First look: UCLA vs. Nebraska in Foster Farms Bowl

UCLA's 36-30 win over Nebraska in 2012 marked the first big victory of Jim Mora's tenure. Joe Fauria (left) is pictured celebrating one of his two touchdown catches. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA’s 36-30 win over Nebraska in 2012 marked the first big victory of Jim Mora’s tenure. Joe Fauria (left) is pictured celebrating one of his two touchdown catches. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA Bruins (8-4, 5-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7, 3-5)
Kickoff:
Saturday, Dec. 26, 6:15 p.m., Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara)
TV: ESPN (Jason Benetti, Rod Gilmore, Shelley Smith)
Radio: AM 570 (Bill Roth, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Scouting report: Nebraska is one of three 5-7 teams to make a bowl game, due to the shortage of six-win teams available to fill 80 spots. The Cornhuskers had the highest APR of the available five-win teams in the country, which served as the tiebreaker. … However, Nebraska lost its first five games by a combined 13 points, falling behind in four in the final minute. If a few plays had broken differently, this could easily be a more respectable seven-win team. The Huskers also handed Michigan State its only loss of the year. … The matchup will pit Jim Mora against Mike Riley for just the second time. The former Oregon State coach handed Mora his first college loss in 2012. … Riley has had a rough first season at Nebraska, prompting athletic director to release a statement in early November assuring fans of “a bright future.”

Series history: The all-time series is tied at 6-6, but UCLA has won the two most recent meetings. The Bruins swept a home-and-home series, starting with a 36-30 home win in 2012 that helped jump-start excitement about the Mora era. The team’s 41-21 comeback on the road the following year followed the death of receiver Nick Pasquale, whom Cornhusker fans helped honor before kickoff.

Key players:

QB Tommy Armstrong, Jr., 6-1, 220 — 210/383, 2,856 yards, 21 TD, 16 INT
— The dual-threat quarterback’s rushing numbers are down significantly in Riley’s pro-style offense, from 705 yards in 2014 to 324 this year.

WR Jordan Westerkamp, Jr., 6-0, 195 — 63 catches, 874 yards, 7 TD
– Currently tied for second on Nebraska’s single-season receptions list, he has an outside shot at Marlon Lucky’s 2007 record of 75.

RB Terrell Newby, Jr., 5-10, 200 — 143 carries, 743 yards, 5 TD
– The former four-star recruit out of West Hills Chaminade averaged 77.4 yards per game before being slowed by an ankle injury in November. He and 6-foot-1, 240-pound back Imani Cross each have five touchdown runs this season.

S Nate Gerry, Jr., 6-2, 205 — 75 tackles, 1 sack, 4 INT, 7 pass breakups
— Leads the team in tackles, and is tied for third in the conference in interceptions.

P Sam Foltz, Jr., 6-1, 200 — 53 punts, 44.4 yd avg, 5 touchbacks, 15 I20
– Named the Big Ten’s Punter of the Year despite an early-season ankle sprain.

Line: UCLA opened as a 6.5-point favorite.

Opponent in GIF form:

via GIPHY

Fun fact: Nebraska has sold out 347 straight home games at Memorial Stadium, a record that dates back to 1962.

  • keptycho

    UCLA players have nothing to prove, the coaching staff does.

    • Paul

      Disagree. Even a lower tier bowl is a game…which will count in this year’s W-L record, set the tone for next season and give recruits one more look at the Bruins.

      Stanford didn’t act like last year’s Chicken Bowl was beneath them…look where they are now.

  • keptycho

    I did not say this bowl was beneath our players. Our coaches, especially Mora and Mazonne, did not prepare the team well to beat SC. They are the weakest link right now. They must do a better job or we will continue to be in the chicken bowl every year.