Ameer Abdullah continues to carry the load for Nebraska, which returned from a bye week with a convincing win last weekend.
He could be in for another big game Saturday against a Rutgers team that’s struggled to stop the run when the No. 16 Cornhuskers host the Scarlet Knights Saturday at noon in Lincoln, Neb.
After Abdullah was held to a season-low 45 yards on 24 attempts in a 27-22 loss at then-No. 10 Michigan State Oct. 4, he appeared refreshed after a week off in last Saturday’s 38-17 victory at Northwestern. The senior had 23 carries for 146 yards and scored four one-yard touchdowns, giving him a conference-best 14 rushing TDs.
Abdullah became the first Cornhuskers back to record three 1,000-yard campaigns. He surpassed Ahman Green for second on the school’s all-time rushing list with 4,001 yards and now trails only New Jersey native Mike Rozier (4,780).
“It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win the rest of these games,” he said.
Nebraska (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) has to like its chances of doing just that if Abdullah keeps it up. The Cornhuskers are 19-3 when he rushes for at least 100 yards. He’s fourth in the country this season in rushing, averaging 146.3 yards a game.
Abdullah appears to have a favorable matchup against Rutgers (5-2, 1-2), which has allowed 201.3 rushing yards a game in its last four. The Scarlet Knights gave up 324 yards on the ground – their most since 2004 – in last Saturday’s 56-17 loss at No. 13 Ohio State.
“We’ve faced some good running backs but I don’t think we’ve seen a back with the full package like Abdullah,” Rutgers defensive end David Milewski said. “He can catch, he can block, he can run. He can do everything you want a back to do. He’s an every down back. It’s a high bar he sets but as a player that’s the kind of challenge you want.”
The Scarlet Knights had won three in a row before getting blown out by the Buckeyes. They were outgained 585-345 in total offense in their first Big Ten road game.
Desmon Peoples was a bright spot with 83 rushing yards and two scores on 15 carries. Gary Nova had 192 yards passing a game after having 404 against Michigan and threw his eighth interception — tied for the most in the conference — while being sacked a season-high four times.
“What I want to see is these guys turn the page,” coach Kyle Flood said. “I want to see guys own their mistakes, understand that we all need to get better, coaches and players alike, and then I want to see guys move forward.”
Doing so won’t be easy in Lincoln, where the Huskers have outscored opponents by an average of 24.0 points in opening 4-0. They have won 16 of their last 17 home games against unranked foes.
“It’s an exciting weekend for us – exciting week for us I should say with a tremendous opponent on Saturday, a tremendous challenge to go on the road to what I think is probably one of the great venues for college football,” Flood said. “Out there at Nebraska they’ve got a tremendous string of sellouts. I’m sure this will be another one and a hostile environment.”
While Rutgers has gone 4-0 in nonconference play behind Nova’s passer rating of 209.2, it’s 121.7 in league action with three TDs and six picks. The Scarlet Knights have dropped seven in a row against ranked opponents, including their last three by an average of 25.3 points.