Nebraska caps losing season with 37-29 bowl win over UCLA
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) After a year marred by a string of close losses, Nebraska found a way to put a happy capper on a losing season.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Nebraska close a disappointing year by beating UCLA 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl on Saturday night.
''Like I always said, our 5-7 record doesn't speak about this team,'' Armstrong said. ''We were just blessed enough to get another opportunity to prove to everybody why we should be in a bowl game.''
The Cornhuskers (6-7) scored 30 straight points after falling behind 21-7 early to overpower the Bruins (8-5) and give Nebraska something to build on heading into coach Mike Riley's second season.
Stanley Morgan Jr. gave Nebraska the lead for good with a one-handed, 22-yard catch in the third quarter and Imani Cross, Terrell Newby and Andy Janovich all ran for scores for the Cornhuskers.
Armstrong completed 12 of 19 passes for 174 yards and ran for 76 more to lead the way for Nebraska, which had a season high with 326 yards rushing.
''Football goes better generally when you run the ball well and you can physically impose yourself on the other team,'' Riley said. ''I thought our guys did a good job of that tonight.''
Josh Rosen threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns for the Bruins. They ended what had once been a promising season with losses to Southern California and in the bowl game.
Nebraska only got the chance to play in a bowl because there were not enough six-win teams to fill all 80 slots and the Cornhuskers made the most of the opportunity by taking the game over in the third quarter.
After tying the game with two late touchdowns in the second quarter, Nebraska outgained UCLA 196 to 1 in the third quarter behind a dominant running game.
''Our defense got the ball ran on them 62 times but I feel it's kind of our responsibility as an offense to hold that ball a little bit longer to give them a break,'' Rosen said. ''The stats probably aren't looking too pretty on defense but that's a very, very large responsibility of the offense.''
The Cornhuskers gained 151 yards on the ground alone in the third quarter with the run game setting up Morgan's touchdown catch that made it 27-21 and then leading the way on two more scoring drives that ended in a Drew Brown's field goal and Armstrong's 3-yard run in the opening minute of the fourth to make it 37-21.
UCLA responded with a 9-yard TD pass from Rosen to Jordan Payton and a 2-point conversion to get within eight. Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 46-yard field goal after a botched shotgun snap by the Bruins and Rosen threw an interception in the end zone on fourth down from the 32 with 2:54 to play to end UCLA's chances at a comeback.
After losing four games this season in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime, the Huskers were happy to be able to get that late stop to seal a victory.
''We had a lot of those same situations where it came down to the last second and it didn't come out how we wanted it to,'' linebacker Josh Banderas said. ''It was good for us to put that statement out that we can finish games.''
The Bruins broke out to a 21-7 lead when Rosen threw a 60-yard touchdown to Kenneth Walker III and a 26-yarder to Nate Starks. The other UCLA touchdown came when Paul Perkins ran it in from the 1 a play after Rosen completed a 22-yard pass to Thomas Duarte on fourth-and-1.
Nebraska got back-to-back TD drives to tie it 21 at the half.
Cornhuskers safety Nate Gerry was ejected late in the second quarter for targeting on a swing pass to Perkins. It was the second straight game that Gerry was ejected for targeting.
''I've seen a lot of good football plays and I thought that was a very good football play,'' UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ''I was stunned that he got thrown out of the game, quite frankly.''
After the game, Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins announced he will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
This story has been corrected to show Rosen had three TD passes.