Florida Atlantic vs. Nebraska, 8.30.14

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) looks up field as running back Ameer Abdullah (8) stays on his wing for a possible pitch in second-quarter action at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014.

As one of Nebraska's captains, Ameer Abdullah plans to keep teammates focused this week on a game in which the Huskers are heavily favored to win.

So, slackers beware.

"You should never take an opponent lightly," the senior running back said Monday. "We're not a good enough team to do that. We have a lot to improve on."

Nebraska (1-0) comes off a 55-7 throttling of Florida Atlantic and now prepares to square off Saturday against McNeese State (0-0). The Cowboys are ranked ninth in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Hearing "FCS" literally scares him, Abdullah said, because of the connotations that typically apply when FCS teams are matched against programs from the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"McNeese State is a really good team," he said. "I saw them play a couple times on TV last year, and they're really athletic — really fast side-to-side."

Plus, McNeese State "has nothing to lose. I know they're going to pull out every stop to beat us. It's just a matter of staying focused on what we have to do throughout the week to get better."

Nebraska racked up 784 yards last week, the most by a Husker team in 23 years. Abdullah rushed 21 times for 232 yards, and Monday was named Big Ten offensive player of the week.

"It could be much more efficient," he said of the offense. "Obviously, we had a pretty good day. But watching the film, we had a lot of mistakes."

He mentioned players' "false steps," as an example.

"One step in the wrong way can really throw off a whole play," he said. "And as we get into the thick of our schedule, we're going to need to be much more efficient with our steps, much more crisp, because opponents will be much better than Florida Atlantic."

* FOOTWORK: In its first two series against FAU, Nebraska's offense was called for five penalties, including two holding calls and a block in the back.

"You have to play with your feet, not with your hands," Abdullah said. "In pretty much every sport, it's good to play with your feet. Anytime you're not running your feet, you're liable for a holding call. ... Like I said, it's just technical things."

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* SPECIAL ROLE: Abdullah said he lined up as a punt blocker several times Saturday before he left the game in the third quarter.

On one occasion, "I got through and thought I was going to block it, but they held me," he said. "The officials didn't see it."

He said it was a learning experience. As a newbie at the position, he needs to improve technically, he said.

"I want to block a punt this year," he said. "I'm destined to do that. Hopefully, this is the week."

* NUMBERS GAME: Nebraska backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe, a sophomore from Grand Island, informed reporters Saturday he had been put on scholarship.

Pelini said it's by design that he tends to play down the subject of who gets put on scholarship "because there are a lot of other guys who are probably deserving as well, so I have a hard time making that distinction. Ryker went on (scholarship) because he's a clear No. 2 and has played well.

"But unfortunately for us, we only have 85 (scholarships) to play with. That can be difficult at times. ... That's why I've kind of backed off on making those announcements."

* INJURY REPORT: Pelini said junior right tackle Zach Sterup will return to practice Tuesday after sitting out several days, including Saturday's win, with a leg injury. Meanwhile, receivers Sam Burtch (head injury) and Brandon Reilly (hamstring) remain day-to-day, Pelini said.

Joe Keels, a backup defensive end, has been slowed by an ankle injury.

"It's probably the first time in weeks that he feels like he's 100 percent," Pelini said.

* SPECIAL-TEAMS CHANGES?: Pelini glossed over the topic, and nobody pressed him on it, but he said, "You'll be seeing some new guys, some shuffling around, especially in the special-teams area."

— Steven M. Sipple

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.​


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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