September 1, 2014

Abdullah named Big Ten offensive player of the week

I-back Ameer Abdullah was honored by the Big Ten Conference Monday, as he was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.

Abdullah earned the award after rushing for a career-high 232 yards on 21 carries in a 55-7 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday. His rushing total was the 15th-most in Nebraska school history, while he broke the 100-yard rushing barrier for the 18th time in his career. Abdullah also became the sixth Husker to rush for 3,000 career yards while climbing to sixth on NU’s career rushing chart. His efforts helped Nebraska establish a Big Ten record with 784 yards of total offense.

It is the second time Abdullah has been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, and the fifth time in his career he has earned a Big Ten weekly award.

Huskers Roll Up Florida Atlantic 55-7 Behind Abdullah’s Record Day

Nebraska used a high-powered ground game and a balanced day from quarterback Tommy Armstrong to rough up Florida Atlantic 55-7 in their season opener on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The 784 yards of total offense by the Huskers were good enough for the fifth-best performance in school history, as Nebraska used a record day from senior All-American candidate Ameer Abdullah to dust the Owls in the schools’ second ever meeting.

The Huskers wasted little time in getting on the board, as Armstrong scored on a 5-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game to put the Big Red up 7-0, capping a 13-play, 86-yard drive. However, the Owls answered with their best drive and only points of the afternoon on the ensuing series, capped off by Lucky Whitehead’s 20-yard touchdown grab from Jaquez Johnson to tie things up at 7-7. From that point forward, it was a game dominated by Nebraska on both sides of the ball.

Armstrong remained cool and collected behind center, guiding the Huskers on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 36-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Westerkamp to give Nebraska the lead once again at 14-7 with 1:22 left in the first quarter. While allowing 75 yards of offense on the Owls’ scoring drive, Nebraska’s defense settled in and stuffed Florida Atlantic for the final three quarters, giving up a mere 125  yards in the remaining 45 minutes. After a 44-yard field goal from true freshman kicker Drew Brown, Abdullah scored his only touchdown of the day from 47 yards out to put the Huskers ahead 24-7 with 6:29 left before halftime. Imani Cross extended the lead to 31-7 just four minutes later with a 3-yard touchdown run and the rout was on.

Sophomore Jordan Westerkamp talks with the media after Nebraska's 55-7 win over Florida Atlantic

Sophomore Jordan Westerkamp talks with the media after Nebraska’s 55-7 win over Florida Atlantic

Florida Atlantic couldn’t gain any traction on either side of the ball after halftime, as Nebraska dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Terrell Newby capped off a 10-play, 78-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on the Huskers’ first drive of the third quarter and would add a 8-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong to true freshman De’Mornay Pierson-El and a 45-yard field goal from Mauro Bondi to build their lead to 48-7 at the end of the period. Newby would tack on a final 1-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the fourth quarter to provide for the final score and margin at 55-7.

The sophomore Armstrong was an efficient 15-of-29 for 271 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to seven carries for 62 yards and another touchdown. Armstrong said his goal heading into the season opener was to lead the offense to the best of his abilities.

“I wanted to be more efficient,” Armstrong said. “Just going out there and playing ball and putting my offense in the right position.”

It also helps to have Abdullah. The senior carried 21 times for 232 yards, eclipsing his previous career best of 225 yards in last season’s 39-19 win over Illinois. Armstrong says Abdullah continues to prove why he’s one of the nation’s premier running backs.

“He is the best back in the nation. I truly believe that,” Armstrong said. “He is going out there and proving to everyone why he should be one of the contenders for one of the best running backs in the country.”

Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp also sparkled for the Nebraska offense, reeling in seven catches for 125 yards and one touchdown. However, it was his highlight reel, behind-the-back catch in the third quarter that had everyone buzzing.

“It was a crazy play. I ran a corner route and I saw the ball get tipped, so I put my hands back and the ball just landed perfectly,” Westerkamp said of the catch.

Bo Pelini was quite impressed with Westerkamp’s grab on an afternoon which left the head coach with much to be happy about.

“I’ve coached a lot of football, but I’ve never seen that one,” Pelini said of Westerkamp’s catch. “To even have the wherewithal to put your hands back there after it’s been tipped, it’s amazing.”

“I’ve always said, he catches everything that’s near him. He showed that right there.”

Nebraska did have an injury concern, as defensive end Randy Gregory played in the first series of the game but did not return after that. Pelini says he is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, but that it was hard to say what his status would be going forward. Despite Gregory’s lengthy absence against Florida Atlantic, the defense allowed only 105 yards rushing and a mere 95 more through the air in a complete victory.

Overall, Pelini was pleased with the opening game for his team.

“I thought it was a really good start in every phase. We got a chance to play a lot of guys, so I was happy about that,” Pelini said. “I saw a lot of good things out there.”

