LINCOLN — In honor of UCLA's Nick Pasquale, a walk-on wide receiver who was tragically killed in a car accident last weekend, a moment of silence was held before the Huskers' most anticipated non-conference game.
Smatters of balloons in Bruin blue and gold flew into the Lincoln skyline.
The UCLA offense also took to the air, and passed with flying colors.
After trailing to the No. 23 Huskers 21-3 in the second quarter, No. 16 UCLA and quarterback Brett Hundley came to life with 38 unanswered points to post a 41-21 win Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
"That's what you call a team loss right there. We got beat in every phase of the game in the second half," said head coach Bo Pelini, whose team dropped to 2-1. "I think we showed a little bit of our capability in the first half. In the second half, we got away from fundamentals."
Everything looked bright early on for Nebraska but that quickly faded to black, like Nebraska's new uniforms.
Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez tallied three touchdowns in the first half, including a pair to senior wide receiver Quincy Enunwa and another to junior Kenny Bell, while the Blackshirt defense looked strong. UCLA sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley was just 8-of-16 with an interception in the first half, and his offense only had 206 total yards.
By the end of the third quarter, Hundley's numbers changed to 16-of-24 for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He was a perfect 8-for-8 through the air in that quarter alone, as the Bruins offense had four touchdowns.
UCLA gashed the Blackshirts as three of their touchdown drives lasted five plays or less.
"It's nothing magical," Pelini said of UCLA's turnaround. "It wasn't anything (UCLA) hadn't done in the first half. You can't go out and miss your tackles, miss your gaps and play undisciplined."
It wasn't just the defense that had issues in the second half.
The much-ballyhooed Nebraska offense had all four of its drives in the third quarter end in punts. NU even tried a fake punt on its fourth possession, but senior Broderick Nickens
couldn't advance for a first down.
"We've just got to be better, period," said NU offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
Martinez, who looked like he was on the verge of career day in the first half, said afterward that the offense's mindset after halftime was to protect the lead. The Huskers led 21-10 at the break.
It didn't work, as UCLA's defense limited the Huskers to just 130 yards in the second half, and, more importantly, zero points.
"I thought we were just going to keep scoring. Obviously, the game turned on us," Martinez said. "We would just get in second-and-long and third-and-long, and we just lost rhythm. I think that's what killed us."
One facet of the game that brought back nightmarish glimpses from last year's debacle in Los Angeles were the aforementioned missed tackles. UCLA finished with 504 yards of total offense.
"We missed tackle, after tackle, after tackle," said Pelini, who confessed that his squad drilled those exact things heavily in practice over the week.
"We tackled to the ground."
Now the Huskers have to focus on making a turnaround when they host NCAA FCS South Dakota State Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
"I felt like we were playing to lose," Pelini said. "I want these guys to turn it loose and have fun"