Many lamented Nebraska's berth in the Foster Farms Bowl after the Huskers finished the regular season with a 5-7 record.
But Nebraska proved its worth Saturday, scoring 30 straight points to not only erase an early two-touchdown deficit but also take a double-digit lead on UCLA, eventually winning by a score of 37-29.
The Huskers found themselves in a quick hole. After each team scored a touchdown on its opening drive, UCLA took advantage of a red-zone fumble by Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, scoring off the turnover on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen. Rosen threw a 26-yard touchdown pass on UCLA's next possession to make it a 21-7 game.
But the Huskers responded, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final six and a half minutes of the second quarter. A 28-yard pass play from Armstrong to Jordan Westerkamp was combined with a late hit for a 43-yard pickup, and Terrell Newby was into the end zone shortly thereafter. The next time the Huskers had the ball, they went 73 yards in eight plays on a drive featuring a 24-yard gain by Cethan Carter, a 26-yard run by Armstrong and a one-yard scoring rush by full back Andy Janovich. That last one tied the game at 21 before the half.
Though Nebraska scored just nine points in the third quarter — the highlight a phenomenal one-handed touchdown reception by Stanley Morgan on the Huskers' first drive — the defense dominated UCLA. The Huskers out-gained the Bruins, 196-1, in the third quarter, simply a jaw-dropping statistic, and headed to the final period with a 30-21 lead.
[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Huskers gear right here]
Armstrong hit paydirt from three yards out to make it 37-21 at the outset of the fourth quarter, but UCLA wasn't dead yet. That score was answered by another Rosen touchdown pass and a successful two-point conversion, narrowing things to a one-score game at 37-29. But again the Nebraska defense stood tall. Groza Award winner Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a field goal for UCLA, and Rosen's final heave toward the end zone on a fourth-down pass play was intercepted.
Nebraska gained 500 yards of offense on the night, holding UCLA to just 386. The Huskers relied heavily on their run game, rushing 62 times for 326 yards as Armstrong attempted just 19 passes.
Armstrong finished with 174 passing yards and 76 rushing yards and a touchdown via the air and the ground. Three different Huskers had at least 60 rushing yards. Devine Ozigbo led the team with 80 yards on 20 carries, and Imani Cross had 62 yards.
Mike Riley finished his first season as Nebraska head coach with a bowl win, bringing the Huskers' record to 6-7 on the year. It was just the program's second bowl win in its last six appearances.