#5 UCLA 41
#2 Nebraska 28

Sept. 10, 1988 • Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

1 2 3 4 T
Nebraska 0 13 7 8 28
UCLA 28 10 3 0 41

Bruins' 1st-Quarter Punch Sends Nebraska Reeling in 41-28 Defeat

UCLA's Matt Darby flattens Nebraska wingback Dana Brinson. RICH JANDA/THE WORLD-HERALD

PASADENA, Calif. — Last Monday, UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, a three-time loser to Nebraska by an average of 27 points a game, stated the following about the Huskers:

“They just kind of line you up in their sights the first half. Then they get ready for the kill.”

But at the Rose Bowl Saturday night, UCLA pulled the trigger six times before the Huskers even got their guns pointed.

The result was a 31-point first-half UCLA lead. And the No. 5 Bruins rolled on from there to a record-setting 41-28 thumping of No. 2 Nebraska before a crowd of 84,086.

About 25,000 fans wearing Husker red were among the fourth-largest crowd ever to see Nebraska play, trailing the 1941 Rose Bowl and 1982 and 1980 games at Penn State.

The migration might have wished it had stayed home and avoided seeing UCLA:

— Score 41 points, the most ever against a Tom Osborne-coached team and the most the Huskers had allowed since a 47-0 loss to Oklahoma in 1968.

— Score 28 points in the first quarter, the most ever allowed in the 26-year Bob Devaney-Osborne era. Michigan’s 24 points in the third quarter of the 1986 Fiesta Bowl was the previous high.

— Return a punt for a touchdown, the first against Nebraska in 24 years-since Sept. 26, 1964.

— Give Donahue his 100th career victory (100-36-7 in 13 years) and deny Osborne his 150th (149-35-2 in 16 years).

“We thought we were ready to play,” said Osborne, who earned his 100th win against Donahue in 1984. “But we sure didn’t look like it there early.

“It’s hard for me to understand. We usually don’t get knocked off the ball like that. We had a good week of practice. I really don’t know what happened. We just got a good whipping.”

The Bruins carried Donahue to midfield on their shoulders at game’s end and the crowd stayed to revel in the ghost-busting victory.

The win was UCLA’s first over Nebraska in five games-since 1972. The combined score in those four losses was 166-69.

Donahue admitted after the game that Saturday’s game got longtime special attention.

“I started thinking about this game last spring,” he said. “I didn’t approach this like a normal non-conference game.

“This game puts our program on a new level. This should remove the stigma that we can’t beat Nebraska or play with the Big Eight.”

Bruin quarterback Troy Aikman boosted his Heisman Trophy chances by completing 13 of 22 passes for 205 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Aikman said. “Nebraska has a great team.

“But we felt we had something to prove. So many times people have said UCLA is a finesse team and that we can’t hang in with the big boys.

“Tonight, we proved we could. We matched up with them pound for pound.”

Tailback Eric Ball, who saw last year’s UCLA Heisman candidate Gaston Green held to 46 yards by Nebraska in 1987, rumbled for 148 yards on 35 carries. Nineteen of his attempts came in the second half as the Bruins tried to eat up the clock.

Though the final spread was just 13 points and the final yardage difference was close-438 yards for UCLA to 385 for NU-the outcome wasn’t in doubt after the first quarter.

Nebraska struggled to rally from a 38-13 halftime deficit, which grew to 41-13 when the Bruins’ Alfredo Velasco kicked a 34-yard field goal on their first possession of the second half.

NU quarterback Steve Taylor led a 65-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter-aided by fullback Bryan Carpenter’s 36-yard gain on a fake punt-and a 74-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

But UCLA hung on to advance to 2-0 while Nebraska fell to 2-1, losing on the road for the first time since the 1986 game at Colorado.

“I guess I’m glad with the fact that we didn’t quit,” Osborne said. “We played hard the second half. But we still didn’t make the plays.”

UCLA’s onslaught started immediately.

The Bruins won the opening coin toss, chose to receive and steamrolled to a record-setting first quarter.

After a first down on the ground, UCLA made one of its few mistakes, losing 5 yards on an illegal-procedure penalty.

But two plays later, Aikman made up for it.

He dumped a routine 5-yard pass over the middle to tight end Charles Arbuckle. But when NU linebacker LeRoy Etienne missed the tackle, it turned into the unusual.

The 233-pound Arbuckle split four defenders and raced down the middle of the field to turn the play into a 57-yard touchdown. Velasco’s extra-point kick put UCLA ahead 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.

