CFN Take: Nebraska Rallies Back To Beat Iowa

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 28, 2014


Nebraska Cornhuskers 2014 ... Head Coach: Bo Pelini

Nebraska Cornhuskers

2014 Schedule
2014 Record: 9-3

Aug. 30 Florida Atlantic W 55-7
Sep. 6 McNeese State W 31-24
Sep. 13 at Fresno State W 55-19
Sep. 20 Miami W 41-31
Sep. 27 Illinois W 45-14
Oct. 4 at Michigan St L 27-22
Oct. 11 OPEN DATE
Oct. 18 at Northwestern W 38-17
Oct. 25 Rutgers W 42-24
Nov. 1 Purdue W 35-14
Nov. 8 OPEN DATE
Nov. 15 at Wisconsin L 59-24
Nov. 22 Minnesota L 28-24
Nov. 29 at Iowa W 37-34 OT
Nov. 28 Nebraska 37, at Iowa 34 OT
And You Care Because … Nebraska tied it on a 20-yard field goal with eight seconds to play, Iowa took the lead in overtime on a 25-yard Marshall Koehn field goal, and the Huskers responded with a nine-yard Tommy Armstrong pass to Kenny Bell for the win. Down 24-7 late in the third, the Huskers roared back with Armstrong finding Bell on a 32-yard scoring pass and Taariq Allen for a 34-yard touchdown, but it was an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown from De’Mornay Pierson-El to take the lead in the fourth. Iowa took back the lead late on a five-yard Jordan Canzeri touchdown catch with 1:49 to play, but Nebraska marched back quickly to force the extra time.
What Else? Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 13 times for 106 yards, and caught two passes for 13 yards and a score
- Iowa QB Jake Rudock completed 19-of-38 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns with a pick
- Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong completed 12-of-27 passes for 202 yards and four scores with two picks, and ran 11 times for 31 yards
- Tim of possession: Iowa 37:36 – Nebraska 22:24
Game Rating: B+

Nov. 22 Minnesota 28, at Nebraska 24
And You Care Because … Minnesota set itself up for a showdown vs. Wisconsin for a chance at the Big Ten West title with a tough win over the Huskers. Mitch Leidner ran for two short scores, with his second touchdown from three yards out giving the Gophers the lead with 3:25 to play, but it was the defense that came through late. Briean Boddy-Calhoun stripped Nebraska WR De’Mornay Pierson-El before he was able to get into the end zone, and Minnesota ran out the clock. The Gophers lost RB David Cobb in the second half, but Donnell Kirkwood and Leidner handled the ground game, overcoming a 21-7 halftime lead to control the second half. Nebraska got up on an 18-yard score from Pierson-El and a blocked field goa for a touchdown, but Minnesota outscored the Huskers 21-3 after halftime.
What Else? Time of possession: Minnesota 35:03 – Nebraska 24:57
- Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 8-of-17 passes for 135 yards, and ran 22 times for 110 yards and two scores
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullar ran 20 times for 98 yards and a score
- Minnesota RB David Cobb ran 15 times for 80 yards and a score
Game Rating: B+

