Armstrong helps lead Nebraska to victory over UCLA
The second half of the Foster Farms Bowl saw Nebraska come out with great urgency to prove their record would not define them, and boy did they prove it. It also probably helped that Nate Gerry gave one heck of a half-time speech given his junior year was cut short by a horrible targeting call that caused him to be ejected.
Tommy Armstrong and company made sure to avenge their teammate by simply dominating the third quarter. The Huskers went three for three on their first three offensive possessions of the quarter. Armstrong was firing on all cylinders and accounted for two of the three early scores in the quarter that helped Nebraska distance itself from what was once a tie ball game knotted at 21.
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Armstrong’s first score came off a pass to wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. for a 22-yard touchdown where Armstrong threw a perfectly thrown ball where only Morgan Jr. could make the grab. He would strong-arm the ball in for a spectacular one arm reception, while his other arm fended off the defensive back in coverage.
The second score came by way of Armstrong’s legs as he ran the ball in the endzone himself for six. This touchdown came after Nebraska elected to pass the ball on the UCLA three-yard line, which to many watching came as a bit of a shock after Nebraska had been gashing the UCLA defense gaining nearly 6 yards per rush on the ground.
In this game, it was a surprise when a Nebraska run play only went for a minimal gain. Kicker Drew Brown also played a role in the early offensive onslaught as he kicked a 20-yard field goal to help the Huskers get out to a 16-point lead.
Early in the fourth quarter Nebraska leads 37-21.
While UCLA’s defense couldn’t find the answers on how to stop the apparent Nebraska running attack, their offense had their own issues as they had only two offensive possessions in the third quarter, both of which led to three and outs. Rosen, who was highly praised in the first half for his play, was off his game in the third quarter thanks in large part to the Husker defense led by Maliek Collins. Collins was able to collapse the pocket on multiple occasions, which forced Rosen to make plays out of the pocket. This was not his strong suit.
The pressure on Rosen, coupled with Nebraska’s relentless pursuit to stifle UCLA’s screen game, saw defensive lineman Greg McMullen, linebackers Josh Banderas, and Dedrick Young along with defensive back Byerson Cockrell making multiple stops in open space. Their efforts to close those gaps left UCLA unable to gain any positive offensive yardage during the third quarter.
Here are some stats shown during the broadcast to help explain how lopsided the third quarter was:
3rd Quarter Offense Plays Yards TOP
Nebraska 25 196 12:14
UCLA 6 1 2:46
UCLA would not go away quietly. In the fourth quarter, Rosen found his groove and was once again connecting with his receivers. A string of significant gains on multiple plays helped UCLA get into scoring territory early in the quarter. Rosen helped avoid another three and out by hitting his security blanket Thomas Duarte to convert on a critical third down and seven. The catch kept the drive alive.
UCLA would eventually make it down to the Nebraska nine- yard-line. Rosen completed a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Payton for six. UCLA would elect to go for two, and this brought the deficit down to eight points after Rosen once again found Duarte in the endzone. Nebraska now leads 37-29.
From that point on, UCLA would get themselves back into scoring position on their second to last drive of the game but had to settle for a field goal attempt that failed as the UCLA kicker missed the 46-yard attempt.
The Bruins would get one more shot to try and even things up, but tight pass coverage by Nebraska’s Chris Jones and Antonio Reed forced UCLA into an unfavorable fourth and long situation.
UCLA had no choice but to go for it, and pressure brought on by the Husker defense led Rosen to run for his life and throw up a desperation heave that was picked off by Chris Jones, ultimately ending the game.
The Husker offense would force UCLA to eat their two remaining time outs, kneel the ball, and claim victory in the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl. This game was a fun re-watch, but it left me wondering when we will see Nebraska in another bowl game.
If a season gets played this year, we could see Nebraska in a position record-wide similar to 2015 Let’s hope this time around we can earn our way into a bowl game instead of relying on our academic progress rate to sneak us in.