Published Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm / Updated at 3:41 pm
Is 8 enough? While NU offense is shaky, Abdullah is a sure thing
Three things to watch
Rich Kaipust: With nine turnovers in the last three games, taking care of the football has to be a priority for Nebraska. Especially when you think back to the mistakes the Huskers made two years ago at Michigan Stadium.

Sam McKewon: Michigan has a big-play offense. Nebraska's defense will give up a few of them to Devin Gardner and his crew, likely on Gardner scrambles. When that happens, do the Huskers fight or fold?

Jon Nyatawa: The Huskers have scored touchdowns on 73 percent of their drives that reach the red zone, a top 20 rate nationally. But they've not been as efficient in two games against Michigan. Execution will be key when the field shrinks.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A lot was expected of the Nebraska offense back in August, and a lot has happened to it along the road to a date at Michigan Stadium.

And not a lot of it is good.

NU is down two offensive linemen, including an All-America candidate.

The Huskers have played four games without their fourth-year starter at quarterback, and Saturday will be the fifth.

They've been missing their only veteran tight end for a month and pulled off their fantastic finish last week without two top receivers on the field.

But there has been one constant. Every time you look in the Husker backfield when it matters, No. 8 seems to be there. Almost every time you look at the final stat sheet there's the same I-back with 100-plus yards.

And every time the NU offense needs some kind of security blanket, it has been able to turn to a hard-working, all-business junior from Homewood, Ala.

Ameer Abdullah has been there every step of the way as Nebraska has fought to put up the kind of numbers some envisioned before the season. And he's been as reliable as anybody in the league on his way to becoming the Big Ten's rushing leader entering Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game at Michigan.

“He steps up,” NU coach Bo Pelini said. “He wants to do everything he can to win a football game. He's a warrior — I'll tell you, he really is. I just love the kid.”

And despite what he's already done and the miles that he's already logged, offensive coordinator Tim Beck feels good about what the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder has left in the tank for the final four games.

“I think he's still full of energy right now,” Beck said. “I like where he's at. I'm pleasantly surprised and pleased, and he'll be ready to go.”

Want the latest Husker headlines delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for email alerts!

Abdullah ranks fifth nationally at 138.5 yards rushing per game, and the four above him have anywhere from 31 to 59 more attempts. Despite averaging just 19.6 carries per game — and with no more than 24 in any contest — Abdullah has failed to reach 100 yards just once (98 vs. UCLA).

Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) will put plenty on his shoulders again against the Wolverines (6-2, 2-2), who hadn't allowed more than 85 yards to an opposing back until Jeremy Langford turned 26 rushes into 120 yards last week for Michigan State.

But Michigan coach Brady Hoke said this week that Abdullah might be the best back in the league.

“The kid's a pretty special athlete,” Hoke said. “He's got good burst, good balance. Can make you miss in the hole.

“I think the other part of it is, traditionally their offensive lines have been pretty stout, pretty strong at the line of scrimmage. I think they've given him a chance to get runs started, and then I think his natural abilities, vision, his jump cuts — all those things — take over.”

That line is without Spencer Long and Jake Cotton, its two starting guards. The importance of Abdullah also went up a notch with the loss of Taylor Martinez at quarterback.

Abdullah's production, outside of a couple of costly fumbles, has cut into the time for backup I-backs Imani Cross and Terrell Newby.

Beck and assistant coach Ron Brown keep a close eye on Abdullah's work.

“I just think Ameer's in a zone with the way he's playing right now,” Beck said. “It doesn't mean those other guys aren't good players. I just think the level of his game and the way he's playing and the way he's seeing things right now … he's playing really, really well.”

Abdullah has scared the NU coaches a time or two in recent weeks. He took a shot to the head at Purdue before checking out OK, then was down for a while at Minnesota with an ankle injury.

Brown actually uses some of those nicks to persuade Abdullah to sit out some practice drills. That's how the staff has tried to save his legs for Saturdays.

It's just not easy for Abdullah to watch when he wants to be there for everybody — all the time.

“If he's not practicing, it kills him,” offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles said. “If Coach Brown pulls him out because we're doing something that's going to be high impact, he wants to be in there and in the thick of it. He wants to be doing everything that he can.”

Contact the writer: Rich Kaipust    |   402-444-1042    |  

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and some general assignment tasks, including the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.



< >
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.'s Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
< >