Nov. 15 at Wisconsin 59, Nebraska 24
And You Care Because … Melvin Gordon set the NCAA single-game rushing record with 408 yards and four rushing touchdowns, but it took Wisconsin a little while to get rolling. Mistakes – including Gordon fumbles – led to a 17-3 Nebraska lead as Tommy Armstrong found Kenny Bell for a 12-yard touchdown and ran for a five-yard score, and then it was all Badgers as they scored 56 straight points highlighted by Gordon runs from 62, one, six and 26 yards out. Corey Clement and Tanner McEvoy added touchdown runs, and Sam Arneson caught a five-yard scoring pass, while the Wisconsin defense stopped the Husker offense time and again.
What Else? Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon ran 25 times for 408 yards and four touchdowns
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 18 times for 69 yards, and caught one pass for 26 yards
- Total yards: Wisconsin 627 – Nebraska 180
- Turnovers: Nebraska 5 – Wisconsin 4
Game Rating:
B
Nov. 1 at Nebraska 35, Purdue 14
And You Care Because … With Ameer Abdullah out with a knee injury that reportedly wasn’t serious, Imani Cross took over the ground game with two short scoring runs to go along with a 29-yard Tommy Armstrong Jr. scoring dash and a 17-yard pass to De’Mornay Pierson-El on the way to a 28-7 lead. Purdue tied it at seven on a 25-yard Austin Appleby run, and made it interesting in the fourth on a 23-yard Cameron Posey catch, but the Huskers turned a turnover into a seven-yard Terrell Newby run to put it away.
What Else? Nebraska RB Imani Cross ran 20 times for 66 yards and two touchdowns
- Purdue QB Austin Appleby completed 18-of-46 passes for 216 yards and a score with two interceptions, and ran seven times for 23 yards and a touchdown
- Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed 8-of-21 passes for 118 yards and a score with two interceptions, and ran 13 times for a team-high 70 yards and a score
- Third down conversions: Nebraska 4-of-14 (2-of-3 on fourth) – Purdue 2-of-16 (1-of-6 on fourth)
Game Rating: C-

Oct. 25 at Nebraska 42, Rutgers 24
And You Care Because … Ameer Abdullah set a school record for all-purpose yards in a game tearing off touchdown runs from 53 and 48 yards out in the second quarter and adding a 23-yard scoring dash in the fourth as Nebraska won in a route. Rutgers tied it in the first on a 71-yard Leonte Caroo touchdown catch, but the O didn’t get back into the end zone until late in the third getting short touchdown runs from Desmon Peoples and Robert Martin after the game was out of reach. Tommy Armstrong Jr. ran for a 16-yard score and threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Westerkamp for the Huskers.
What Else? Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 19 times for 225 yards and three touchdowns, caught two passes for 26 yards, and returned two kickoffs for 90 yards
- Rutgers QB Gary Nova completed 8-of-19 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Nebraska LB Zaire Anderson made 11 tackles with a tackle for loss and a broken up pass
- Third down conversions: Nebraska 8-of-13 – Rutgers 4-of-12
Game Rating: C+

Oct. 18 Nebraska 38, at Northwestern 17
And You Care Because … Ameer Abdullah broke the game open in the second half with three one-yard touchdown runs after running for another one-yard score in the second. Northwestern RB Justin Jackson ran for touchdowns from two and five yards out, but couldn’t get into the end zone the rest of the way. Down 17-14 after the Wildcats got a 29-yard field goal late in the first half, Nebraska scored 24 unanswered points.
What Else? Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 23 times for 146 yards and four touchdowns, and caught four passes for 13 yards
- Northwestern RB Justin Jackson ran 22 times for 128 yards and two scores
- Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong completed 18-of-29 passes for 221 yards, and ran ten times for 55 yards
- Total yards: Nebraska 471 – Northwestern 290
Game Rating: C+

Oct. 4 at Michigan State 27, Nebraska 22
And You Care Because … Michigan State was cruising right along, but Nebraska fought back hard and had a chance for the win, but a late pass misfired into the end zone and Trae Waynes sealed the victory for the Spartans with a pick. MSU got up 27-3 by shutting down the Husker ground game and getting by plays from Tony Lippett on a 55-yard touchdown pass and a 32-yard scoring run, along with a 31-yard touchdown dash from Jeremy Langford, but Nebraska woke up in the fourth quarter. Ameer Abdullah ran for two short scores, and De’Mornay Pierson-El made it a five point game with a punt return for a touchdown with just over three minutes to play. The Spartans got the onside kick, but missed a field goal to give the Huskers one final shot.
What Else? Michigan State QB Connor Cook completed 11-of-29 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown with an interception
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 24 times for 45 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 22 yards
- Michigan State WR Tony Lippett caught three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, and ran one time for a 32-yard score, and Jeremy Langford ran 29 times for 111 yards and a score
- Nebraska LB Trevor Roach made 18 tackles with four tackles for loss
Game Rating: B

