LINCOLN – The boo birds were out in full force at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Saturday, as the largest crowd in Nebraska history watched a tale of two games against UCLA.
Game one featured Nebraska bolting to a 21-3 lead in the first half.
Game two featured a Nebraska team coming off the rails in all facets of the game — special teams, defense and offense — as the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points and never let Nebraska back in the game.
Though the Nebraska defense has been the big concern at coffee houses across the state, it was the Husker offense, which looked out of sync for much of the game, that has coaches concerned.
NU generated a paltry 120 yards of total offense in the second half.
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini sounded the alarm bells about the Husker offense.
"I feel we haven't been in a rhythm for three straight weeks," he said. "They flipped the momentum on us. My goal always is to win every football game. We have to stay with the process. In times like this all we can do is stick together."
Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck said that even on the three scoring drives his offense wasn't hitting on all cylinders.
"On our three touchdown drives we had penalties," he said. "There's been spurts of it (offensive rhythm). When we execute on offense we're able to get into a rhythm."
Against UCLA the Husker offense was able to run the ball with success in the first half, as
NU strung together a 17-play, 92-yard drive mostly on the ground.
Nebraska never really did go back to the running game with consistency, instead trying to execute run-pass options that more often ended in Taylor Martinez throwing to receivers on the edge of the defense with the idea that receivers could win one-on-one battles against UCLA corners.
Beck said much of the misfiring on offense had more to do with miscues.
"I'm probably more concerned about all the little things that happened over the course of the game," he said, including penalties and dropped passes. "I don't remember coaching in a game when you have all that happen in a game."
With Nebraska leading 21-3 in the first half, Beck said his play calling wasn't what it should have been. For the third consecutive game Nebraska's offense found itself backed up in bad starting field position inside its own 20.
"Maybe it's just me," he said. "I'm more conservative when we're backed up. I feel like I didn't do a very good job. I feel like I let them back in the game."
Despite the early success on the ground in the first half, Nebraska finished with just 128 yards rushing including much of it on the long drive in the first half.
It was just the third time in 17 games since the start of the 2012 season that Nebraska has not rushed for more than 200 yards in a game. Martinez finished with 203 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but had minus 13 yards rushing – this from a player known for making big plays with his feet.
In a side note, Martinez's 190 total yards pushed his career school-record total to 10,078 yards. He is just the ninth quarterback in Big Ten history with 10,000 career total offense yards.