Sep 20, 2014 11:45 PM
Abdullah key in No. 24 Neb's 41-31 win over Miami
The Associated Press
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Ameer Abdullah ran 35 times for 229 yards to lead a punishing ground game, and No. 24 Nebraska celebrated the 20th anniversary of its 1994 national championship team with an emotional 41-31 victory over Miami on Saturday night.
The Cornhuskers (4-0) will start Big Ten play next week off a performance that drew a Memorial Stadium record crowd of 91,585 that came to see a meeting of programs that combined for eight national titles from 1983 to 2001.
Miami (2-2) got within three points in the third quarter, but its five personal fouls in the second half helped the Huskers pull away. Only the coaches and team captains shook hands after the game. Fans booed as Miami left the field.
The Hurricanes have lost five straight and 11 of their last 12 on the road against ranked opponents since 2006.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. passed for 113 yards and two touchdowns and ran 13 times for 96 for Nebraska.
Miami's Brad Kaaya threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns but was intercepted twice, and Duke Johnson ran 18 times for 93 yards.
After Armstrong was intercepted in the third quarter, giving Miami a chance to tie or take the lead, cornerback Josh Mitchell ran back Johnson's fumble 57 yards for a touchdown to put Nebraska up 31-21.
Tempers flared after a roughing-the-passer penalty nullified Nate Geary's interception of Kaaya on Miami's next series. Players from both sides squared off, drawing offsetting personal fouls. Once the players separated, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini ran onto the field to argue with officials.
Another scrum broke out after Josh Kalu intercepted Kaaya in the fourth quarter, with Miami's Shane McDermott and Taylor Gadbois drawing personal fouls. When play resumed Tyriq McCord was called for a facemask on Abdullah, and Abdullah scored his third touchdown five plays later.
Offensive lineman Ereck Flowers' obscene gesture toward fans in the north end zone after Miami's last touchdown prompted the fifth personal foul against the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes came in allowing 2 yards per rushing attempt, but they hadn't faced a back nearly the caliber of Abdullah. He worked in harmony with Armstrong on tough-to-stop zone-read runs and even took snaps out of the wildcat formation a couple times while strengthening his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
Abdullah ran 35 times and also broke 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers' school record for all-purpose yardage. His 313 all-purpose yards were the second-most in a game for Nebraska, and it raised his career total to 5,762. Rodgers had 5,586.
Miami and Nebraska played for the first time since the Hurricanes' clinched their fifth, and most recent, national title in the 2002 Rose Bowl.
Before Saturday, their last five meetings had come in bowl games, and four of those times the winner was crowned national champion.
Even though the programs are now shells of their former selves, the history they share made this the Huskers' most anticipated non-conference home game since top-ranked Southern California visited in 2007. Suspended New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was on hand to cheer his hometown Hurricanes, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts came as a guest of Justice Clarence Thomas, who became an ardent Huskers fan after he married a Nebraskan.
Players from the '94 Nebraska team that beat Miami 24-17 in the Orange Bowl showed up in big numbers along with their coach, Tom Osborne, and members of his staff. The old players and coaches formed a gauntlet for the Huskers to run through as they came out of the tunnel before kickoff.