NCAA Football News
Ameer Abdullah doesn't want you to forget his name.
During the Nebraska Huskers first game of the 2014 season, the senior I-back made it clear that he's a force to be reckoned with. In doing so, he subsequently announced his Heisman candidacy.
It's not that anyone was really doubting that he wouldn't be great. Instead, fans were mostly curious if his numbers would be limited with the solid depth behind him. Abdullah made it clear that's not the case.
In fact, it's quite fitting that the very first play of the year was Abdullah rushing for eight yards. He didn't stop there.
By the end of the day, Abdullah racked up 232 yards on 21 attempts. He also had one touchdown. He's on his way to not only surpassing that 1,000-yard-season benchmark but also ending closer to a total of 2,000 yards.
That would make him a Heisman candidate, wouldn't it? According to Odds Shark, Abdullah currently has a 33-1 chance of winning. The running backs listed with greater odds at winning the coveted award are currently Alabama's T.J. Yeldon (20-1), Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (12-1) and Georgia's Todd Gurley (14-1).
It seems likely that Abdullah's odds may increase after his performance against Florida Atlantic, though. When it comes to his talent, Bo Pelini isn't shy regarding talking about what the I-back brings to the table.
"He's special. I've been saying that he's really good," Pelini said. "He can run inside; he can run outside. He's a special player. He's a really good back."
Pelini isn't the only one singing Abudllah's praises. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong was quick to say Abdullah's talent and potential reach far beyond his current rankings, both in the Big Ten and nationally:
[He wants to prove] that he is the best running back in the nation. I truly believe that. I believe they have him as the No. 1 or 2 back in the Big Ten. I just think he is taking that to heart and he is going out there and proving to everyone why he should be one of the contenders for one of the best running backs in the country.
From a perspective outside of the program, Florida Atlantic's head coach Charlie Partridge also saw just how special Abdullah is:
He is a tremendous back. He is a back that is going to break tackles against any defense in the country. Whether it is someone in the Big Ten or someone in Conference USA, it doesn’t matter.
He is one of the best backs in the country. At times he was certainly what I expected today, and that is what he has been here for several years now. He was a class player today.
After only one game, Abdullah is well on his way to gaining national attention. The senior boasted his 18th 100-yard rushing game for the Huskers. He was also only one yard shy of breaking the most yards gained in a season opener for Nebraska and is now only 120 yards shy of the top five on Nebraska's career-rushing list.
At this point, the sky is truly the limit for Abdullah. What the rest of the season holds has yet to be determined, but one thing does hold true.
Abdullah is ready to make his name known in the Heisman-candidacy race.
All quotes and player stats were obtained firsthand via the Huskers postgame press conference, unless otherwise noted.
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No. 6 Auburn entered the season with big aspirations after last year produced a national championship appearance. The team earned a 45-21 victory against Arkansas on Saturday, but it certainly didn't come easy out of the gate.
The Tigers offense looked different with Jeremy Johnson under center. The 6'5" sophomore padded his stats quickly, completing a short pass to Melvin Ray, who dodged a tackler, turned upfield and raced down the sideline for a 49-yard score.
Here's a look at the play that put Auburn up 7-0, via Auburn's Twitter account:
The Razorbacks didn't take long to respond.
Thanks to a punishing running game, Arkansas quickly marched down the field, and quarterback Brandon Allen capped off the drive by completing a 14-yard strike to Hunter Henry to even the score at seven.
Razorback Football enthusiastically followed along:
The even game soon shifted back into Auburn's favor. On the following drive, Johnson led his team 75 yards in six plays, and running back Cameron Artis-Payne plunged into the end zone from one yard out to finish it off.
Early in the second quarter, the Tigers kept up the pace. After starting on his own 2-yard line, Johnson marched down the field in just seven plays, completing a very impressive 98-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to D'haquille Williams.
Former Auburn running back Tre Mason chimed in:
Williams proved to be Johnson's go-to guy, as he compiled seven receptions for 138 yards and a score in the first half. Johnson showed his ability as a legitimate starting quarterback, completing 12 of his 16 attempts for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
In fact, Johnson's first-half performance was so impressive that he received plenty of praise from Twitter. Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow weighed in:
ESPN Stats and Info compared the signal-caller to a former Auburn quarterback who was also pretty darn good:
That led Bleacher Report's Benjamin Allbright to ask this question:
While Auburn was impressive on offense, Arkansas matched the sixth-ranked squad after two quarters of play.
Allen responded to a 14-point deficit by driving down the field and completing his second touchdown pass of the day—this one a 17-yard strike to AJ Derby. Later in the half, Arkansas got its running game going, as a long drive was capped off with a six-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Williams.
At the break, Allen's numbers looked solid. He completed nine of his 14 attempts for 116 yards and two touchdowns. ESPN SEC was singing his praises during the first half of the game:
The teams returned to action in the third quarter all knotted up at 21 with one big difference: Nick Marshall entered the game at quarterback for Auburn.
Marshall quickly displayed his dual-threat ability, completing all three of his passes and rushing for a 19-yard touchdown on his first drive of the game. College GameDay helped make his presence known:
Auburn's defense began to contribute later in the third quarter. Allen was hit in the backfield as he was releasing the ball, and it fell into the waiting arms of Jermaine Whitehead, who promptly turned upfield and completed the pick-six.
Here's a look at the play, via ESPN College Football:
Marshall continued at quarterback into the fourth quarter, but the Arkansas defense responded nicely to his ability to run. He didn't find much room on the ground, but things opened up for Artis-Payne, who helped lead the team down the field to put up a field goal and increase its lead to 17 with just less than 10 minutes remaining.
