Big Red Report's #16 Nebraska at UCLA Preview

Presented by:

By: Josh Harvey and Bryan Munson
September, 7th 2012




Game Headlines:

* Nebraska last played UCLA in 1994, a 49-13 win.

* Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead questionable.

* Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez returns for first time in his career.

FOX Sports' Charles Davis Preview

Imani Cross UCLA Preview

Ron Kellogg UCLA Preview

More UCLA Preview:

Coach Brown

Brent Qvale

Coach Garrison

Ameer Abdullah

Brett Maher

Opponent preview:

UCLA RB Jonathan Franklin

UCLA QB Brett Hundley

UCLA HC Jim Mora

(Video courtesy:

Bo Pelini preps for UCLA

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Head Coach: Jim Mora (1st year)
Southern Miss record in 2012: 1-0 (Beat Rice 49-24)
Opponent Analysis: A win over UCLA shows your program isn't afraid to schedule someone in non-conference, but this isn't exactly a Top 25 program at the moment. The Bruins have called basically a "do-over," going out and hiring Jim Mora, a longtime NFL coach. Mora appears to have the program heading in the right direction, with improved play in week one and a good recruiting class, but they haven't been hit in the mouth yet by a team like Nebraska.

Keys to the Game: 1.) The Nebraska offense is likely to be without senior running back Rex Burkhead on Saturday, which means Ameer Abdullah needs to step up. Abdullah will likely be asked to carry the ball more than his previous career high of 15 carries last week. A sophomore, he's shown that he can run both inside and outside, but the UCLA front will be tougher and more athletic than Southern Miss.

2.) The Nebraska defense struggled at times with mobile quarterback last year and last week against Anthony Alford. While the freshman never broke a big one, he did manage to record over 5.0 yards per carry on 11 attempts. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley showed last week he can get out and run if he needs to as well. Just a freshman, he also showed most of the nation his arm is more polished than expected. Nebraska needs to bring the pressure to Hundley - early and often. Last week the defense was very vanilla at times, mostly because the Huskers didn't know what to expect. We expect to see more blitzes and different coverages to try to confuse the young quarterback.

3.) Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez returns home, after his best statistical game ever. A big key will be for the junior quarterback to not try to duplicate last week's performance in front of friends and family. A big reason why Martinez was so good last week was because he didn't press the situation. He just hit the open man, whoever it was, and took what he was given. That was clear by throwing to ten different receivers in the first half. Martinez should see a tougher defense from UCLA and will likely see less open receivers down-field, but it will be important for him to not get discouraged and try to force things.

Big Red Report Prediction:
Nebraska 35...UCLA 24 (Harvey)

FOX Sports previews the match-up:

Photos from last week (Stewart Photography)

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Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini presser

On the efforts of Ameer Abdullah and the other running backs against Southern Miss: I thought they played really well. We have a lot of confidence in those backs. They are talented guys. I liked how they played and how they responded. They had a really good day.

On if there are adjustments to the offense with Rex being out: No. We didn't change a thing offensively.

On if the decision to bench Rex was made right away: I don't make that decision. That comes from our medical staff. Obviously with a guy like him, you're going to be very guarded. He's a guy that knows his body and felt something. That goes to the trainers and the doctors and they look at it and make a decision. You're not just thinking about the next couple quarters, you're thinking about the whole season. It's not only about the future of the team, but it's about Rex's future.

On if Rex fought that decision: Yeah. He did. He always will. Like I said, we have a lot of confidence in the other guys that are playing running back for us. To me it was a pretty logical and easy decision for us.

On if the backup running backs were already in the game plan: Yeah, they were already playing. They were all going to get their snaps anyways.

On if it's an injury that will require surgery after the year: No. If there was surgery that was required, we'd have it done right now. There's no surgery involved with this.

On what he liked and disliked about the defense after watching the film: Like any other game, you expect some positives, things that we left out there. I want to say we had 11 tackles for loss, and I think we left four or five out there on the field. We left a couple sacks out there. There are just some little things here and there we need to clean up. Some techniques and adjustments and communication errors. That's to be expected in game one, especially in a game where you didn't have a whole lot to go off of going in. Our guys adjusted pretty well. There were a lot of positives, but like all phases of the game, there are a number of things you have to get cleaned up.

On what the breakdown was on the kickoff return for a touchdown: There were a couple of player breakdowns on the play. Obviously I'm not one to name names, but we didn't execute the way we needed to. There were three or four guys to blame. If one guy gets out of his lane or makes a bad decision (things go bad). We had two guys that were unblocked. They didn't respond the right way. After that, I think our guys learned from what happened.

On if he told Brett Maher to kick it through the end zone every time after that return: The whole game we wanted to. On that particular one, he hit it a yard or two deep. He just didn't hit it the way he normally does.

On what the key is to stopping mobile quarterbacks defensively: Play your responsibilities. Every team that has a mobile quarterback has a different offense. Your challenges are different. You have different plays, different structures you're going against. We're going to call different defenses. There's extra keys in who you're keying, why you're keying that guy, you're understanding he has to be good. That's an entirely different element. That's why people do it.

On if the majority of the work is with the guys up front or the guys in the back: It goes front to back. It depends on what the call is, what the defense is. Everybody has their part to play and handling it, and if you're going to handle it the right way.

On how UCLA's offense compares to Southern Miss: I don't get into comparing one team to another per se. UCLA has some talent. They have a very good back. I think the quarterback is very capable. They have a highly rated tight end. They have a couple wide receivers on the outside that can really make plays. They have good offensive skill. They have some guys that can make plays on you. I think they showed that against Rice.

On if he recruited UCLA's quarterback: I don't know. I know we looked at him, but I can't remember. That was a long time ago for me. He's a good football player, though.

On what it will mean for the players from the Los Angeles area to play close to home: I think they are excited to go back there. I'm sure they'll have a lot of their family and friends. It doesn't happen a lot. The last time we went out there, other than the Holiday Bowl, was when we went out to Washington. I know those guys will be excited to go back home, and I'm sure they're all going to be looking for tickets.

Getty Images

Prediction on star of the game?

I'm going to go with Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, filling in for senior Rex Burkhead (questionable). I think the sophomore will be chomping at the bit to show he can be a featured back next year in this offense once Burkhead is gone.

He had 15 carries last week, racking up 81 yards with no fumbles. It's clear when you look at the second-year player he's gained muscle and looks like he can run both inside and out.

"He was a young guy and a true freshman last year. He started to get comfortable about midway through the year last year," said Pelini. "Now he's shown he can be an every down back, and he can run inside and outside and he's really similar to Braylon (Heard). They are talented guys that can really put stress on a defense in a number of ways."

- Harvey

Quote of the week:

"Oh yeah, Rex is never out of the game."
- Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah getting tips from Rex Burkhead last Saturday