LINCOLN — Did it hurt? Yes.
Was it the difference in a 20-point loss? No.
That was the summation of a second-quarter play in which Nebraska narrowly missed a third-down sack near midfield that could have built even more momentum before the break.
Defensive end Avery Moss seemed to have UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in his grasp in what would have forced a fourth down and given the NU offense a chance to extend the lead.
But Hundley fought through the Moss attempt and beat another defender on an angled run toward the Nebraska sideline to pick up 13 yards on third-and-12.
Three plays later, the Bruins were in the end zone for the first time on the day, scoring in the final minute of the first half.
“You're talking it's a (potential) 14-point swing when you look at it,” defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said. “That was a big play. We gave them some life, we gave them some juice, some momentum going into halftime.
“But we still had an opportunity to bow up and we didn't. They ran three or four plays after that and we didn't take charge inside and that hurt us. Anytime you allow a good team to extend the drive, they're going to make you pay like UCLA.”
Kaczenski wasn't pointing the finger at Moss. In fact, he said that if the redshirt freshman was able to get his mits on Hundley as easy as he did, a teammate should have been right there with him.
“If Avery's there, where are the other three guys?” Kaczenski said. “With him getting out that easy after the missed tackle, somebody wasn't there that should have been. When you got a guy wrapped up that long, we should have been closer with one of the other three guys.”
The back end of the play was just as close to being fourth down. Hundley appeared to be just shy of the first-down marker, but extended the ball.
After a video booth review, the play stood and was the start to 38 unanswered UCLA points. Kaczenski said there was a change in the way NU played after it built its 21-3 lead.
“We stopped playing,” he said.
Barr comes up big for Bruins
UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr saw a blocker move past him during an NU drive in the second quarter and he quickly realized Nebraska was running an option play.
So he went after the quarterback, trying to make Taylor Martinez pitch the football.
Barr did better than that.
The lanky and athletic linebacker got his hand on the football and forced a fumble that resulted in a 20-yard loss. Martinez said the offense struggled after that.
“Maybe that was the turning point for the offense,” Martinez said. “That's the only play I can think of.”
Barr said he wasn't blocked so he assumed that Martinez was trying to read him on the play. He was right.
“I have pretty long arms so fortunately I was able to just get my arm out and knock the ball down,” Barr said.
Frazier takes to Twitter
Saturday's Nebraska-UCLA game was supposed to be all smiles for former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier.
The NU great was saluted at halftime by the Huskers and the National Football Foundation, the first activity scheduled in Frazier's road to a Dec. 10 induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
But UCLA's 41-21 shellacking of the Huskers had Frazier upset.
The Husker legend waited as long as he could — four hours spent “letting it sink in,” he wrote after the game, as he took to Twitter to vent.
In an extended post, the quarterback of NU's back-to-back national championship teams in 1994 and '95 wrote that he was struggling with the loss and said, “It's time to get rid of the defensive play caller, the Dc, lb dl and db coaches.”
Other quotes from the extended Frazier tweet:
Ľ “If this is what is going to happen for the remainder of the season, count me out.”
Ľ “I have fought, bled, and cried over this program. I didn't do all that for the program to become what it has today.”
Loss is one for the books
The 20-point loss stands as Nebraska's worst in a nonconference home game since 1961, when the Huskers were beaten 28-6 at Memorial Stadium by Syracuse and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis.
Nebraska finished 3-6-1 that season, which led to Bill Jennings being replaced by Bob Devaney the following year.
The Huskers' last home loss of 20 or more points overall? It was a 31-10 setback to Texas Tech in Big 12 play in 2009.
UCLA's 18-point comeback marked the biggest deficit overcome by a Nebraska opponent in Lincoln since, according to the university yearbook, Washington State erased a 20-0 halftime deficit to win 21-20 in 1920.