Abra-Abdullah: Magical Day Carries Big Red
Lincoln - Ameer Abdullah produced one of the greatest individual performances in Nebraska history with a school-record and 2014 FBS-best 341 all-purpose yards, including 225 rushing to power the No. 16 Huskers to a 42-24 win over Rutgers at Memorial Stadium Saturday.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten, while Rutgers slipped to 5-3 and 1-3 in the conference.
Abdullah mystifying runs and returns made him almost untouchable at times against the Scarlet Knights, who were the unfortunate witnesses of touchdown runs of 53 and 48 yards on back-to-back first-half carries by the Husker Heisman Trophy hopeful.
Abdullah's running wizardry concocted a 49-yard burst on his first carry of the second half before closing the day by exploding untouched into the end zone on a 23-yard run with 8:07 left in the fourth quarter. He disappeared to the Nebraska sideline for the rest of the game.
In between his magnificent second-half runs, Abdullah added a 76-yard kickoff return to set up another Husker score.
Abdullah's 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter pushed his all-purpose total to 341 yards, shattering the previous school record of 321 yards held by Roy Helu Jr. It was Abdullah's second 300-yard all-purpose game of the season, joining his 313 yards in a win over Miami. He is the only player in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 300 all-purpose yards in a single game this season.
The magical all-purpose mark also increased Abdullah's career school-record total to 6,604 yards, passing both Indiana's Anthony Thompson (1986-89) and two-time Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin (1972-75) into second on the Big Ten all-purpose yardage list. Abdullah has closed with 825 yards of Wisconsin's Ron Dayne's all-time Big Ten mark of 7,429 yards (1996-99).
The touchdown run also pushed Abdullah's rushing total to 225 yards on just 19 carries with three touchdowns. It was Abdullah's fourth 200-yard game of the season, matching 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier's school-record 200-yard game total from 1983. Abdullah owns five career 200-yard games. The touchdown also pushed Abdullah into a tie with Rozier for No. 5 with 270 points on Nebraska's career scoring list. It also bumped Abdullah ahead of Tommie Frazier into No. 5 on NU's career rushing touchdown chart with 37.
Abdullah wasn't the only Husker to produce a record-setting performance on the day. Fellow senior Kenny Bell hauled in six receptions for 63 yards to increase his career total to 167 receptions to pass Nate Swift's previous school mark of 166 from 2005 to 2008. Bell finished the day with 2,473 receiving yards and needs just three more yards to catch Swift and six yards to catch 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers for that NU mark.
With Abdullah, Bell and quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. leading the way, Nebraska finished with 455 total yards, including 292 yards on the ground and 163 passing yards. The Big Red averaged 7.1 yards per carry on the ground, while Armstrong completed 14-of-22 passes with two touchdowns.
Rutgers finished with 348 total yards, including 143 on the ground and 165 through the air. Backup quarterback Chris Laviano led the Scarlet Knights' ground game with 54 yards on five carries after replacing starter Gary Nova, who was injured in the final minute of the first half. Laviano also completed 4-of-7 passes for 49 yards. Nova left the game after completing 8-of-19 passes for 156 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown pass to Leonte Carroo late in the first quarter.
Rutgers was tied with Nebraska at the end of the first quarter after holding Abdullah to just 26 yards on six carries. But the senior I-back from Homewood, Ala., shredded the Scarlet Knights for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries in the second quarter to finish the half with 149 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Abdullah's first-half performance included a 53-yard touchdown run and a 48-yard touchdown run on back-to-back carries to power NU to a 21-7 halftime lead.
On his opening carry of the second half, Abdullah quickly pushed his total near 200 with a 49-yard burst on his opening carry of the second half. That run helped set up Armstrong's eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Sam Cotton that gave the Huskers a 28-7 lead with 12:08 left in the third quarter.
The next time Abdullah touched the ball came after Rutgers' Kyle Federico kicked a 41-yard field goal to trim the NU lead to 28-10 with 9:10 left in the third quarter, he uncorked a 76-yard kickoff return to push his all-purpose total for the game to an already career-high 314 yards.
