Instant Reaction: UCLA
UCLA rolled to 298 yards in the second half and four third quarter touchdowns to erase an 18-point Nebraska lead and beat the Huskers 41-21. It’ll take a while to unpack everything that happened in that game, but here are a few first impressions and grades from the game.
QUARTERBACKS — 7 (Change: -1)
Taylor Martinez showed up to the post game press conference wearing a walking boot on his left foot. He said it wasn’t from an injury sustained in this game, which may at least partially explain the Huskers’ offensive struggles this season. Without the danger of the QB run game — and it hasn’t been there in any of the three games — you have to adjust the value.
RUNNING BACKS — 7.5 (Change: 0)
Ameer Abdullah’s fourth quarter fumble was the final nail in the Huskers coffin Saturday, but it’s hard to take the running backs down any points overall. All three of the backs averaged more than four yards per carry. The bigger issue was how limited those carries were. Nebraska got away from the run earlier than was needed.
WIDE RECEIVERS — 7.5 (Change: 0)
Early on, it looked like the receivers would be getting an overall upgrade in this ranking, but I never considered taking them lower. The Huskers’ top three are still the best trio in the Big Ten, but it’s fair to question why they weren’t all on the field for some key plays in this game.
OFFENSIVE LINE — 6 (Change: -0.5)
Mike Moudy did some good things in this game, but outside of that it was another pedestrian effort from the guys up front. I wouldn’t call them average yet, but they’re trending that way.
DEFENSIVE LINE — 4 (Change: -0.5)
I do think Nebraska’s defensive line will be very good in a couple of years. Right now, it’s occasionally good but that’s what happens when you go that young. Avery Moss had two sacks, but it was his sack that wasn’t on third-and-12 that flipped the momentum. UCLA went on to score a touchdown on that drive. And on four of the next five drives too.
LINEBACKERS — 5 (Change: 0.5)
The first player out of the locker room to face the media on Saturday was a true freshman — Josh Banderas. Maybe that’s not surprising given how much he’s already taken on early this season. He had another good game with 11 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack. Nathan Gerry is proving to be a little susceptible in coverage, but Zaire Anderson did well in a couple of instances. Slight bump for the unit overall.
DEFENSIVE BACKS — 6.5 (Change: -0.5)
It’s tough to cover when the opposing quarterback has as much time as he wants. That was Brett Hundley in the second half, but the real reason for a dip here is the tackling. You’ll hear about it a lot in the days to come and two of the biggest whiffs were from senior captain Ciante Evans.
DEFENSE — 4 (Change: -0.5)
I can only dock a half point here, back to post-Wyoming levels. Until Nebraska starts doing something differently, it’s a slightly below average defense what will struggle against BCS conference competition. But we knew that coming in.
SPECIAL TEAMS — 6 (Change: -1)
The punt return game isn’t a zero at this point, it’s a net negative. Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp took over for Jamal Turner in the second quarter so we’ll see if that makes a change. Rough day punting for Sam Foltz, too, but the wind seemed to be a factor.
Feel free to drop your thoughts/rankings in the comments below.