LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)
"They're coming into our house, and we owe them,'' players said Pelini told them before he walked out of the locker room.
Pelini on Monday downplayed but didn't dismiss getting even as an incentive for the 23rd-ranked Cornhuskers in their meeting with the No. 16 Bruins (1-0) on Saturday in Lincoln.
Last year, the Huskers lost 36-30 in Los Angeles and gave up 653 yards - the second-most ever against a Nebraska defense.
Pelini said an estimated 300 of those 653 yards came after Nebraska defenders had made initial contact. The coach doesn't expect his players to forget that.
"I would hope, and I'm pretty positive, our team is motivated no matter what the situation,'' he said. "It just so happens we played this team a year ago, so if that provides our guys with extra motivation, so be it. I would hope it does. Hopefully that motivation will come in the form of great preparation, because that's how you win a football game.''
The result of the visit to Lincoln might feel secondary to UCLA. The Bruins' bye week after a 58-20 season-opening win over Nevada was interrupted by tragedy as walk-on wide receiver Nick Pasquale was hit by a car and killed while walking in his hometown of San Clemente on Sunday.
Coach Jim Mora closed all practices this week to the media, and UCLA players weren't made available for comment.
"Our players are dealing with it each in their own way,'' he said. "We think that's the right way to do it. The important thing is they're together. This is a very close team and they care desperately about each other.''
Pelini said the university's thoughts and prayers were with Pasquale, his family, and UCLA.
"That's a lot bigger than any football game,'' he said. "Obviously, this has got to be a very difficult time for them.''
The Bruins will wear a No. 36 patch on their jerseys the rest of the season. Mora said Nebraska's players will have a sticker with Pasquale's number on their helmets and there will be a moment of silence before Saturday's game in his honor.
Pelini will certainly be focused on making sure UCLA doesn't sneak up on Nebraska again. The 2012 Bruins had a new coach in Mora and new quarterback in Brett Hundley, but the Huskers (2-0) now have ample video of UCLA's 9-5 season and its opening win over Nevada.
Hundley is well-established as one of the nation's top run-pass threats, and he's earning some mention as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
He threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 63 yards and two more scores in the victory over the Wolf Pack.
The Bruins no longer have Johnathan Franklin, who ran for a career-high 217 yards against the Huskers, or big tight end Joseph Fauria, who caught two TD passes.
Hundley accounted for 358 yards of total offense and four touchdowns against the Huskers. One of the things that make him such a challenge is his ability to avoid pressure while his receivers work to get open.
"We have to cover longer. That's our job,'' Evans said. "Extended plays are going to happen Saturday. We have to get used to it and practice it throughout the week.''
Pelini said his young defense has been mostly on point with its tackling, but he based that on games against Wyoming and Southern Miss.
The degree of difficulty increases significantly against the Bruins, whose spread offense creates space and one-on-one matchups for its playmakers.
Last year's loss to UCLA was the Huskers' closest of the season and a precursor to defensive meltdowns against Ohio State on the road, Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.
"It was our first loss and it was a loss out there that we feel we shouldn't have had,'' defensive end Jason Ankrah said. "It's one of those losses we took into our offseason program, and it provided motivation.''
Evans said UCLA "deserved every bit'' of the victory last year.
"All the losses are a sticking point, especially when you want to win them all,'' he said. "We remember them. We remember this one as a team. Hopefully we'll come out with a sense of urgency this week.''