UCLA revs up offense after slow start

LINCOLN, Neb. — After an abysmal first quarter, UCLA was lucky to be down just 11 points heading into halftime.

The Bruins had made crucial mistakes and gifted Nebraska short fields, whether by interception or bobbled punt. Memorial Stadium, known for hosting one of the toughest home crowds in college football, looked to be wearing down on the visitors.

But when the clock ran down, UCLA walked out with a 41-21 blowout, its small pockets of fans cheering loudly as players and coaches ran past them into the tunnel.

How did it happen, the shift from sluggish to superlative? The Bruins took a big breath.

“We came in at halftime, just told kids, ‘Hey relax. I’m just going to call base plays. Just do what you guys do,’” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “Our whole motto is play to the next play. We’re going to snap it once, play, forget about it, and just play the next one. Live in the moment of each play.” Continue reading

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Nebraska presents mental challenge for Bruins

Less than a week after losing a beloved teammate, UCLA will step back into competition with aching hearts. Waiting for them is Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, the home of sold-out, 80,000-plus crowds.

“I don’t know that we could find a more difficult situation,” head coach Jim Mora.

The Cornhuskers have already extended their sympathies for the Bruins’ recent tragedy. Early last Sunday morning, walk-on receiver Nick Pasquale was killed by a car while walking in his hometown of San Clemente.

Both UCLA and Nebraska will have his No. 36 added to their uniforms, and the stadium will take moment of silence before the 11 a.m. CST kickoff.

Once the ball flies into the air, however, Mora expects the fans in Lincoln to erupt.

“It’s still going to be a hostile environment,” he said. “When the game starts, it’s going to be they want to win and we want to win, and their fans are going to be cheering like crazy for them. We have to be able to handle all of that.” Continue reading

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