October 2, 2014

Pelini is looking for the defense to tighten up their technique against Illinois

The Huskers turn their attention to the start of Big Ten play, hosting Illinois. Overall Bo Pelini happy with the 4-0 start, but defensively his team is cutting some corners when it comes to the basics and it showed at times against Miami.  Miami approached this game a little differently than what they’ve done in the past, trying to spread out the Huskers defense a little more forcing the Pelini to use six defensive backs a little more than he would have liked

The Huskers held Miami to 76 yards rushing, but that was the net after 25 yards lost by quarterback Brad Kaaya. Duke Johnson finished with 93 yards rushing and an average of 5.2 yards per carry.

Abdullah named Big Ten player of the week (AUDIO)

Nebraska I-back Ameer Abdullah earned Big Ten weekly honors for the second time this season on Monday.

Abdullah shared Big Ten Offensive honors with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon following Nebraska’s 41-31 win over Miami Saturday night. Abdullah totaled 313 all-purpose yards – an NCAA single-game high in 2014 – as he rushed for 229 yards on 35 carries and two scores and added a three-yard touchdown reception. He also had four kickoff returns for 81 yards in the win, as his all-purpose yard total was second in Nebraska school history. He moved from fifth to third on Nebraska’s career rushing list while also becoming the Huskers’ career all-purpose yards leader, passing College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Rodgers.

Abdullah also earned the weekly honor against Florida Atlantic in the season opener when he rushed for 232 yards. Abdullah is one of only two players in the country with multiple 200-yard rushing games in 2014. Nebraska has won at least one Big Ten weekly award in each of the first four weeks of the season.

The Big Ten honor was one of several for Abdullah, as he was also named to the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll for the second this season on Monday and was chosen as the Athlon Sports Big Ten Player of the Week.

Nebraska stays unbeaten with 41-31 win over Miami

When in doubt, give the ball to Ameer Abdullah.

That was the philosophy for 22nd-ranked Nebraska on Saturday night, as the senior Heisman trophy candidate carried 35 times for 229  yards and two touchdowns in addition to a receiving touchdown to help the Huskers dispatch Miami 41-31 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The win moves the  Huskers to 4-0 on the season, marking the third time under Bo Pelini that Nebraska has finished the non-conference portion of their season unscathed. Another stellar performance from Abdullah didn’t surprise Pelini at all.

“Number eight showed just how special he is tonight. He ran like a man possessed,” Pelini said.

Nebraska tries to keep Miami out of the end zone in the final moments of the Huskers' 41-31 victory

Nebraska tries to keep Miami out of the end zone in the final moments of the Huskers’ 41-31 victory

Abdullah also ran like a man who’ll go down as one of the all-time Husker greats. With his 229 yards rushing, Abdullah moved into third place among the all-time Nebraska rushing yardage leaders with 3,602 yards, passing Roy Helu Jr. and Eric Crouch. Next up is Ahman Green with 3,880 yards and then Mike Rozier, who tops the list with 4,780 yards. Abdullah also became the all-time leader in all-purpose yards at Nebraska with 5,762, passing the great Johnny Rodgers with a total of 313 on the night.

“We just trust physicality all week,” Abdullah said. “We come off physical every play. Hit ‘em in the mouth, hit ‘em in the mouth…I feel like we had the upper hand on those guys.”

After the Huskers took a 17-14 lead into halftime, Nebraska began the second half with an 11-play, 75 yard drive that was capped off by Abdullah’s 6-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 24-14. Miami would answer however, as the Hurricanes got a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brad Kaaya to Malcolm Lewis. After Tommy Armstrong was intercepted by Miami’s Tracy Howard, the Hurricanes were on the move.

Running back Ameer Abdullah leaves the field after Nebraska's 41-31 win over Miami. Abdullah had 35 carries for 229 yards and three total touchdowns

Running back Ameer Abdullah leaves the field after Nebraska’s 41-31 win over Miami. Abdullah had 35 carries for 229 yards and three total touchdowns

Running back Duke Johnson appeared to have inched forward for a first down just inside Nebraska territory with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter. But momentum shifted big time toward Nebraska as Trevor Roach stripped the ball free from Johnson, Josh Mitchell recovered and scooted 57 yards for a momentum-swinging score that the Hurricanes never recovered from. Miami head coach Al Golden certainly thought his team had everything going in its favor before Johnson’s fumble.

“I felt that we were really moving the ball well there, obviously that was a tough one,” Golden said. “Thought we had a chance to go up by four, if not tie it. Instead, we ended up going down by 10.”

“We just had too many turnovers to overcome on the road against a good team.”

Johnson’s fumble overshadowed what was a decent night from the senior, who had 18 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown, in addition to five catches for 84 yards.

“I needed to get in the end zone, but I need to protect the ball when I’m going down. That was my bad,” Johnson said.

“That play changed the game in a big way.”

The fumble, coupled with two interceptions from Kaaya led to 14 Nebraska points. Linebacker David Santos got the ball rolling for the Huskers with an interception in the first quarter with the Hurricanes threatening to retake the lead.