Sept. 27 at Nebraska 45, Illinois 14
And You Care Because … Ameer Abdullah ran for three touchdowns starting out with a 12-yard score in the first, and adding runs from eight and two yards out as part of a 21-point second quarter scoring run capped off by a Kenny Bell caught a 63-yard touchdown. Illinois was without QB Wes Lunt, who was out with a leg injury. Reilly O’Toole hit Geronimo Allison for a 58-yard touchdown, but the Huskers scored 21 unanswered points and held the Illini off the board in the second half. Josh Ferguson ran for a 41-yard score for the Illini.
What Else? Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 22 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns
- Illinois QB Reilly O’Toole completed 17-of-38 passes for 261 yards and a score with three interceptions
- Rushing yards: Nebraska 458 and 5 touchdowns – Illinois 78 and one score
- Time of possession: Nebraska 39:36 – Illinois 20:24
Game Rating: C+

Sept. 20 at Nebraska 41, Miami 31
And You Care Because … In a chippy game, Nebraska overcame a 14-7 deficit with 17 straight points helped by Ameer Abdullah touchdown runs from three and six yards out, but it took a Josh Mitchell 57-yard return of a Duke Johnson fumble for a touchdown to finally allow the Huskers to pull away. A ten-yard Abdullah touchdown run in the fourth put it away.
What Else? Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 35 times for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a three-yard pass for a score.
- Miami RB Duke Johnson ran 18 times for 93 yards and a score, and led the team with 84 receiving yards on five catches
- Miami QB Brad Kaaya completed 28-of-42 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns with two picks
- Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong completed 9-of-13 passes for 113 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran 13 times for 96 yards
Game Rating: B

Sept. 13 Nebraska 55, at Fresno State 19
And You Care Because … Nebraska hit two home runs right away on a 70-yard pass play to Jordan Westerkamp and a 57-yard Ameer Abdullah touchdown run within the first three minutes, and got up 34-5 before Fresno State finally got into the end zone on a 66-yard Brian Burrell touchdown dash. De’Mornay Pierson-El added an 86-yard punt return for a score and Imani Cross rolled up a 62-yard scoring dash in the blowout.
What Else? Nebraska cranked up 282 passing yards and 280 on the ground.
- Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 30-of-59 passes for 241 yards and a score, and ran nine times for 59 yards with a 66-yard score.
- The Huskers came up with four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 19 times for 110 yards and a score.
Game Rating: D

Sept. 6 at Nebraska 31, McNeese State 24
And You Care Because … Nebraska was in a fight all game long, but Ameer Abdullah saved the day taking a Tommy Armstrong pass 58 yards for a score with 20 seconds to play. The Huskers appeared to be cruising with a 24-14 lead in the fourth, but McNeese State went on two long scoring drives to tie it at 24 before Abdullah’s heroics.
What Else? The Nebraska lines didn’t dominate. McNeese State only came up with a sack, but it was great at getting behind line. Call this an unfocused effort all the way around – there’s no reason to worry unless next week’s game at Fresno State is rocky.
- Tommy Armstrong had a rocky day, completing 16-of-31 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns with a 98-yard pick six from McNeese State’s Aaron Sam. However, he ran 11 times for 131 yards and a touchdown.
- Everyone will remember Abdullah’s big play, but he was bottled up all game long, running for just 54 yards and a score on 17 carries.
- There were too many plays made at the second and third level, but safety Nate Garry did a little to get behind the line, too, finishing with 13 tackles with two tackles for loss and a broken up pass.
Game Rating: A-

Aug. 30 at Nebraska 55, Florida Atlantic 7
And You Care Because … Ameer Abdullah ripped off 232 yards with a 47-yard touchdown dash, and the Nebraska offense cranked out a school-record 782 yards in the blowout. FAU tied the game at seven in the first quarter on a 20-yard Lucky Whitehead touchdown catch, but then it was all Huskers the rest of the way in a devastating performance. Terrell Newby ran for two touchdowns and Tommy Armstrong threw two scoring passes and ran for another.
What Else? You don’t think one Pelini brother is providing a little bit of payback for another Pelini brother? Bo didn’t exactly take it easy on his brother Carl’s old team.
- Ameer Abdullah put up a huge day with 232 yards and a score on 21 carries, and Terrell Newby came up with 16 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
- There wasn’t much of a Husker pass rush, but the D came up with nine tackles for loss. FAU didn’t generate a sack or a tackle for loss – the Husker O line did its job.
- FAU got an okay day from RB Jay Warren – he ran 14 times for 77 yards averaging 5.5 yards per carry – but the Owls ran into a buzzsaw. They weren’t able to get anything going after the first quarter.
Game Rating: D

2014 Preview 

What’s your problem with Bo Pelini?

