Nebraska looks for big program win over MSU

Nebraska looks to improve to 6-0 for the first time since the early 2000s when they square off against No. 10 Michigan State this weekend.

LINCOLN, Neb. - For the second straight week and third time this year, Nebraska senior running back Ameer Abdullah was named the Big Ten conference’s Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.

In a 45-14 win over Illinois, Abdullah had 22 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns – sitting out the entire fourth quarter.

“I like everything I see from Ameer,” said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini after the win on Saturday. “He's a pretty special player. I mean he got hit in the knee and got a little bruise. We felt the game was in hand. Obviously we have a lot of good running backs. So we pulled the plug on him early in the third quarter and I thought that was the right thing to do."

Abdullah is now the nation’s leading rusher with 833 yard on the season. He’s currently running at a 7.3 yards per carry pace, finding the end zone eight times on the ground. The senior entered the year needing close to 1800 yards to become Nebraska's all-time career rusher, if he continues at the pace he's on, it could happen.

"I hope we’re saying the same thing in week 10, 11 and 12. I don’t know how it’s going to go, but I can tell you one thing. Right now he is playing at an extremely high level," Pelini said on Monday. "He feels fresh and feels good. That’s a positive for us. If you keep blocking well for him up front, he’s a hard guy to deal with. He can’t do it by himself. He’s a great player I think. Not good, but a great player. But you’ve got to play great around him to give him an opportunity.”

Abdullah’s biggest test of the season could be very close on the horizon. Nebraska will travel to No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday and currently the Spartans are No. 6 in the country in stopping the run.

While so many running backs over the years have struggled to get anything go against Michigan State, Abdullah has, rushing for 123 yards last season in a loss and for 110 on the road in 2012. Another 100-yard performance against Sparty might be just what Abdullah’s Heisman candidacy needs.

The senior running back was also named Athlon Sports Big Ten Player of the Week and the College Football Performance Awards Running Back of the Week.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Attention turns to Spartans:

The decision to have both in separate divisions will likely squash any talk of a rivalry for years to come, but when Nebraska and Michigan State have met up the last three years, it has been entertaining football. The two teams have actually only played eight times, with the Huskers holding the 7-1 advantage.

When digging deep, the teams closely mirror each other when it comes to how the programs are run.

“I have a lot of respect for them. I’ve known Coach (Mark) Dantonio and other guys on that staff for a long time," said Pelini. "They do a heckuva job. Do things the right way. Really Michigan State as a whole, I have a lot of respect for their AD and their whole athletic program. I think they do it the right way. There’s a lot of integrity there. I think they do it the right way.”

The Huskers will head to East Lansing anywhere from an eight to nine point underdog - it’s not the first time they haven’t been favored in this series.

Last season, an underdog at home, Nebraska committed five turnovers --three unforced -- to lose 41-28 to hands of the Spartans. When they weren’t turning over the football, Nebraska looked quite good on both offense and defense, but ultimately gave Michigan State too many short-field situations.

”We have to play cleaner,” said Pelini. “What happened, happened. You can look at it two ways. We gave it to them, or from their standpoint, they took it. Whatever they did to create takeaways, we have to get it fixed. It’s going to be hard to win a football game when you turn it over five times.

“I don’t want to take away, saying we should have won the football game. That’s looking back and it’s sort of a cop out. That’s not giving Michigan State credit for winning the football game.”

A win this weekend, would be Nebraska’s first over a top 10 opponent on the road since 1997. Nebraska went undefeated that season and won a National Championship.

“It’s important because I want to go 6-0. Historically, it doesn’t really mean that much to me,” said Pelini. “This is about this team and what we are trying to accomplish. Obviously it’s extremely important, but every game we play is going to be. I’m not going to make anymore of it then it already is.”

A win doesn’t mean a title for Nebraska, but it would ultimately put them in the drivers seat perception wise to represent the Big Ten in the four-team playoff.

Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on ABC.

MSU QB Connor Cook looks to get the ball out his hands before he meets Nebraska DE Randy Gregory. (Stewart Photography)

Harvey’s press-conference donuts to note:

* Linebacker David Santos sounds as if he’s questionable this week with a knee injury. Santos didn’t play last week after hurting the right knee against Miami. Big Red Report sources had indicated it was a two to three week injury.

* It appears Abdullah, cornerback Josh Mitchell, and wide receiver Taariq Allen will all be able to go this weekend after being injured against Illinois. Abdullah’s was just a bruise and it was a pre-cautionary measure to get him extra rest.

Blur Parties

* Nebraska redshirt freshman running back Adam Taylor will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle that he suffered in the preseason. Taylor was spotted on Saturday still in a boot and on crutches. It is believed by Big Red Report he will be a solid candidate to get a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.

* Michigan State has been known for trick plays over the years, including a fake field goal last season against the Huskers. “You have to be aware,” said Pelini. “You hope the guys react the right way.”

* This is a homecoming game for Nebraska starting cornerback Daniel Davie, who grew up in Michigan before moving to Beatrice when he was 15. Davie admits he was a Michigan Wolverines football fan growing up, but cheered for the Spartans in basketball. He’s looking for about 25 to 30 tickets on Saturday. “It’s a huge week," said Davie. "For me personally, just being in front of my family and friends and a lot of people I don’t get to see very often get to see me play. I’m very excited for that.”

* Nebraska has seen so many teams blitz them the first five games of the year, it will be nice to likely see a Big Ten squad who plays a little more base defense. "Just so much blitz," said Nebraska senior offensive lineman Jake Cotton. "It says a lot I think about what they think you can do."

Last but not least, you remember this quote after Nebraska’s loss to the Spartans last season?

“We've run the football on them for three years. They're a quality football team, but we've run the football on them before, and we'll run it on them again.” – Bo Pelini

Nebraska fans hope so.

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