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Abdullah saves Nebraska from McNeese State scare

Sep 6, 2014 - 11:37 PM Lincoln, NE ( - Ameer Abdullah saved Nebraska from the ignominy of losing to an FCS program, as his scintillating 58-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left in regulation helped the 19th-ranked Cornhuskers escape with a 31-24 win over upset-minded McNeese State on Saturday.

McNeese State, ranked No. 7 in the FCS poll, was on the brink of pulling of a huge upset at Memorial Stadium and even pulled ahead for a brief moment late in the fourth quarter, only to have a penalty negate a go-ahead touchdown.

After settling for a tying field goal, the Cowboys got the ball back with 2:40 remaining but quickly went three-and-out.

Nebraska (2-0) took over at its own 38-yard line, and Abdullah, bottled up for the better part of first 59 minutes, took a short pass in the flat, cut past several defenders, bounced off three others and spun his way to daylight en route to the deciding touchdown.

Abdullah, a week after gaining 232 yards from scrimmage in last week's 55-7 thumping of Florida Atlantic, finished with 150 total yards with two scores.

Tommy Armstrong Jr. passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns and added 131 yards and a score on the ground for Nebraska, which has never lost to an FCS program.

"We were lucky to win that one," said head coach Bo Pelini, who recently opined he would like FCS opponents to be kept off the Cornhuskers' schedule going forward. "We were our own worst enemies multiple, multiple times in that football game."

Tyler Bolfing and Kansas State transfer Daniel Sams split time under center in the season opener for McNeese State (0-1) and combined for 160 passing yards.

Bolfing and Derrick Milton scored rushing touchdowns, while Aaron Sam returned an Armstrong interception for a score.

"I can't say enough about the effort of our players; for what our defense did in the second half in holding Nebraska in check," McNeese State head coach Matt Viator said. "We came up short, but I am really proud of the effort by our guys."

McNeese State showed it was no pushover early on, stuffing Abdullah for a loss on fourth down on the game's opening possession and countering with a 10-play, 47-yard scoring drive that ended in Milton running for a 9-yard touchdown.

Armstrong and Jordan Westerkamp hooked up for a 40-yard scoring strike to even things less than two minutes later, and Abdullah punched in a 2-yard touchdown run later in the opening quarter to give Nebraska its first lead.

Nebraska was on the doorstep of extending its lead early in the second quarter, but a bad pass by Armstrong was picked off by Sam and taken back the other way 98 yards with a sensational return.

The Cornhuskers responded with a 12-play, 82-yard drive but needed a fourth- down conversion from the 1-yard line to punch it over the goal line. Armstrong leaped over the line of scrimmage and reached the ball just across the plane.

A penalty negated a Nebraska touchdown late in the third quarter, and the Cornhuskers settled for Drew Brown's 31-yard field goal.

Sams highlighted a 12-play, 83-yard drive with a 26-yard run on fourth down that moved the Cowboys down to the goal line, and Bolfing took it in from there to pull the underdogs within three.

An illegal formation penalty took away a McNeese State touchdown with just over five minutes remaining, and Alex Kjellsten's 24-yard field goal made it a 24-24 game.

Game Notes

Nebraska beat the Cowboys, 38-14, the only other time these programs met in 2002 ... McNeese State held the ball for nearly 10 more minutes (34:52-25:08) ... Sams led the Cowboys in rushing with 74 yards.