Abdullah carried the ball just two more times in the final 24 minutes of the game. His four-yard carry to push his rushing total to 202 yards helped set up Armstrong's four-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Westerkamp with 6:35 left in the third quarter, giving Nebraska a 35-10 lead.
Abdullah's final of three second-half carries for 76 yards covered 23 yards untouched into the end zone for Nebraska's final score of the day to take a 42-17 lead with 8:07 left. After halftime, Abdullah touched the ball just five times, including a 10-yard reception, amassing 162 all-purpose yards.
Armstrong opened the scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run up the middle that he popped to the right side on a read-option to put the Huskers up 7-0 with 6:48 left in the first quarter. The run capped a crisp nine-play, 69-yard march for the Big Red after the Blackshirts stopped Rutgers on a 4th-and-1 at the NU 31 on the game's opening drive.
Nate Gerry ended Rutgers' second drive of the game with his third interception of the season. Gerry returned the pick 28 yards to set the offense up on the Rutgers' half of the field. However, the offense could not penetrate the Rutgers' red zone and Drew Brown attempted a 43-yard field goal that missed wide left.
Three plays later, the Scarlet Knights tied the score with 10 seconds left in the first quarter with Nova's 71-yard touchdown connection with wide receive Leonte Carroo. Rutgers' top receiver, Carroo finished with five receptions for 127 yards.
Abdullah and the Husker offense answered quickly in the second quarter to put Nebraska back up by a touchdown at 14-7. Abdullah carried the ball all four plays on the Big Red drive, capped by his 53-yard, highlight reel run for a touchdown with 13:39 left in the half. It was Abdullah's third run and fourth play from scrimmage of 50 or more yards on the season.
The next time Abdullah touched the ball he took it to the house again, sprinting 48 yards to paydirt to put the Nebraska up 21-7 with 10:28 left in the half. At that point, he had 10 carries for 134 yards.
Linebacker Zaire Anderson led the Blackshirt defense with 11 total tackles on the day, while defensive tackle Maliek Collins added seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and a sack of Nova. Defensive end Randy Gregory added five tackles, including a 12-yard sack, two quarterback hurries and a blocked field goal.
The Huskers return to Memorial Stadium next Saturday to take on Purdue. The game will be televised live nationally by ABC Regional/ESPN2 with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m.
Final: #16 Nebraska 42, Rutgers 24
Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (7-7)
NEB - 6:48 - Tommy Armstrong Jr. 16 run (Drew Brown kick), 9 plays, 69 yards, 3:57 - NEB 7-0
RU - 0:10 - Leonte Carroo 71 pass from Gary Nova (Kyle Federico kick), 3 plays, 75 yards, 1:25 - 7-7
Second Quarter (Nebraska, 21-7)
NEB - 13:39 - Ameer Abdullah 53 run (Brown kick), 4 plays,67 yards, 1:25 - NEB 14-7
NEB - 10:28 - Abdullah 48 run (Brown kick), 2 plays, 64 yards, 0:26 - NEB 21-7
Third Quarter (Nebraska, 35-17)
NEB - 12:08 - Sam Cotton pass from Armstrong (Brown kick), 5 plays, 72 yards, 2:47 - NEB 28-7
RU - 9:10 - Federico 41 FG, 6 plays, 51 yards, 2:58, NEB 28-10
NEB - 6:35 - Jordan Westerkamp 4 pass from Armstrong (Brown kick), 5 plays, 24 yards, 2:23 - NEB 35-10
RU - 0:04 - Desmon Peoples 3 run (Federico kick), 4 plays, 21 yards, 1:55 - NEB 35-17
Fourth Quarter (Nebraska, 42-24)
NEB - 8:07 - Abdullah 23 run (Brown kick) - 5 plays, 52 yards, 2:42 - NEB 42-17
RU - 5:11 - Robert Martin 4 run (Federico kick) - 6 plays, 53 yards, 2:47 - NEB 42-24
Final: #16 Nebraska 42, Rutgers 24
Time of Game: 3:13
Game Start: 11:01 a.m. (central)