While UCLA’s win over Nevada gave us little information about this Bruins team’s weakness, there were some aspects of their dominant performance that could be problem areas.
Specifically, these problems could manifest themselves in a tilt with the Nebraska Corn Huskers on Sept. 14. Although Nebraska appears to be reeling, the program is still a blue blood and, as we’ve seen through the years, blue bloods tend to figure out how to win at any given time.
And there are certain things UCLA didn’t do well against Nevada that those Huskers can exploit.
Here are three.
Zone Read Defense
This was particularly troubling. While UCLA figured out how to contain Nevada QB Cody Fajardo, it took them a half and a whole lot of yards to do it. The front seven, touted as the best in the PAC-12, looked anxious and antsy in the first half against the Wolf Pack. Over-pursuing and lack of deliberation proved troublesome for the defensive linemen and linebackers.
While we know Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has a propensity to … well … be Taylor Martinez, it’s still likely the sixth-year senior (seriously) is going to exploit that. Martinez is as fast, if not faster, than Fajardo and has considerably more talent around him. In case you forgot, Martinez did break off a 92-yard touchdown run last season at the Rose Bowl and he’s capable of doing that again in Lincoln.
The Bruins will need to have their front seven play with just a bit more calculation and less anxiety if they want to contain Martinez. As was the case with Fajardo, limiting a zone-read QB is key for an offense that relies on having one, and the same can be done for Martinez.
Brett Hundley’s Passing
While the redshirt sophomore looked as sharp and as patient as ever, there were select moments where Hundley couldn’t deliver on key plays, notably on a few jugulars. While the QB often found an open man streaking, too often did he overthrow his receiver, albeit by only a few inches. The result was perhaps a couple more touchdown passes for the QB (although it’s not like he needed them).
There were also a pair of times where Hundley got too confident throwing into double coverage. While that’ll happen from time to time, it can’t be a trend.
Especially against Nebraska. Though we can’t give much praise to their secondary (which allowed Wyoming a whopping 383 passing yards last Saturday), there’s no reason the Bruins shouldn’t clear this up, because Nebraska could capitalize.
Fans are quick to ridicule the young Ka’imi Fairbairn, a sophomore kicker, despite the fact that the youngster hasn’t been all that bad for the Bruins.
That said, Fairbairn will need to start converting longer field goals on a regular basis. The kicker missed another try from beyond 40 yards vs. Nevada, and though he progressed nicely last year, he’ll need to get good quick against the Huskers. A close game in Lincoln requires that Fairbairn convert long kicks and if he doesn’t, the Bruins will be at a significant disadvantage.