LINCOLN, Neb. – Jim Mora can't imagine a more difficult situation for his UCLA football team.
Less than week after the death of receiver Nick Pasquale, the 16th-ranked Bruins visit No. 23 Nebraska on Saturday.
"We have to be able to handle our emotions," Mora said. "We have to remain poised, we have to be prepared to overcome adversity. You ask about mental toughness. To me, those are things that define mental toughness, your ability to do that."
The Bruins (1-0) will wear No. 36 patches on their uniforms in honor of Pasquale, a popular walk-on who was struck by a vehicle Sunday while he was walking in his hometown of San Clemente, Calif. The Cornhuskers (2-0) will wear No. 36 decals on their helmets.
"Football pales in comparison to what they're going through right now," Mora said of his players.
But he said the game can serve as "an outlet for their emotion and their grief and the things they're dealing with."
Both teams should know a lot more about themselves after Saturday, particularly on defense.
UCLA hasn't played since a 58-20 win over Nevada on Aug. 31. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 164 against a defense that returned only one starter in the secondary and six overall.
The Bruins will face another dual threat in Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, who broke a 92-yard touchdown run in last year's 36-30 loss to UCLA.
Nebraska's defense has been reminded all week about the 653 yards UCLA piled up in last year's game at the Rose Bowl. End Jason Ankrah and cornerbacks Ciante Evans and Josh Mitchell are the only defensive players who started last year's game.
To win, the Huskers must pressure Brett Hundley, who passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns against them last year.
"I'm sure our game plan will be one that will tone him down and immobilize him a little more," Ankrah said. "We'll have a good plan for him, I'm sure."
Five things to watch when the teams meet this week:
1. ALTERNATE UNIFORMS: Nebraska will wear black jerseys instead of its traditional red home tops and white pants with black stripes and a red "N'' on the front left hip. The helmet retains the red "N'' and has a thick black stripe down the middle.
For last year's home game against Wisconsin the Huskers wore red pants and jerseys, with a big black "N'' on the chest, and a black helmet.
"I think Adidas and our administration have done a good job of working together to have something that isn't so out there," coach Bo Pelini said. "Let's face it, Nebraska and the fans and this place are still about tradition. That will never change here. I think they've done a good job of having something different without being outlandish."
2. EARLY START: UCLA's Mora isn't worried about the 11 a.m. CDT kickoff. That's 9 a.m. on the Bruins' body clocks.
UCLA typically practices at 7 a.m. and players lift weights at 5:45.
"If we had been a team that practices at 4 in the afternoon, it might be a concern," he said, "but the fact we're an early morning group, I think that will help us adjust."
3. SMARTIN' MARTINEZ: Martinez grew up in the Los Angeles area rooting for UCLA, and he wanted to play quarterback for the Bruins. They wanted him as a receiver, so he signed with Nebraska.
Martinez has no regrets, but that loss to the Bruins last year sure did smart.
"I don't think I've ever felt so bad after a loss," he said. "I watched them as a kid and wanted to go there, and they beat me, so hopefully this last go-round I can beat them."
4. LINEBACKER TACKLE-FEST: Few linebackers are as productive as UCLA's Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Barr, who had five tackles and two for loss against Nevada, is the nation's top returning sack man. He had 13.5 last season. Kendricks had 11 tackles against Nevada for his eighth straight game with 10 or more, and his 150 stops last season were the most by a Bruin since 1978.
5. FRAZIER SALUTE: The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame will honor former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier with the NFF/College Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute at halftime.
Frazier is among 14 former FBS players selected for the Hall of Fame this year. He quarterbacked the 1994-95 national championship teams and will be the 16th Nebraska player inducted.