When the door was left open for 5-7 teams to play in a postseason bowl game, the possibility a team could end the year with a win and a losing record become real. On Saturday night, Nebraska (6-7) took advantage of their rare bowl opportunity by running over, around and through UCLA (8-5) in the Foster Farms Bowl in a 37-29 victory. Nebraska ran for 326 yards as a team to wear down UCLA’s defense.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong completed 12 of his 19 selective pass attempts for 174 yards and a touchdown, and he also took off running for 76 hard-earned yards and a touchdown on 10 carries to earn game MVP honors. Devine Ozigbo carried the football 20 times for the Huskers, leading the team with 80 rushing yards. Every time it seemed as though UCLA had taken control of the game, including going up 21-7 midway through the second quarter, Nebraska’s running game found a way to battle back. Mike Riley‘s previous experience in the Pac-12 with Oregon State may have helped prepare a game plan to battle what UCLA does. Riley is now 2-0 against Bruins head coach Jim Mora. Nebraska ripped off 30 straight points before UCLA got back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Armstrong’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan in the third quarter gave Nebraska its first lead of the game and they never looked back.
Young star quarterback Josh Rosen passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns for UCLA and showed some brilliant touch on his passes at times, but he was also intercepted twice, including one late in the game to help Nebraska seal the game in their favor. Bruins running back Paul Perkins rushed for 68 yards and a score. UCLA managed just 17 first downs and held the football for just under 22 minutes.
For UCLA, this is another disappointing effort for a team that once again failed to live up to any sort of preseason or inseasin hype it seemed to generate. Injuries hurt UCLA at times, but this was a Nebraska team that gave up 55 points to Purdue and lost to Illinois. Nebraska had its share of close calls this season go against them, and one big one go their way against Michigan State, so perhaps a bowl victory was a justified reward for those Husker fans who sat through and took punches to gut on multiple occasions this season.
Nebraska is the second 5-7 team to win a bowl game this season. San Jose State was the first with a win in the Cure Bowl against Georgia State.