Despite 116 rushing yards and two touchdowns from running back Ameer Abdullah, the 17th ranked University of Nebraska football team fell to unranked UCLA 36-30 in week two of the college football season. Abdullah started the game because of an injury to starting running back Rex Burkhead. Abdullah, a sophomore from Homewood, Alabama, ran for 83 yards on 15 carries the previous week against Southern Mississippi after Burkhead sprained a ligament in his knee.
Abdullah is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, had his first 100-yard game at UCLA and has scored two touchdowns. He also has four receptions with a score, but lost a fumble starting the second half Saturday night with the score tied against the Bruins. In his own estimation, Abdullah rated his play as â€œpretty average.â€ â€œI feel like here and there I had some pretty good plays, but obviously when you watch the film itâ€™s never as good as you think and itâ€™s never as bad as you think,â€ he said.
With 31 rushing attempts in Nebraskaâ€™ first two games, Abdullah is happy for the bump in workload (although regretful that some of it has come due to the injury to Rex Burkhead). â€œI feel like Iâ€™ve held up pretty well,â€ Abdullah said. â€œI havenâ€™t got a ton of carries. I only have 15 and 16, which isnâ€™t a lot. A lot of backs are getting 30, 28, high 20s and things like that. â€œIâ€™m prepared for the heavy load. Iâ€™m prepared for the short doses. It doesnâ€™t matter.â€
Abdullah is just 5-foot-9 and weighs 185 pounds. Abdullah, however, still doesnâ€™t think of himself as small. He never did. â€œItâ€™s funny because until I got here, I didnâ€™t realize I was that small,â€ Abdullah said. â€œI get here, and people ask me how was the transition from running outside to inside. I never did run outside. I love to run inside. I feel like thatâ€™s where you get most of your yards. If you run outside, you might be getting (wide) but youâ€™re not getting north.â€ â€œItâ€™s all about pad level,â€ Abdullah said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter if heâ€™s bigger than you. If you get lower, youâ€™ll win that battle. Coach (James) Dobson does a good job getting us strength in our lower bodies.â€
â€œHe is one tough guy,â€ Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown said. â€œHe can pass protect…He stood in there and saved Taylor two or three times by picking up a blitz. Of course he can go out of the backfield and catch the football. He can catch the football in traffic. Heâ€™s one of the most dangerous guys you can imagine.â€
â€œMy dad, he played running back in college,â€ Abdullah said. â€œHe said, â€˜If you canâ€™t protect, you wonâ€™t play.â€™ I feel like the main objective of the offense is to protect the quarterback. I feel like pass protection is key. We have a very dynamic offense. If we give Taylor time, heâ€™ll pick the defense apart.â€
By his own admission Abdullah wasnâ€™t really ready last year, although he thought he was at the time. He finished the year with 42 carries for 150 and also had some impressive performances in the return game.
â€œHe was a young guy and a true freshman last year,â€ Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. â€œHe started to get comfortable about midway through the year last year, maybe towards the end of the year. He was more of a specialty guy last year, and weâ€™d give him special situations and bring him into the offense a little bit slower and use his talents in certain ways.
â€œNow heâ€™s shown he can be an every-down back, and he can run inside and outside and heâ€™s really similar to Braylon (Heard). They are talented guys that can really put stress on a defense in a number of ways.â€