Remember that day?
Nebraska players and their fans prefer to forget it. Gordon rushed for 408 yards, then an FBS record, as Wisconsin stomped the Cornhuskers 59-24. That performance propelled him to a runner-up finish in the Heisman Trophy balloting
On one good leg on that snowy afternoon in Madison, Abdullah mustered 69 yards on the ground in a performance representative of the anticlimactic finish to his record-setting career.
They met again at the NFL combine last month in Indianapolis, where both backs performed well enough to claim victory. The bigger Gordon ran a faster 40-yard dash (4.52 to 4.60), though Abdullah walked away with the best marks among an accomplished group at their position in the vertical leap, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
Abdullah appeared to improve his 40 time -- pending official results -- Thursday at Nebraska’s pro day.
When it was over, Abdullah, typically reserved, did not mince words. He said he believes he’s the best running back in this draft class. Gordon included.
“I’m not real worried about Melvin,” Abdullah said. “He has his own agenda. I have my own agenda.”
But Abdullah, training this spring in Dallas, said more.
“I don’t know what he’s doing," Abdullah said. "He doesn’t know what I’m doing. Obviously, we want to compete, but it’s more of a mental edge than anything. When you’re working and you’re tired, I say, ‘Well, Melvin’s still working harder than me, so I’ve gotta go harder.’”
Clearly they remain linked, a salivating thought for fans of Big Ten football, anxious to watch continued competition between the talented duo play out on a new stage.
Analysts rate Gordon as the better prospect, and how can you argue with 2,587 yards -- a career figure for many that Gordon accumulated in merely 13 games last fall?
But here’s what I know about Abdullah: He’s at his most dangerous as an underdog.
The large chip on his shoulder that Abdullah carried to Nebraska out of high school in Alabama, where SEC schools declined to recruit him as a running back, fueled his journey to become the first three-time 1,000-yard rusher in Huskers history.
The chip is back. I’ve rarely, if ever, heard Abdullah speak with more conviction than Thursday after his workout.
“Whatever team that takes me,” Abdullah said, “I’m going to be in shape and ready to go when I get there.”
Whether he knows it or not, Gordon is providing a bit of fuel for Abdullah’s drive toward the draft.
Around the rest of the Big Ten:
A spring preview of the conference by Athlon Sports.
A pair of Ohio State defensive backs make a list of the nation's best in the secondary.
Jim Tressel weighs in on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Makes sense that new Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle is a fan of Paul Chryst.
Penn State takes stock of its gains from winter conditioning.
An assessment of the Illinois quarterback situation.
More on the creative, viral song about Kirk Ferentz and Iowa football.