Nebraska moved to the UCLA 38 on its first possession, and appeared to have another first down inside the 25. But split end Morgan Gregory dropped Taylor’s third-down slant pass, forcing the Huskers to punt.

UCLA reached the end zone twice on the next drive. The first run — Ball’s 64-yarder — was nullified by a holding penalty.

But three plays later, backup tailback Shawn Wills swept left, appeared snowed under, then emerged out of the grasp of NU safety Mark Blazek to sprint 50 yards for a touchdown. Velasco’s PAT made it 14-0 with 6:38 left in the first quarter.

Nebraska tried for a quick pick-me-up with a trick. Taylor handed to I-back Ken Clark, who handed on a reverse to wingback Dana Brinson.

Brinson gained 17 yards, but UCLA linebacker Chance Johnson stripped the ball and cornerback Marcus Turner recovered it at the NU 47.

Seven plays later, the Bruins were celebrating in the end zone again.

Aikman drilled passes of 20 and 8 yards in the drive before finding Arbuckle for the 3-yard TD and a 21-0 lead.

UCLA forced a punt after three plays, giving return man Darryl Henley a chance to make history.

The senior cornerback fielded John Kroeker’s punt at his own 25, veered left, slipped at least three tackles and finished the 75-yard touchdown romp.

That was the first punt-return touchdown against Nebraska since Minnesota’s Billy Crockett ran one back 80 yards in 1964.

“That first quarter was about as fine a period of football as I’ve been associated with,” Donahue said.

Nebraska was stymied on its next possession, as Taylor’s pass on a second-and-20 play at its own 36 was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Marcus Patton at the NU 44.

But the Huskers struck back, turning a legitimate interception into a questionable touchdown.

Blazek stepped in front of UCLA split end Reggie Moore to intercept Aikman at the NU 25. Blazek, stumbling to the ground and rolling over after a slight collision with teammate Tahaun Lewis, showed the ball to the crowd and began jogging toward the sideline.

But when no whistle blew, Blazek continued jogging down the sideline to the end zone. Despite roars of protest from Donahue and Bruin players, the play was ruled a 75-yard touchdown. Referee James Sprenger said over his field microphone that “the players thought he was down, but he wasn’t.”

Instead of pouting, UCLA responded with a five-minute touchdown drive, overcoming a personal foul in the process.

Ball ran for 18 and 7 yards, and Aikman hit passes of 9, 17, 7 and 22 yards before finding split end David Keating for an 11-yard touchdown. Velasco’s fifth PAT put the Bruins up 35-7 with 6:42 left in the half.

The reeling Huskers gave the ball right back. On the first play after the kickoff, Taylor’s bomb to tight end Todd Millikan was intercepted by Turner and returned 22 yards to the NU 48.

This time, UCLA settled for a field goal. After one first down, Velasco kicked a 42-yarder for a 38-7 lead with 3:54 left in the half.

Nebraska finally got together long enough to drive 73 yards for a touchdown.

Clark’s 11-yard run plus a 5-yard face-mask penalty against UCLA got the Huskers started. Taylor then passed for 8, ran for 10 and passed for 16 to move it to the UCLA 22.

Freshman fullback Lance Lewis’ 9-yard run on a third-and-five play at the 16 kept the drive alive. Taylor then hit Gregory with a 7-yard touchdown pass.

But even in success, there was record-setting failure. Junior place-kicker Chris Drennan, perfect in his first 62 PAT kicks as a Husker, missed wide left, leaving the score 38-13 at half.

Still, Osborne didn’t give up.

“I thought we still had a chance to win it at the half,” he said. “I knew it was going to be really tough. But I thought we could do it.

“But a couple of times we didn’t stop them when we really needed to.”


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 8-70
Rush yards 233 260
Rush attempts 47 41
Yards per carry 5.0 6.3
Pass yards 205 125
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-22-1 14-29-3
Yards/Att. 9.3 4.3
Yards/Comp. 15.8 8.9
Fumbles 0 1

Series history

Nebraska is 7-6 all-time against UCLA.

See all games »

1988 season (11-2)

Texas A&M Aug. 27
Utah State Sept. 3
UCLA Sept. 10
Arizona State Sept. 24
UNLV Oct. 1
Kansas Oct. 8
Oklahoma State Oct. 15
Kansas State Oct. 22
Missouri Oct. 29
Iowa State Nov. 5
Colorado Nov. 12
Oklahoma Nov. 19
Miami (FL) Jan. 2

This day in history

Nebraska has played 7 games on Sept. 10. See them all »

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