LINCOLN, Neb. – It was going to overtime: Nebraska and McNeese State.
The Cowboys owned the second half on Saturday. And when the 19th-ranked Huskers took possession with 1:14 to play at their 44-yard line, tied 24-24, and blitzing safety Dominique Hill sacked Tommy Armstrong Jr. to force a fumble that bounced to right guard Mike Moudy, Nebraska just needed to survive and regroup.
Time ticked away. Inside of 40 seconds, Armstrong lined up in the shotgun with Ameer Abdullah to his right. The sophomore quarterback, amid the chaos, yelled to the star I-back and team captain.
"Be ready," he said. "Expect the ball."
And then this happened:
Armstrong recognized a blanket of zone coverage on the outside. He kept his eyes forward. But in his mind, the QB locked in early on Abdullah -- the fourth option on this play -- and found the senior in the flat matched against 218-pound middle linebacker Bo Brown.
“Adrenaline takes over in those heated moments,” said Abdullah, the nation's top returning rusher from 2013.
The ball traveled 12 yards in the air and reached Abdullah at the Nebraska 44. He shook Brown as Hill collided with the linebacker.
“I was just trying to get to the end zone,” Abdullah said. “It’s a blur.”
Cornerback Gabe Hamner and defensive tackle Kevin Dorn converged on Abdullah. They lunged at him as safety Aaron Sam hit the running back squarely from the front at midfield. Abdullah bounced away from all three and sprang into open space.
“I saw a special player making a great play,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
“I was just trying not to get in his way,” said left guard Jake Cotton, one of several linemen to get downfield as Abdullah navigated traffic.
Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck said he figured if Abdullah got the ball in space, he could make a few guys miss.
"He made a few guys miss," Beck said.
"He’s our leader," Westerkamp said. "He brings it all the time. It’s great to have a guy with that attitude."
Abdullah reached the end zone with 20 seconds on the clock and secured a 31-24 win -- after 58 yards and 16 seconds of excitement.
"He put the team on his back and won the game," Pelini said. "Thank God for Ameer. He showed why he is who he is."