Abdullah rushed for 73 yards and added 40 receiving while leading the North to a 34-13 victory over the South on Saturday in the Senior Bowl, punctuating his college career in his home state.
"Being down here was much more than putting on a good performance for me," said Abdullah, a Homewood, Alabama, native who had a large group of family and friends on hand. "Leaving this state was something that was hard for me to do. You could write a movie about it, really, just coming back and playing on Alabama soil for my last time as a collegiate athlete. I couldn't paint a better picture.
"It was emotional for me. I grew up watching this game. This was a monumental day for me."The Cornhuskers' No. 2 career rusher won MVP honors in a game that showcases senior NFL prospects.
Abdullah made the most of his 11 touches, including four catches. He said being ready for quarterbacks to check down to the backs was emphasized.
"Obviously I'm a running back so I'm going to run the football but I wanted just to show that I had more than one dynamic to my game," Abdullah said.
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The top passers were Baylor's Bryce Petty of the North and Colorado State's Garrett Grayson on the South. Petty was 9 of 13 for 123 yards with an interception. Grayson completed 8 of 15 passes for 118 yards.Petty came in trying to demonstrate he could run a pro-style offense after operating a no-huddle attack in college. He is hoping his willingness to play in the game after just training since Jan. 6 made an impression.
"I took my lumps and bruises, which I knew was going to happen," Petty said. "I've still got a lot to prove. But experience-wise, this was great for me."
Utah's Nate Orchard, playing outside linebacker, was chosen as the North's most outstanding player. The Ted Hendricks Award winner as the nation's top defensive end had 1 1/2 tackles for loss.
"I had a chance to show my versatility throughout the week and it showed up on game day," Orchard said. "It was fun."
Two big defensive plays helped give the North a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter.
Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs picked off a pass from Southeastern Louisiana's Bryan Bennett, Marcus Mariota's one-time backup at Oregon, and raced 41 yards. Two plays later, Cobb scored for a 20-10 advantage.
Miami-Ohio's Quinten Rollins then intercepted another Bennett pass on the next drive. Division II Concordia-Saint Paul's Tom Obarski missed a field goal on the final play of the third quarter after hitting a 49-yarder earlier.
The game was played with two-minute warnings in each quarter, with a kickoff opening all four.
The rule gave the North the ball to start the fourth, and Yale's Tyler Varga ran for a 13-yard touchdown to put the game away. Varga added a 7-yard scoring run.
Miami cornerback Ladarius Gunter made a big defensive play to end the first half, one play after his pass interference penalty kept the North's drive alive. He stopped Abdullah near the goal line on a catch from Oregon State's Sean Mannion and the clock ran out.
Alabama quarterback Blake Sims nearly completed a touchdown pass to Sammie Coates of rival Auburn. Coates only managed to get one foot down and the game was played under NFL rules, which require two feet to touch in bounds. It left the two rivals at first celebrating and then arguing their case together with the official.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, who converted to cornerback after arriving in Mobile, had five tackles for the South, equaling the game high.