LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — In a game filled with big plays, Ameer Abdullah made the biggest.
The Nebraska freshman returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown after Fresno State made it a two-point game in the fourth quarter, and the 10th-ranked Cornhuskers went on to win 42-29 Saturday night.
"We had a couple previous kick returns that were almost there," Abdullah said. "So we perfected the blocks and wedge. Coach said I had to make a move and make a play. It was the turning point of the game."
Taylor Martinez turned in an uneven performance but came through when the Huskers (2-0) needed him most, breaking a 46-yard touchdown run on a third-and-3 that put the game away against a four-touchdown underdog.
"Every year you're going to have some games like this," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "You're going to have some games where you have to find a way, and we did. There were a couple times early in this football game where it had a chance to go south on us pretty quick, and I think we rose up."
With the cloud of a welfare fraud investigation hanging over the program, and retired basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian watching from the press box, the Bulldogs (0-2) made a strong run at their first win over a Top 10 opponent since 2001.
"Playing close is not what we try to do," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "I told them I was very, very proud of their performance. I have to give credit to Nebraska. They made a couple of big plays at the end. The kickoff return and the long option play, they made a couple of big plays when they had to."
Nebraska had six plays from scrimmage of at least 38 yards. Fresno State had five plays of at least 20 yards and a 67-yard punt return by Devon Wylie that opened the scoring.
Martinez ran 15 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 219 yards and another score. His 385 yards of total offense was the second-most of his career.
But he also fumbled twice, with the Huskers recovering both, and he threw two interceptions, though one was a desperation heave at the end of the half. He completed 10 of 21 passes, badly missing some of his receivers.
Fresno State led 17-14 at halftime and extended the lead to 20-14 early in the third quarter before Nebraska came back to win its 22nd straight game against a Western Athletic Conference opponent.
Asked what he told his team at halftime, Pelini said: "We're going to find out what this football team wants to be. Period."
Robbie Rouse ran 36 times for 169 yards and Derek Carr was 20 of 41 for 254 yards for the Bulldogs.
Carr threw incomplete to a well-covered A.J. Johnson on a 2-point try after his 26-yard TD pass to Josh Harper pulled the Bulldogs to 28-26 early in the fourth quarter.
Abdullah, who set a school record with 211 yards on five kick returns, then thwarted any momentum Fresno State might have generated.
He caught the kick 2 yards deep in the end zone, burst through the middle and then down the right sideline. Battling leg cramps, he cut back to the left inside the 10 and crossed the goal line as Davon Dunn brought him down to finish the fourth 100-yard kick return in program history.
"I had to get to the end zone," Abdullah said.
After Kevin Goessling's 38-yard field goal pulled Fresno State to 35-29 with 5:24 left, Rex Burkhead did some tough running between the tackles before Martinez broke free for the Huskers' last touchdown.
Hill has built his program on playing, and often beating, opponents from BCS conferences. The Bulldogs came to Lincoln having won seven of their last 11 against BCS schools but having lost 12 straight against opponents ranked in the Top 25.
Carr, brother of former Bulldogs star and 2002 No. 1 NFL draft pick David Carr, wasn't intimidated by Memorial Stadium's "Sea of Red," completing 20 of 41 passes for 254 yards.
The Bulldogs' young offensive line, which lost starting center Richard Helepiko last week, got dinged again early when starting left guard Matt Hunt left with what appeared to be an injury to his right foot.
Still, Nebraska's vaunted front four couldn't get much pressure on Carr as the Bulldogs had him move the pocket.
"That O-line, they battled their butts off the whole entire game for me," Carr said. "They let them hit me one time. Rouse, when he averages 5 yards a carry, it makes my job a lot easier opening up the passing game. I'm very proud of him. And our defense battled. They just made a couple more plays."