“We talked about making more turnovers. It was a big plan this week,” Santos said. “We really hadn’t had any earlier this season so our objective was to go out, make the play and make the turnovers.”

“That forced fumble couldn’t have come at a better time. It was all a big momentum swing for us.”

The game got a bit chippy, especially in the second half, after Nebraska had extended its lead after Mitchell’s fumble return. There were numerous personal fouls called on both teams, but two in particular hurt Miami after Joshua Kalu intercepted a Kaaya pass in the fourth quarter. Miami was called for two personal foul penalties after the play had finished, giving the Huskers 30 free yards that Nebraska didn’t let go to waste, with Abdullah scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run to put the game on ice with 4:13 to play.

Pelini had his thoughts about the increased hostilities in the second half, but wouldn’t elaborate much.

“I thought it got a little out of control. I thought it could have been managed better,” Pelini said. “At the end of the day, there’s going to be some of that. Two teams playing hard and going after each other.”

Nebraska controlled the line of scrimmage, rushing for 343 yards as a team while allowing only 76 yards by Miami. Although Kaaya finished 28-of-42 for 359 yards and three touchdowns, the two interceptions turned out to be game changers for a defense that had only forced one turnover this season entering Saturday’s game.

Armstrong was efficient for the most part, completing 9-of-13 attempts for 113 yards and two touchdowns, although he did have an interception and one lost fumble. Overall, Armstrong liked how the offense attacked Miami’s defense, which was ranked 8th nationally before Saturday’s game.

“We just ran our offense,” Armstrong said. We go into every week the same way. We run offense based on whatever they give us.”

The win keeps Nebraska unbeaten at 4-0 for the third time since Bo Pelini took over as head coach in 2008. Next up for the Huskers is another night game against Illinois next week in Lincoln, kicking off at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Abdullah says their season is just beginning.

“We’re actually 0-0 right now because it’s a new schedule every time we play a game. We have a long journey ahead of us,” Abdullah noted.

“We can enjoy it tonight, but tomorrow we take the film with a grain of salt and get back to it.”

Nebraska defeats Miami 41-31 to stay unbeaten

Behind a strong ground game and an opportunistic defense, 22nd-ranked Nebraska moved to 4-0 on the season after a 41-31 win over Miami on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah was spectacular again, with 35 carries for 229 yards and three total touchdowns to help the Huskers wear down the Miami defense in the second half. On the night, the Nebraska offense ran for a total of 343 yards as it kept Miami at arms length just long enough to deliver the knockout punch in the fourth quarter. However, it was a defensive touchdown from Josh Mitchell that seemed to turn momentum in Nebraska’s favor.

Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson appeared to have a first down near midfield with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter with Miami trailing 24-21. However, Nebraska linebacker Trevor Roach forced Johnson to fumble, which was scooped up by Mitchell and taken 57 yards into the end zone for a game-changing touchdown. Nebraska’s defense also forced two interceptions from Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, including one deep in Nebraska territory in the first quarter.

The win moves the Huskers to 4-0 on the season, completing their first perfect non-conference season since 2011 and just their second since 2005. Nebraska begins Big Ten conference play next Saturday at home against Illinois, with kickoff set for 8 p.m. The loss drops Miami to 2-2–the Hurricanes open Atlantic Coast Conference play next week against Duke.

More to come from Lincoln…

Nebraska leads Miami 17-14 at halftime

It’s been a back and forth contest in Lincoln between Miami and 22nd-ranked Nebraska, with the Huskers leading the Hurricanes 17-14 at the half.

Miami took the opening kickoff and took nine plays to cap off a 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Duke Johnson to put the Hurricanes ahead 7-0 with 10:26 left in the first quarter. The Huskers responded with a touchdown of their own after Tommy Armstrong connected with Kenny Bell on a 40-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 7-7. The two teams would then exchange turnovers–Nebraska linebacker David Santos made a diving interception at the Nebraska 5-yard line with Miami on the move to keep the game tied at 7, while Miami’s Anthony Chickillo recovered an Armstrong fumble as the first quarter came to a close with the Hurricanes on the move at the Nebraska 39-yard line.

The Hurricanes took a 14-7 lead after Brad Kaaya tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Clive Walford early in the second quarter. Nebraska would knot the game once again, this time at 14-14 after a 14-play, 79-yard drive that took 6:35 off the clock and would see Ameer Abdullah score on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong. The senior Abdullah would eventually move into third place on the all-time Nebraska rushing list, after his 19 carries for 121 yards in the first half. Abdullah would also pass Johnny Rodgers on the all-time all-purpose yards list at Nebraska with 151 yards by halftime, now totaling an even 5,600 on his Husker career to pass Rodgers’ total of 5,586.

Drew Brown’s 19-yard field goal would put the Huskers in front 17-14 at the end of the first half. Kaaya’s balanced first half saw the freshman Miami quarter complete 11 of his 17 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, while Armstrong completed 7 of 9 for 101 yards and two scores. Both teams have one turnover in a fairly even first half of action. Nebraska will receive the second half kickoff to begin the final 30 minutes of action.