The win is Nebraska’s 29th straight in a season-opening game. Nebraska had 91,441 fans on hand at Memorial Stadium, good enough for the 334th consecutive sellout. The 22nd ranked Huskers host McNeese State next Saturday at 11 a.m. before they head to the road to face Fresno State the following week.

Huskers have to be ready for anything under Florida Atlantic’s new coach

The Nebraska football went through their final tune-ups in prep for Saturday’s season opener against Florida Atlantic. Head coach Bo Pelini  said the Huskers need to prepare for a lot and be able to make adjustments on the fly. Pelini says keeping things simple. He says a simple trap to fall into is over preparing and then you run into a situation where you have Huskers chasing Owls all over the field. Pelini said you trust the players and their training.

“We got accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished. We’ll finish up our be ready to go.”

Five sophomores are projected to start on the defensive side of the ball. Pelini added that the newcomers will be ready to go for their first college football game.

“They’ve played a lot of football up to this point against good competition,” Pelini said. “A lot of good on good. They are ready to go and just execute their football.”

Florida Atlantic returns 15 starters in Charlie Partridge’s first season as head coach. FAU is one of eight 2014 Husker opponents that were bowl eligible in 2013. Florida Atlantic brings a four-game winning streak into today’s game, the nation’s ninth-longest win streak.

Offensively, the Owls return their leading rusher, passer and two of their three leading receivers from 2013. Defensively, FAU brings back its top two tacklers.

The Owls averaged 26.4 points per game in 2013 following a strong finish, when FAU averaged 37.8 points per game over its final four contests. Florida Atlantic featured a balanced offensive attack, averaging 183 yards rushing per game and 198 yards passing.
Quarterback Jaquez Johnson was a dual threat who led Florida Atlantic with 772 rushing yards and 1,876 passing yards. He also led the team with 10 rushing touchdowns, while completing 58 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Florida Atlantic featured one of the nation’s top defenses in 2013, and the Owls return six starters. FAU allowed only 326 yards per game in 2013, a total that ranked 11th nationally. Florida Atlantic was especially stingy against the pass, ranking second nationally by allowing only 162 passing yards per game. The Owls also ranked third nationally in pass efficiency defense.

Linebacker Andrae Kirk led the team with 84 tackles last season and safety Damian Parms was second with 78 stops. Both players return for the Owls this fall. Defensive lineman Brandin Bryant, an Omaha native, is FAU’s returning sack leader after totaling 6.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for losses as a junior in 2013.

Nebraska and Florida Atlantic meet for the second time today. The only other meeting was a 49-3 NU victory in the 2009 season opener at Memorial Stadium. The 24th-ranked Huskers cruised to the win behind three rushing touchdowns from Roy Helu Jr., who ran for 152 yards on 16 carries.

Florida Atlantic Head Coach Charlie Partridge
Partridge will coach his first game as a collegiate head coach today. A South Florida native, Partridge has spent the past 12 seasons as a full-time defensive assistant on Brett Bielema’s Arkansas staff in 2013 as well as five years at Wisconsin.


Pelini has the Huskers prepared for anything, but ready to adjust (AUDIO)

This was supposed to be a matchup of brother vs. brother, but Carl Pelini, the one time defensive coordinator for the Huskers was dumped by Florida Atlantic. Carl, back in an interview in April, said his firing ultimately had more to do with an athletic director who didn’t hire him more so than his alleged drug use, which he denied.

So now, one of the challenges for Bo is dealing with new coach Charlie Partridge. The Huskers need to prepare for a lot and be able to make adjustments on the fly. Pelini says keeping things simple is the key. He says an easy trap to fall into is over preparing and then running into a situation where you have Huskers chasing Owls all over the field. Pelini said you trust the players and their training.

Listen to the Big Red Report

One Owl is coming home to honor his grandfather when he takes on the Huskers (AUDIO)

When the Huskers take on Florida Atlantic this Saturday at 2:30 it will be a homecoming for one of the Owls on their defensive line. Junior defensive tackle Brandin Bryant was a star player at Omaha-Bryan and he says he’s looking forward to coming back to Nebraska to play in front of his mom and dad and friends who never get to see him play.

Brandin’s grandfather, Charles, played for the Huskers back in the 50’s and was the first African-American player in modern Huskers history when he made the roster in 1952. In 1955, Charles encountered segregation when Nebraska played in the Orange Bowl down in Miami against Duke. Charles didn’t get to stay at the same hotel as the rest of the team. He had to stay at someone’s house. His grandson, who now plays for a school that is located just 45 miles north of Miami appreciates what his grandfather was able to accomplish. Charles Bryant was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1987. He died in 2004. He was 71.

Brandin said he’s looking forward to stepping on the field at Memorial Stadium and honoring his grandfather. He plays the same position as Charles, but he’s a little bigger. When Charles walked-on at NU he was 5’11 and weighed less than 200 pounds. Grandson Brandin is 6’3 and 290.