Preparation for a football game against Nebraska starts with a look at Taylor Martinez, the Cornhuskers’ senior quarterback.
UCLA, which travels to Lincoln on Saturday, is well acquainted with his play. A year ago, UCLA escaped with a 36-30 victory even though Martinez threw for 179 yards and ran for 112.
The No. 16-ranked Bruins now get another dose.
“He’s a dynamic player,” UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. “You have to be sound in your assignments and stay in your gaps.” And even then, Mora added, “he is still going to make plays because he is an elusive runner.”
Martinez has thrown three touchdown passes in each of No. 23 Nebraska’s victories this season. He hasn’t run much — he gained 34 yards rushing against Southern Mississippi last week — but his ability to improvise while running is a concern for UCLA coaches.
“He keeps plays alive,” Bruins defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said. “He does a great job of scrambling and finding receivers.”
Martinez, who played at Corona Centennial High, has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game 13 times in his college career. In six of those games, he averaged more than 10 yards per carry.
He had 80 yards rushing in Nebraska’s season opener, a 37-34 win over Wyoming.
The majority of Martinez’s rushing yards against UCLA last season came on a 92-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Later in the game, he was buried by defensive end Datone Jones for a safety.
“You have to try and control the frustration,” Mora said. “When you have him hemmed up and he still makes a play, it sometimes makes you do something silly on the next play. You have to keep him in the pocket and understand that in all likelihood, he’s going to break one or two.”
UCLA’s victory over Nebraska in 2012 was a springboard for the Bruins. It propelled them into the top 25 for the first time since early in the 2007 season and was the foundation for the team’s success in Pac-12 Conference play.
“I noticed more excitement on campus and in the community, and on our team,” Mora said. “It helped us believe in who we were trying to become.”
So what does that win mean now?
“That was a long time ago and it doesn’t mean anything when we step on the field Saturday,” Mora said.
A memorial service for UCLA receiver Nick Pasquale will be held Sunday in San Clemente.
Pasquale, 20, died early last Sunday morning after being struck by a vehicle in San Clemente. The service will be held at San Clemente Presbyterian Church, 119 Avenida de la Estrella at 4 p.m.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Nick Pasquale Foundation at nickpasqualefoundation.com.
(Can be) Hit man
Running back Damien Thigpen, who is recovering from knee surgery, has taken a step toward returning to game action. On Monday, he ditched a red no-contact jersey for a regular uniform. It was his first session of full-contact drills since he sustained a torn ligament against USC in November.