It happened four years ago during Paul James’ first year on the Rutgers practice squad, and never again.
“He took me off my feet before,” Kirksey said. “I never got taken off my feet until P.J. game and got me on the scout team. He could knock me over, Khas[eem Greene], everybody. He’s the most powerful running back I’ve ever faced.”
Facing the heralded Ameer Abdullah tomorrow at Nebraska, the elder statesman on the Scarlet Knights defensive line does not plan on letting that happen again. Kirksey said he draws on experience against other top running backs, including James and a high-school battle against Tennessee’s Marlin Lane.
“It helps a lot,” Kirksey said. “[Abdullah] is a great running back, but I don’t plan on anyone taking me off my feet.”
Abdullah enters kickoff with four touchdowns and 146 yards in a win last week over Northwestern.
Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) enters kickoff seven days after a blowout loss to Ohio State and 324 rushing yards allowed.
“As a defensive unit, I’d say we’re more motivated because we know what we can do, but we haven’t yet reached our full potential,” Kirksey said. “We’re not at our peak yet. We’ve just got to continue to keep grinding and getting better. It’s a great feeling to know we can bounce right back against another great team.”
Kirksey’s job begins with eating up space, and he expects to do so in Lincoln, Neb., he said.
Kirksey does not worry about individual statistics, but he does like a good backflip in the end zone after every victory. The 275-pounder hopes to display his gymnastic abilities to Husker fans, he said.
“Stop the run, that’s the main goal,” Kirksey said. “I have to do my job and play with high energy and dominate.”
On Abdullah -- “I think they have a real running back, one of the realest. He does the right things. I’m always amped up to play, but Nebraska is a big team to play and knowing that the running back is as highly skilled as he is, it’s just excites me. I’m ready and focused.”
On How to Slow Down Nebraska -- “He’s not getting passed the first level – that’s how we have to look at it. The defensive line can’t let him passed the first level. Make sure we do our jobs, and be very detailed in our executions and our assignments. We have to dominate the o-line. It starts up front.”
On learning from Ohio State loss -- “We knew what it takes when we got there. We’re young in the secondary. The d-line is the oldest, and we have to be better at focusing up. I wouldn’t say we put extra pressure on us because we’re a tight-knit unit. We’re always on each other. If I mess up, the cornerbacks will say something to me. I’ll say stuff too. We’re all working together.”