Final Take: One to remember
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This was the Miami and Nebraska I grew up watching.
For four quarters on Saturday night the Huskers and the Hurricanes put on a show where the two teams traded blows back and forth both literally and figuratively as NU improved to 4-0 with their 41-31 victory.
On the field running back Ameer Abdullah arguably had the best game of his career rushing for 229 yards on 35 carries to go along with three touchdowns, but he was nearly matched by his Miami counterpart Duke Johnson who finished with 177 yards from scrimmage.
However, it wouldn't be Miami vs. Nebraska without a few fireworks after whistle and that's exactly what we saw when there were two near bench-clearing brawls that involved the Husker defense and the Hurricane offense.
"I thought it got a little out of control," head coach Bo Pelini said. "I thought it could have been managed better. At the end of the day, there's going to be some of that. Two teams playing hard going after each other. But it got a little out of control there for a while."
"I like the fact that it meant a lot to our guys, obviously we don't want to lose our poise like that, especially when you are playing a classy program like Nebraska," Miami head coach Al Golden said. "So, I like the fact we stuck to it, the fact that they wanted to finish the game, but obviously the penalties-we can't have them."
After the two altercations, both teams left the field on Saturday without shaking hands as the Nebraska and Miami coaches made sure their players went immediately to the locker room.
You obviously don't want to see stuff like this, but the college football history buff in me loved it. This was the Miami all of us grew up watching. The Miami that taunted Nebraska and talked smack to the Huskers from 1983 to 2001.
That's why when Miami had the ball trailing 41-24 in the final minute of the fourth quarter all 91,585 people stayed in their seats. For years Husker fans were tormented and taunted by the Hurricane fans in Miami. For the first time since 1976 NU fans could torment Miami in Lincoln.
Nebraska fans don't forget, and many of them remember 1983, 1988, 1991 and 2001 - to finally get Miami in Lincoln made for a special night.
"We're 4-0. That's the important thing," linebacker David Santos said. "We're undefeated right now. It's conference play and the tempo has to pick up. It's Big Ten football now. We're on a mission obviously with the Big Ten Championship. We have to practice hard, play hard and prepare."
Now on to the post game grade out….
What I saw on Saturday
***When Abdullah came back for his senior season these are the type of nights we envisioned. This was far and away the most complete game of his career. Abdullah had 313 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
***This was one of the best atmospheres I've seen in Memorial Stadium in a long time. What was even more amazing is all 91,585 people stayed until the end cheering the defense on in the fourth quarter. My guess is after two near bench clearing brawls they wanted to stay around in case there was third.
***In general Miami came into this game wanting to get Nebraska in space and throw, throw, throw.
***Linebacker Josh Banderas had a rough day on Saturday. You could tell Miami was trying to get him into space with running back Duke Johnson and force him to tackle and cover. As the game moved on we saw Trevor Roach play more and he caused the fumble that Josh Mitchell returned for a touchdown.
***We saw Nebraska throw a defensive wrinkle on Saturday by mixing in some drop zone defense, which Pelini rarely does. The first time they went zone it nearly led to a pick-6 by cornerback Byerson Cockrell. When Joshua Kalu got his interception in the fourth quarter it also happened when NU switched to a zone.
***Nebraska's offense was so dominant at the end of the second quarter and the start of the third quarter that the defense went from 8:16 pm to 9:04 pm before they returned to the field in the third quarter. The Huskers ran 24 straight plays and scored 10 points before the Hurricanes got the ball back in the third quarter.
***Hat tip to linebacker David Santos, who arguably made the best play of his career by intercepting Kaaya as Miami was about to score a touchdown.
***Miami came into tonight's game ranked 115th nationally in kickoff return coverage. It makes sense why we saw Abdullah doing it for most of the night.
***It was a shame to see Nathan Gerry's interception overturned by the roughing the passing penalty. It was a great break on the ball and I expect to see many more plays like that over his career.
***One of the side stories on Saturday night was the New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez was walking around Lincoln and in the press box soaking up the game day atmosphere showing his support for the Hurricanes. Rodriguez spent a lot of the game on Saturday sitting in the Miami Athletic Director's box.
The final grades
Rushing offense: A+
Pelini is 17-0 in when Nebraska rushes for over 300 yards. The Huskers finished with 343 yards on 54 carries, including 229 from Abdullah and 96 from quarterback Tommy Armstrong. It was important the Huskers got what they did from Armstrong, because it forced the Hurricanes to respect him and Abdullah in the running game.
Passing offense: B
Nebraska only threw the ball four times in the second half. With the way Abdullah was running they really didn't need to throw. However, when they did early Armstrong found Kenny Bell for a 40 yard touchdown. It was a quiet night for Jordan Westerkamp as he only had one catch for 14 yards on two total targets. Armstrong gets downgraded for his interception, but was still an efficient 9-of-13 for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He also wasn't sacked on Saturday.
Rushing defense: B-
Miami running back Duke Johnson is as good as the Huskers will see all year. Johnson finished with 93 yards on 18 carries, but it was a quiet 93. The Hurricanes didn't really rely on the ground game, but the Huskers still did a decent job in slowing them down.
Passing defense: D+
The Huskers had a tough time with Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya. For a true freshman he was very impressive and definitely looked like a future NFL quarterback with some of the throws he made. Kaaya finished with a Miami true-freshman record 359 yards and was 28-of-42, but the Huskers were able to force two timely interceptions.
Special teams: A-
It was a pretty quiet night for special teams, as Sam Foltz's only punt of 49 yards was in the first quarter. Miami actually only punted twice, but De'Mornay Pierson-El was able to return one for 11 yards. Kicker Drew Brown was solid, connecting on both of his kicks from 19 and 39 yards. He also put three of seven kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks, but did kick one out of bounds. Miami's longest kick return of the night was only 24 yards. Abdullah gave the Huskers 81 yards on four kickoff returns.
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.