Ameer Abdullah rolled to a career rushing day and Taylor Martinez was nearly perfect through the air as Nebraska notched a 42-13 win over Arkansas State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 2-1 on the year with their second home win of the season. Playing in front of the NCAA-record 320th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium and an ESPN2 national television audience, the Husker offense amassed 527 total yards.
The Blackshirts held an Arkansas State offense to just half of the 574.5 yards it averaged entering the contest. The Red Wolves finished with 286 total yards , including 148 rushing and 138 passing. ASU completed just 16-of-32 attempts with one interception on the day. Nebraska's defense kept the Red Wolves out of the end zone on the afternoon, as ASU slipped to 1-2 with the loss.
Abdullah, a sophomore I-back from Homewood, Ala., rushed for a career-best 167 yards on a career-high 30 carries. He also scored two touchdowns for the Big Red while starting his second straight game in place of injured preseason All-America I-back Rex Burkhead.
While Abdullah carried the load for a Husker rushing attack that rolled up 347 yards on the ground, Martinez completed 13-of-14 passes for 180 yards and two more scores. His 92.9 completion percentage was a school record for passing with a minimum of 10 attempts. The junior quarterback from Corona, Calif., added 54 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for the Huskers.
Martinez connected three times with sophomore wide receiver Kenny Bell, including twice for touchdowns to pace the NU air attack. Both of Bell's touchdown grabs came in the first half, as did both of Abdullah's short scoring runs as the Huskers took a 28-3 lead to the locker room.
Although the Huskers took a comfortable lead to the locker room, halftime and the third quarter provided some anxious moments for Husker fans and players alike.
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini was taken to a Lincoln hospital for precautionary tests and did not return to Memorial Stadium. Pelini, who is in his fifth season at the helm of the Huskers, did release a statement following the game.
"Everything is fine. They ran some precautionary tests and everything checked out just fine. I plan to be back at work tomorrow. I’m proud of our team and coaching staff for the way they responded this afternoon.”
Nebraska's offense also took a jolt midway through the third quarter, when Martinez was sacked and fumbled inside the NU 15. The ball was recovered in the end zone by ASU's Qushaun Lee for a score to cut the Husker lead to 28-10 with 10:01 left in the quarter.
The offense responded by marching into scoring position on the next drive, only to suffer another Martinez fumble. The Blackshirts held on the ensuing ASU drive, but it was ruled that the subsequent punt hit Abdullah in the foot and was recovered by the Red Wolves at the NU 15. But the Blackshirts didn't give an inch and ASU kicker Brian Davis kicked a 32-yard field goal to send the Red Wolves to the fourth quarter trailing by just two scores at 28-13.
The fourth quarter was all Huskers, as running back Imani Cross scored his first touchdown on a two-yard blast with 12:50 left. Cross closed the day with seven carries for 66 yards. Martinez capped the day with an 18-yard touchdown run with 9:01 left to make the 42-13 margin.
Nebraska's offense operated with balance and efficiency in the first half, rolling up 278 total yards and four touchdowns to take a 28-3 lead into the locker room.
Martinez was perfect in the first half, completed all eight of his pass attempts for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran five times for 40 yards, including a 26-yard run midway through the second quarter that put the junior quarterback from Corona, Calif., over 2,000 rushing yards in his career.
Abdullah carried a career-high 17 times in the first half alone, leading the Huskers on the ground with 81 yards and both of his scores. Abdullah opened the scoring with a one-yard plunge just 5:05 into the game. Abdullah's run capped a nine-play, 51-yard drive that gave the Huskers a 7-0 lead.
Nebraska's defense slowed a high-powered Arkansas State offense throughout the first half, and the Husker offense capitalized. NU closed the quarter with a 14-0 edge after Martinez connected with Bell on a 42-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left.
The Blackshirts kept the Red Wolves out of the end zone again in the second quarter, but did surrender a 31-yard ASU field goal with 13:00 left in the half that cut Nebraska's lead to 14-3.
But the Husker offense responded with a six-play, 72-yard drive that culminated in Bell's 25-yard touchdown catch from Martinez. Bell's second touchdown reception of the day pushed NU's lead to 21-3 with 9:29 left in the half.
Nebraska took even more momentum to the locker room after Abdullah's two-yard scoring run capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:00 and extended the Husker halftime edge to 28-3.
Nebraska returns to Memorial Stadium next Saturday to play host to Idaho State. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. (central) with a national telecast by BTN.
Courtesy: Nebraska Media Relations