He’s always on the hot seat, Nebraska fans are always grouchy about him for one reason or another, and it always seems like he’s one bad loss away from getting canned, but this isn’t 1985 anymore. The days of relying on a walk-on program, bringing in a few national recruits, and then rolling through an awful schedule before losing to Oklahoma at the end of the year are over. Considering the landscape of college football at the moment, Pelini is doing a fantastic job.

Nebraska is in a tough spot – and I don’t mean Lincoln. Actually, I sort of do.

Jimbo Fisher was able to reload Florida State with recruits within a short drive from the greater Tallahassee metropolitan area. Bob Stoops had Texas to mine from when he rebuilt Oklahoma, and Nick Saban didn’t have to look far to get players to bring Alabama back to glory. But the Huskers have to cast a wider net and have to work a little harder, especially considering they don’t rely on a specific offensive style that requires just a few key parts to work behind the cultivated linemen.

Now, Nebraska is trying to work its way through a world with stronger recruiting on a national scale, and with a brand name that doesn’t mean now what it did ten years ago considering many players on the current roster weren’t alive yet when Tommy Frazier was bringing home banners.

And yet, on a relative island in terms of recruiting base, and with everyone going for the same talented players harder and smarter than ever, Pelini’s ability to win nine games or more in each of his first six seasons is actually a terrific feat.

How many other coaches from BCS leagues won nine or more games in their first six years? Eight, including Steve Spurrier, Barry Switzer, Mack Brown, and Tom Osborne. Speaking of aging superpowers, you don’t think Michigan fans would be a wee bit happier with six straight nine-plus win campaigns?

Last season, Nebraska lost its star starting quarterback and still finished second behind Michigan State in the Legends division – not exactly anything to get in a twist over – making it just the second time that a Pelini team hasn’t won at least a share of a division title. He broke a bowl slide with a good win over a beat up Georgia team in the Gator Bowl – remember, there was a stretch during the late 1980s into the early 1990s when you couldn’t have a bowl season without a Nebraska loss under Osborne – and now he comes into the 2014 season a bit more solidified on the job front and with a potentially terrific team ready to bring home yet another season with nine or more wins.

But will that be enough?

There are depth issues on the defensive front, the linebacking corps could be a bit sketchy, and the secondary was dinged a bit this offseason, but it’s still a sound group with enough talent to be sound and solid.

The offense could be tremendous with one of the best groups of running backs in America and an improved line that could quietly become a major strength.

So now it’ll be up to Pelini to put it all together and win the new Big Ten West and at least get to the Big Ten championship. And if he doesn’t, the Husker nation will have to once again settle for a really, really good year that most programs would kill for.

What to watch for on offense: Nebraska has boasted some impressive running games over the many, many years, but this year’s backfield has the potential to be among the strongest in a long time. There isn’t a Mike Rozier or an Ahman Green, but Ameer Abdullah is about to go from being one of the nation’s most underappreciated backs to a weekly star. However, he’s not going to need to carry the entire load with Imani Cross and Terrell Newby two terrific options able add more than five yards per dash. Tommy Armstrong Jr. might not be electrifying like Taylor Martinez was, but he run a little bit, too. Considering the O line has the potential to be terrific with Colorado transfer Alex Lewis filling in a missing piece, the Huskers should be far closer to the 3,547-yard rushing year of 2012 than the 2,804-yard campaign of last season.

