LINCOLN — It was obvious after a half-dozen carries Saturday that Nebraska I-back Ameer Abdullah probably wouldn't put up the numbers he had the week before.
The senior was dropped for a loss twice and stopped at the line of scrimmage another time. He had to make defenders miss just to get positive yardage on two other runs.
But the worst part is that it really never got much better in the 31-24 win against McNeese State.
"We couldn't get anything going, and that starts up front with the line," NU guard Mike Moudy said. "We've got a lot to fix."
Abdullah was held to 54 yards on 17 rushes (3.2 per carry) as the Huskers were slow to combat the Cowboys' movement and blitzes. It marked the senior's lowest rushing output since 48 yards on seven carries in the Capital One Bowl to end the 2012 season.
And now McNeese State has put something on film for future Nebraska opponents to see.
"They had a great plan," assistant coach Ron Brown said. "They blitzed the tar out of us. They brought a lot of different looks to us. They didn't make it easy."
All told, McNeese State made contact with Abdullah before the line of scrimmage on eight carries. Five of them resulted in lost yardage. Abdullah didn't have a single negative play the week before against Florida Atlantic, when he carried 21 times for a career-high 232 yards.
McNeese State slanted with its undersized defensive ends and tackles. It brought outside linebackers off the edge. Assignments changed.
"They were active," NU guard Jake Cotton said. "We've got to be able to block movement better. I think that's apparent. We'll make that correction."
NU offensive tackle Alex Lewis said the Huskers expected the blitzing. Expected maybe some gimmicks from an outmanned opponent. Sometimes there were just mental errors on assignments.
"We knew it was going to come," Lewis said. "It was just our preparation during the week. It just wasn't solid.
"I give those guys respect. They came in and they were ready to play. They're scrappy little guys. They're not the biggest, but they definitely bust their butts to get to the ball.... I'll give it to the coaching staff for the scheme that they ran."
Abdullah got the final say, of course, by catching a short pass and breaking numerous tackles on the 58-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left. Overall, he accounted for 184 all-purpose yards (54 rushing, 96 receiving, 34 returns).
Abdullah said afterward that it was just hard to find too many positives, and was as hard on himself as on anybody else.
"I felt like I didn't achieve what I wanted to do," Abdullah said. "I didn't do enough for the team, and I'm sure a lot of guys would say that. We have high expectations for this year and we're going to play some pretty gaudy defenses. (Saturday) was not what we wanted to do, and it will not take us where we need to be."
Abdullah had reached 100 yards in 12 of his previous 14 games, with the exceptions coming last season against UCLA (98) and Iowa (85). It was humbling that the latest team to contain him was a Football Championship Subdivision opponent that was considered nearly a five-touchdown underdog.
"Those guys came to play," Moudy said. "They had a lot of energy. The defensive tackles did a good job. Down linemen did a good job. We've just got to come off the ball and finish. We'll look at the film this week and see what the big issue is."
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