Abdullah, Huskers blast Owls 55-7 in opener
After months of talking about the potential surrounding Nebraska's 2014 squad, Saturday's season opener against Florida Atlantic was the Huskers' first chance to show just how far they've come. Needless to say, they did not disappoint.
Senior running back Ameer Abdullah wasted no time getting a jumpstart on his Heisman Trophy campaign, rushing for a career-high 232 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries to help lead NU to a staggering 784 yards of total offense and a dominating 55-7 blowout victory that was over before the third quarter ended.
Sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong completed 15-of-29 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp set career-highs with seven catches for 125 yards and a score.
"I thought it was a good start for our team," head coach Bo Pelini said. "I saw a lot of good things out there. I saw a lot of things that we're going to need to clean up and get fixed. We've got to dissect this tape and look at where we are. I though we did what we should've done. We won a football game we should've won, but we'll get a lot more out of it by really looking at it and going through it with a fine-tooth comb and evaluate it the way we need to evaluate it. There's a lot more out there for us, but I thought it was a good start."
Nebraska's offense was in midseason form to open the game, as the Huskers scored on their first five possessions to jump out to a 31-7 halftime lead. Armstrong got Nebraska on the board first with a 5-yard touchdown run to cap off a 13-play, 85-yard opening drive that actually covered 101 yards after penalties.
Florida Atlantic answered right back with a methodical first possession of its own, marching 75 yards and scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jaquez Johnson to Lucky Whitehead.
But it would be all Huskers from there, though, as Armstrong found a wide-open Westerkamp over the middle for a 36-yard touchdown toss and then freshman kicker Drew Brown nailed a 44-yard field goal on the next two drives to bump the lead up to 17-7.
Following a missed 45-yard field goal by the Owls, Nebraska struck again on a highlight-reel 47-yard scoring run by Abdullah, who left an FAU safety in the dust with an open-field juke and scampered untouched into the end zone.
"He ran physical," Armstrong said of Abdullah. "That is expected. He has been running the same way since spring ball and all the way through fall camp. He went out there to prove something. He hit the holes the right way and made people miss, that is the same Ameer we saw last year."
A perfectly thrown 33-yard strike from Armstrong to Westerkamp on third-and-long helped set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Imani Cross that would send the Huskers into halftime with a commanding 24-point advantage.
When the final whistle of the half finally blew, NU had out-gained Florida Atlantic 446-127 in total offense, including a 262-55 edge in the running game. Abdullah ended up with a staggering 178 rushing yards on 16 carries in the first half alone, while Westerkamp hauled in six catches of his seven total catches for 109 yards.
Things didn't slow down one bit heading into the third quarter, as another big run by Abdullah and a circus behind-the-back catch by Westerkamp along the sideline on Nebraska's first drive led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Terrell Newby.
The Huskers weren't done there, either, as Armstrong went deep on the very next possession and hit Kenny Bell on a 70-yard bomb. Armstrong then found De'Mornay Pierson-El on a quick slant for an 8-yard touchdown pass, and Mauro Bondi later drilled a 45-yard field goal to make it a commanding 48-7 lead.
Later in the fourth quarter, Newby pranced into the end zone for his second touchdown run of the day, and the rest of the game served as quality snaps for Nebraska's backups.
"Our guys played hard," Pelini said. "They had the right approach to the game. They didn't really care about what people thought or anything else. We went out and worried about us. We tried to execute out football, and I thought that was the right approach to have."
The Huskers will look to keep up their hot start when they host McNeese State next week, which is set for an 11 a.m. kickoff on ESPNU.