What to watch for on defense: The back seven has to come up with a sound, solid starting lineup and let the pieces fall into place. This might not be a vintage killer of a Nebraska D, but it has the potential to be good as long as the right starting 11 is figured out in a hurry. The line will turn out to be outstanding as long as Randy Gregory is healthy and sitting on quarterbacks’ heads again, and now the linebacking corps has to take all the parts and make them fit while hoping for the secondary to mature in a hurry. Zaire Anderson, Michael Rose and David Santos are good veterans who made lots of tackles, and now they have to make a bigger impact. Corey Cooper is a terrific tackling safety, but it’s going to take a little time to reload without Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans.

The team will be far better if… the offense stops giving up fumbles and the defense starts to force them. Turnover margin was a big, big problem for the Huskers with the defense coming up with just four recovered fumbles on the season and with just three of the 14 interceptions coming in the final seven games. Meanwhile, the 13 interceptions thrown weren’t all that bad considering eight came in a three-game midseason stretch, and the Huskers won two of them, but fumbling continues to be an issue with 16 lost on the season after giving up 22 in 2012. The Huskers were -16 in turnover margin over the final eight games or the year after being +5 in the first five games.

The Schedule: The Huskers might have a dangerous-looking game at Fresno State, but this isn’t the same Fresno State team of last year. After opening up with tune-ups against Florida Atlantic and McNeese State, Nebraska has to rebound from the trip to Fresno and be ready for a national spotlight game with Miami. Win that, and it’s almost certainly 5-0 after opening up the Big Ten season with Illinois. And then comes the fun.

The schedule isn’t that bad overall, but going to Michigan State as the tail end of a six-game start to the season without a break stinks. Getting the week off before going to Northwestern will help, and then home games against Rutgers and Purdue should boost the record before getting another week off to prepare for the West showdown at Wisconsin. Closing out with Minnesota and a trip to Iowa isn’t that bad.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Ameer Abdullah. You’d think a Nebraska running back who ran followed up a 1,137-yard season with 1,690 yards would be on everyone’s Heisman short list, but he’s not there quite yet. It might not be a bad thing for the Huskers if he doesn’t come up with the same stats considering his 5-9, 190-pound body isn’t really built to handle the ball 300 times a year, and he won’t have to with all of the depth in the backfield. However, he’s a proven workhorse with a terrific combination of toughness and pop.

Best defensive player: Junior DE Randy Gregory. Consider this a yearlong audition for the kids at the next level. With a great frame, an outstanding burst, and the ability to seemingly get into the backfield any time he wants to, he’s going to be someone’s pure pass rushing end and it’s probably going to take a top 15 pick to do it. It’s a good Nebraska line, but it’s not necessarily a great one. The perception might be different if Gregory has another monster season.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. The plus side to Taylor Martinez not being able to go for most of last season was the time Armstrong got in a rotation with Rob Kellogg III. However, Armstrong ended up starting eight games and now he should be ready to be the dual-threat option to help do a little of everything. The key will be not just his performance, but his health. Sophomore Ryker Fyfe, redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton and freshman Zack Darlington are all talented and promising, but if any quarterback other than Armstrong is seeing meaningful time, there will be problems.

The season will be a success if ... the Huskers get to the Big Ten championship game. Nebraska is probably the league’s third or fourth best team, but most of the big boys are in the East. Considering Wisconsin’s relatively easy schedule, a ten win regular season for Nebraska might not get it done if one of the two losses is against the Badgers. Considering the road games at Michigan State and Iowa, just getting to Indianapolis for a 13th game would be excellent.

Key game: Nov. 15 at Wisconsin. Get ready for the start of a big-time rivalry in the West. The Huskers came back to stun the Badgers in Lincoln in 2012, but the 70-31 rematch in the Big Ten championship was more than just a little bit of payback. This time around, the winner will at the very least have the inside track to taking the division and going off to Indy.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Fumbles: Nebraska 32 (lost 16) – Opponents 18 (lost 4)
- Punt Return Average: Opponents 8.1 – Nebraska 3.0
- Sacks: Nebraska 39 for 270 yards – Opponents 17 for 140 yards
 
- 2014 Nebraska Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players


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