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.
WHO: UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)
WHAT: The 14th Foster Farms Bowl
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 26 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: UCLA hit a few bumps in the road this season but still managed to put together a respectable eight-win season in the debut season of freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. The much-hyped freshman lived up to much of the hype surrounding him coming out of high school as he passed for 3,351 yards and 20 touchdowns with just nine interceptions thrown. The scary thing is there is room to improve. Rosen was picked off twice in the final game of the season against SUC, which helped hand the Trojans the Pac-12 South Division and lock the Bruins out of the conference title game. Against Nebraska, Rosen will have a chance to build on his impressive debut season and head to the spring with some good momentum.
Providing a steady and dependable resource for Rosen was junior running back Paul Perkins, who rushed for 1,275 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Perkins should be a key player for UCLA against Nebraska, as the Huskers bring the nation’s eighth-best rushing defense with them to Santa Clara.
Nebraska managed to take full advantage of a surplus of bowl vacancies to fill without enough bowl-eligible teams to fill them. With a 50-7 record, Nebraska was extended an invite to the postseason by the NCAA by way of APR scores. See? It pays to hit the books for football programs. Regardless of how or why Nebraska got into a bowl game in the first place, it is important to also remember just how close Nebraska was to being bowl eligible the right way.
Nebraska fans were on the edges of their seats all season long with tight games ended in defeat against BYU and Miami as well as Illinois, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Nebraska also gave Iowa a run and the Huskers are the only team to have defeated Michigan State this season. Nebraska should be expected to play a bit of a roller coaster type game once more, with Tommy Armstrong capable of going through upswings and down swings at any moment of any quarter.
THE PREDICTION: UCLA 34, Nebraska 30
Never kick to USC playmaker Adoree’ Jackson. That si the lesson UCLA learned the hard way late in the first half in The Los Angeles Coliseum this afternoon. A 42-yard punt return by Jackson gave USC a 20-14 lead late in the first half and gives the Trojans the edge at the midway point of what amounts to the Pac-12 South Division Championship Game. The winner of this game moves on to next week to face Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
USC was the first to put points on the scoreboard in the Coliseum when a lengthy drive stalled inside the red zone, forcing the Trojans to send Alex Woods out for a 30-yard field goal. It would take two more offensive possessions by UCLA to put their own points on the board. Paul Perkins ripped off a 19-yard touchdown run on a fourth and one play from the USC 19-yard line, giving UCLA the 7-3 lead.
USC put together a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive a couple of possessions later, with quarterback Cody Kessler punching one in from the goal line. UCLA’s Thomas Duarte hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Josh Rosen in the second quarter to regain the lead, 14-10. That lead evaporated with USC’s special teams chipping in with a field goal and Jackson’s punt return.
Next week in the historic Los Angeles Coliseum, two rivals will enter but only one will leave with the Pac-12 South championship banner. Despite a loss today at Oregon, No. 24 USC (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) will get a chance to win the Pac-12 South Division at home and earn a trip to its first Pac-12 Championship Game. Standing in the way will be rival UCLA (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12), fresh of a road win against No. 13 Utah (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12).
UCLA did what it needed to do to remain in the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South. Needing a win against Utah to secure a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Utes, UCLA got right to work out of the gate with a game-opening touchdown drive on the road (Josh Rosen to Thomas Duarte) and eventually took a 10-0 lead before letting the Utes wiggle back in with three field goals chipping away at the double-digit lead. Once Utah kicked a third field goal to cut the lead to one point, UCLA responded with a 14-play touchdown drive ending with Paul Perkins scoring a short touchdown run to put the Bruins up 17-9. That would prove to be more than enough, as that score held the rest of the way.
USC’s secondary was picked apart by Vernon Adams and Oregon in Autzen Stadium. Adams finished his day with six touchdowns thrown and 407 passing yards in a 45-28 victory over the Trojans. USC’s offense actually did some good things, outside of protecting quarterback Cody Kessler at times. Kessler avoided throwing an interception and Justin Davis led the running game with 141 yards. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had to leave the game temporarily in the first half but did return despite having to be helped off the field by trainers. USC’s defense gave up five touchdowns of at least 30 yards through the air, so they will have to find a way to tighten things up in the secondary before taking on UCLA next week. Oregon racked up 578 yards of offense in the win.
The Pac-12 South is now a two-horse race between USC and UCLA, as Utah has now been eliminated from contention. Utah needed to beat UCLA in order to stay ahead of the Trojans, but now the Utes cannot win as tiebreakers go against them. The winner of next week’s crosstown rivalry game will more than likely get a crack at Stanford. Stanford needs a win against Cal later tonight to claim the Pac-12 North title. A loss opens the door for Oregon to grab the North next week with a win over Oregon State. Stanford loses a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ducks after Oregon upset the Cardinal last week. Stanford’s Pac-12 schedule wraps up tonight and they play Notre Dame next week.
The Pac-12 Championship Game will be played on December 5 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. UCLA appeared in the first two Pac-12 championship game sin 2011 and 2012, although USC won the Pac-12 South and was ineligible for postseason play in 2012 (USC pounded UCLA 50-0 that season).
Behind a true freshman quarterback that played anything like it, No. 13 UCLA cruised past Virginia for a 34-16 victory at the Rose Bowl. Josh Rosen, a California native and No. 1 quarterback recruit in the class of 2015, played flawlessly in his debut, hitting 28-of-35 passes for 351 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with victory well in hand for the Bruins.
Virginia opened the scoring with a 42-yard Ian Frye field goal at the 9:19 mark of the first quarter, but Rosen took over from there. He hit Devin Fuller for an easy four-yard scoring strike in the first quarter to give UCLA a lead it would not relinquish, nailed Thomas Duarte for on a gorgeous 30-yard rainbow to put the Bruins up 14-6 midway through the second, and then found Kenny Clark for a three-yard score to push the lead to 31-9 late in the third quarter.
The Cavaliers moved the ball well in the first half but stalled on all three of its scoring opportunities, leading to three Frye field goals and a 17-9 halftime deficit. UCLA’s talented defense, led by lineman Eddie Vanderdoes and linebacker Myles Jack, tightened the screws in the second half. Virginia would not score until the 3:33 mark of the fourth quarter as Matt Johns hit Taquan Mizell for on a 19-yard wheel route to provide the final score.
Mizell provided most of the offense for Virginia, rushing 16 times for 45 yards while also leading the club with eight grabs for 100 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Johns completed 21-of-35 passes for 238 yards with a score and a pick.
Another true freshman, Soso Jamabo, led UCLA in rushing, racking up 79 yards on his nine mom-up carries. Pac-12 leading returning rusher Paul Perkins totaled 59 yards on 14 attempts while leading the club with 58 yards on his five receptions. In addition to making good decisions with the ball, Rosen spread the wealth; 11 different Bruins recorded receptions on the day.
UCLA (1-0) heads to UNLV next week, while Virginia (0-1) heads home to face, gulp, No. 11 Notre Dame in the second of three games against ranked foes in the month of September.