martinez ucla

Taylor Martinez rushed for 149 yards in the first half of Saturday's game against UCLA. The Huskers lost 36-30.

PASADENA, CALIF. — The Nebraska football offense trotted on the field midway through the fourth quarter. The ball was on NU’s own 5-yard line.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez took the snap and put the ball in the belly of I-back Ameer Abdullah – earlier in the game, Martinez cashed in on a 92-yard touchdown dash on the same play call. And just like on that play, Martinez decided to keep the ball.

As Martinez turned away from Abdullah, UCLA defensive lineman Dantone Jones tackled the quarterback in the end zone.

The referee’s hands touched in a praying signal above his head. Safety. Two points were awarded to the Bruins, giving UCLA all the momentum it needed and a 29-27 lead.

“It was tough,” offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles said after the game. “We went out there to get a drive going and did that. It hurts. That was a big time turning point.”

The safety put the Bruins two points ahead, and the team ran with that lead to a 36-30 victory against NU on Saturday night in front of 71,530 at the Rose Bowl.

“I’m embarrassed by how we played today,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “I point the thumb at me first. We didn’t play well in any phase of the game in my opinion. We were inconsistent and our fundamentals were lousy … I give UCLA credit, but I’m disappointed.”

Things did start better than they ended for Nebraska.

The Husker offense showed no signs of slowing down after its performance in the season opener against Southern Miss. Nebraska recorded 333 yards of offense in the first half, including 184 yards rushing.

The highlight was the 92-yard Martinez scamper for a touchdown to give the Huskers a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. However, UCLA moved the ball in the first half to stay competitive the Huskers.

The Bruins recorded 372 yards of offense in the first half, led by freshman quarterback Brett Hundley who threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to give UCLA a 24-21 lead with a little more than three minutes to go in the second quarter.

Husker kicker Brett Maher made a 54-yard field goal as the first half ended to tie the game at 24.

However, the difference in this game was the offensive production in the second half.

Nebraska’s offense couldn’t get anything going in the second half, while the UCLA offense continued to put up big yardage. Nebraska finished with 439 yards of offense for the game, 106 yards in the second half.

The Bruins finished with 653 yards of offense for the game, the second highest total ever surrendered by a Nebraska defense.

Nebraska had its chances though, despite the overwhelming momentum UCLA had for most of the second half. Until the safety, Nebraska remained tied with the Bruins at 27.

Maher missed a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have given the Huskers a 30-27 lead.

After the safety, both offenses traded possessions and neither put any points on the board. The Husker defense stayed strong even though UCLA drove into Nebraska territory on every possession.

Nebraska took the ball with just more than three minutes left to play in the game. Martinez threw an interception and the Bruins capitalized five plays later, giving UCLA a 36-27 lead with about two minutes to go.

After a 63-yard kickoff return by Kenny Bell and a couple of 15-yard penalties, Maher converted a 40-yard field goal to cut the Bruin lead to six points with 1:36 to go in the game. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by UCLA, who ran out the remainder of the clock.

“We didn’t make catches we made in the first games, we didn’t make throws we did in the first game and I didn’t make calls I made in the first game,” said Tim Beck, NU offensive coordinator.

As for the players, this one wasn’t an easy pill to swallow, according to senior linebacker Will Compton.

“It’s tough … I don’t know even how to explain it,” Compton said. “You want to win them all especially as a senior. That’s tough on us all.”

sports@dailynebraskan.com