990, respectively.
Saturday’s matchup in Lincoln was every bit of a character test for UCLA and the Bruins passed with straight A’s.
The death of a player always is devastating and different teams handle the grief differently. The Bruins bore their bruised souls with humbled class.
“Our goal today was to honor Nick,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora told an ABC reporter after the game. Mora looked directly into the camera and spoke to the Pasquale family.
“We did it for your son. We did it for your son.”
Quarterback Brett Hundley couldn’t quite find the words to honor his fallen teammate. But his R.I.P. No. 36 towel spoke volumes to his character … almost as much as his elevated play. Pasquale would have been proud of his teammates.