UCLA had an emotional week leading up to its big nonconference showdown against No. 23 Nebraska Saturday in Lincoln.
UCLA made two costly mistakes, leading to big deficit midway through the second quarter.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley looked indecisive and out of sync against the Cornhuskers, who were seeking their 15th consecutive nonconference win at home, where they were playing before another sellout crowd.
None of which mattered once Hundley found his rhythm and the 16th-ranked Bruins hit high gear.
UCLA ran and passed all over Nebraska in the second half in a 41-21 win.
Down 21-3 in the second quarter, the Bruins (2-0) scored 38 unanswered points and looked every bit a team on the rise.
UCLA players wore #36 patches on the left chest side of their uniforms in honor of popular walk-on player Nick Pasquale, who died last Sunday after being struck by a vehicle in his hometown of San Clemente.
In a classy gesture, Nebraska players wore #36 decals on their helmets and the Cornhuskers honored Pasquale with a moment of silence and other gestures before the game.
A Hundley pass that was intercepted and a snap that was muffed by punter Sean Covington led to a pair of Nebraska first-half touchdowns, and Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez threw three touchdown passes.
But late in the first half, UCLA’s offense seem to find itself.
And it was all UCLA after that.
UCLA scored 28 in the third quarter – the most points ever by a visiting team in one quarter at Memorial Stadium, a history that spans back to 1923.
Hundley completed 16 of 24 passes for 294 yards and ran for 61. His passes found nine different receivers.
Jordon James rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown in 22 carries. Shaquelle Evans, Phillip Ruhl and Nate Iese caught scoring passes.
In a television interview afterward, Coach Jim Mora was clear about UCLA’s main focus in the game.
“Our goal today was to honor Nick,” he said. “Our goal today was to come out here and have our players reflect everything that he meant to us and everything that was great about him so that his family sitting at home, Mel, Lori and AJ ... we did it for your son. We did it for your son.”
Asked if the emotions slowed UCLA in the early going, Mora said, “I don’t like excuses. I think we were a little tight and that’s a really good football team over there. I just told the guys at halftime, 'It’s good to see you finally.' We finally showed up in the second quarter and started to play with a little bit of confidence.”
Said Hundley: “There was a lot of emotions for this game… The second half we calmed down and played our game."
He said of Pasquale: “This was a game for him.”
Nebraska fell to 2-1.