Nebraska Football: 10 Things We Learned from Cornhuskers' Loss Against Bruins

Erin Sorensen@erinsorensenContributor ISeptember 9, 2012

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers is tackled for a safety by defensive end Datone Jones #56 of the UCLA Bruins in the fourth quarter at the Rose Bowl on September 8, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 36-30.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Not the ending Nebraska fans were hoping for, as the Huskers fell 36-30 to the UCLA Bruins.

What started as a solid first half for the Cornhuskers ended in a puzzling second where stellar defensive plays were outshined by less-than-ideal ones.

Here are the 10 things we learned from Nebraska's Week 2 loss to UCLA:

1. QB Taylor Martinez is still not cool under pressure

Martinez was a rockstar against Southern Mississippi. However, UCLA was a whole different ballgame for the veteran QB.

The Bruins were 6-8 in 2011, but that didn't stop them from being the best possible team they could be Saturday night.

Martinez knew he would be put up to the challenge, and in the first half, it looked like he had it all together. From a 92-yard run to smart pass decisions, it was Martinez's to lose. Unfortunately, he did just that.

By the fourth quarter, the ways of the past returned and the QB panicked. It wasn't all on Martinez, but he definitely proved he isn't there yet.

2. Injuries are a bummer, but they shouldn't be as scary as they are

Who else had a lump in their throat when wide receiver Kenny Bell was down on the ground? The fear of another knee injury for Nebraska was too much. Imagine if Rex Burkhead had been healthy? Things could have been different. So seeing Bell down wasn't a good sight.

However, Huskers get overly panicked with injuries, and rightfully so. No one wants to see a player get hurt, but if it happens, there should be some confidence in the second- and third-string players.

Unfortunately, it's clear that losing one standout guy weakens this team. That's scary.

3. Speaking of which, Rex Burkhead was sorely missed

Running back Ameer Abdullah did his best. In fact, he did better than his best. It would have still been nice to have Burkhead on the field.

The man knows how to power through just about any situation, and his field presence was missed. It was nice to have him on the sidelines, but here's to hoping that knee heals quickly.

Nebraska needs you, Superman.

4. Third-down conversions are Nebraska's kryptonite

The Huskers were a sad 1-of-11 on third-down conversions Saturday night. Even at one moment when Nebraska only had one yard to the first down, it couldn't convert. This is a crucial aspect that needs to be worked on.

Just looking at how Nebraska stacked up to UCLA (especially on third-down conversions) is enlightening. It's definitely something that cannot be ignored.

5. Nebraska's receivers are good, but they can be great

There is a lot of hope and promise with the receiving corps. This group of young men show a lot of potential.

When Bell was obviously hurt, he still ran for a pretty significant return in the fourth quarter. Tight end Kyler Reed was making big plays. Fellow receivers were blocking as hard as they could to open the field up.

Nebraska has something special here with this group. Hopefully, it can continue to be capitalized upon going forward.

6. The Blackshirts have definitely not arrived yet

It's going to be Christmas before Bo Pelini hands out the Blackshirts after a game like this. This is defensive coordinator John Papuchis' first season in charge of this group, but he needs to get them on

With Carl Pelini's departure, the Nebraska defense has been an unfamiliar group the last few years. Once known as a defensive powerhouse, the Huskers have found themselves at a crossroad.

Will the group find a way to improve? If players like Will Compton (who was fantastic at many points Saturday night) have a say, they will.

7. Brett Maher isn't Alex Henery

He doesn't need to be, though. Comparing one player to another isn't always the best thing to do, but in this case, Nebraska fans still are. Having gotten spoiled by Henery (who never seemed to miss), Maher's few mistakes are under the microscope.

Maher has some work to do, but he also had some great kicks Saturday night. Two field goals were over 50 yards and a couple punts were perfectly placed. If anything, Maher just needs to regroup and find his confidence.

Once he does, he'll be back to normal in no time.

8. Ameer Abdullah is going to make a big impact at Nebraska

With Burkhead out, Abdullah stepped in. Not only that, he made a big impact.

With 16 attempts for 119 yards and two touchdowns, Abdullah helped the offense the best he could. He still has some maturing to do, but it's comforting for Nebraska fans to know they have a solid backup for Burkhead.

In fact, knowing Abdullah can produce big numbers takes pressure off Burkhead to always be Superman. After all, even Superman can get hurt from time to time.

9. Nebraska fans still travel better than anyone else

Did you see the Rose Bowl Saturday night? The city of Pasadena, Calif. may as well have been painted red.

Husker fans travel, and there is no denying that. Saturday night was no exception either, as sounds of "Go Big Red" often drowned out the cheers of UCLA fans.

If anything, Nebraska fans should be proud of that. Win or lose, Husker fans will be there to support their team. Not many programs can say that.

10. Nebraska still has a shot at the Big Ten championship game

Notice I didn't say Nebraska has a shot at winning it, because I don't feel comfortable saying that just yet. However, the Huskers still do have an opportunity to win the Legends. By no means will it be easy to do so, but it's possible.

Taking a loss like the one Nebraska faced Saturday night could prove beneficial in the long run. Ultimately, that is up to the Huskers.


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