Auburn quickly shifted gears after the field goal, getting away from its uptempo offense in favor of a clock-killing ground attack. Artis-Payne continued to dominate the game late in the fourth quarter, twisting and turning for chunks of yards at a time.
Ryan Black of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer tweeted his thoughts on the running back's late-game heroics:
Artis-Payne paved the way for Corey Grant to clean up the drive with a nice three-yard touchdown scamper to put Auburn up by 24. That would turn out to be the team's final margin of victory.
Arkansas looks to be a far improved team from a year ago. The start to its opener in hostile territory is something to build upon. The Razorbacks have a great chance to get on track next week when they play their home opener against Nicholls State.
It appears as though Auburn is worthy of its No. 6 preseason ranking. This win puts the Tigers in great position in the SEC, and they have a great chance to keep their early momentum going next week against San Jose State.
However, one question must be asked: Who should start at quarterback for the Tigers going forward? A case could easily be made for both Johnson and Marshall. This will surely become a big storyline in the very near future.
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ATLANTA — So far, so good for new Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
The Crimson Tide survived a scare from West Virginia, topping the Mountaineers 33-23 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Kiffin's offense racked up 538 yards and 6.6 yards per play under the direcion of quarterback Blake Sims, who played the entire game as Florida State transfer Jake Coker stood with his helmet in hand on the sideline.
"You know, the guy's a really good coach now," head coach Nick Saban said. "You guys need to fess up to that. Most places that don't like him, it's because he left, and they were mad because he left. They weren't mad because of anything he did while he was there."
What were the five biggest takeaways in Kiffin's debut? Our list is in this slideshow.
After consecutive three-and-outs, Brian Kelly's hunch that his rebooted spread offense was ready to score points by the bushel looked like wishful preseason thinking.
The explosive run game? Went backwards on series one. That dynamic passing game? Golson looked slow to pull the trigger on series two.
But after trading punts early in Saturday afternoon's game, the Irish put their foot on the gas pedal and blew away Rice with 576 total yards in a 48-17 victory in rain-soaked Notre Dame Stadium.
After sitting out the 2013 season following a highly publicized academic transgression, Golson did his best to make up for lost time. The veteran quarterback produced five total touchdowns, throwing for two and running for three in the blowout victory.
"Obviously, the story was that Everett Golson was electric," Kelly said after the game.
Golson's three rushing touchdowns put him in elite company, joining Jarious Jackson and Heisman Trophy-winner Paul Hornung as the only Irish quarterbacks to run for three scores in a game. And to think, his 41 yards on 12 carries was fairly modest compared to the numbers he put up in the passing game.
Golson completed 14 of 22 throws for 295 yards and two touchdowns. The big play potential that Irish fans had hoped to see with Golson behind center was everything Kelly advertised, with Will Fuller scoring on a 75-yard bomb and C.J. Prosise scoring on a 53-yard heave. (Prosise dropped another 50-plus yard touchdown pass, the ball bouncing off his chest after an impressive scramble by Golson.)
"Golson's just an amazing, amazing quarterback," Rice head coach David Bailiff said after the game, comparing the quarterback he saw on the field Saturday to the one who played in 2012. "You can tell he’s matured. You can tell he’s studied the game."
That work off the field was probably what made Kelly the happiest. After playing with happy feet in the spring game and looking a little bit uncomfortable early Saturday, Golson showed complete mastery of the offense, able to keep things alive with his feet while looking downfield to attack.
"I was happy to see him have success," Kelly said. "He had a great confidence about him for the last four to five days, and he carried himself with a great deal of confidence...There's a confidence that he carries with him that is starting to emanate, and that's going to only get better and better as he gains confidence."
The same can be said for Golson's diverse set of weapons. Even without DaVaris Daniels, the receiving corps provided more than a few big plays. Fuller showcased the speed that makes him an elite vertical weapon while also making three catches on underneath balls.
Five different receivers made catches of 25 yards or longer. Senior tight end Ben Koyack got down the field. Slot receiver Amir Carlisle's 32-yarder looked natural after his transition from running back. Even with a fractured thumb, Corey Robinson got loose for a 25-yard catch.
That kind of pick-your-poison passing game makes it tough for opposing defenses to key in on any one receiver.
"I kind of alluded to it. I don't think we're going to have one particular guy eat up all the catches," Kelly said. "The identity of this team is that it's not one guy, it's going to spread all across the board."
That certainly applies to the ground game that was unleashed. Looking to find a balance for a three-headed depth chart, Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston each averaged over five yards a touch, with Bryant leading the way with 71 yards and a touchdown.
Add in 58 yards by Malik Zaire on his first collegiate snap, and the Irish ended up running for 281 yards on 42 carries, their best output since running all over Miami in 2012.
For one week, all seem happy in a crowded depth chart where everyone deserves playing time.
"We're trying to figure that out," Kelly said of his balance in the backfield. "We don't have an exact science, I wish I was that smart. We're really trying to figure out how to get them the carries they all deserve, but also keep them in the flow of the game."
Jumping out to a big lead is a good way to do that. Outside of Rice tying the game in the first quarter at 7-7, the Irish offense led the charge, scoring double-digit points in every quarter, possessing the ball for over 30 minutes while keeping remarkable balance with 281 yards rushing and 295 passing.
As the young Irish defense learns on the job, the Irish offense showed an ability to pace this team. After one impressive win, it looks like Notre Dame will finally play to the blueprint many expected when Kelly was hired to come to South Bend.
What a difference a quarterback makes.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.
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