Ameer Abdullah suffers knee injury

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he's optimistic that Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah, who left with a knee injury in the first quarter Saturday against Purdue, will return after a bye week.

But it's not a sure thing.

The senior I-back suffered a mild MCL strain in his left knee while diving to recover a fumble by quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. on a fourth-down play near the goal line in the first quarter. Nebraska (No. 15 CFP, No. 17 AP) beat Purdue 35-14.

"I can't say for sure," Pelini said of Abdullah's potential availability at Wisconsin on Nov. 15. "I don't know that."

Abdullah, who entered the weekend as the nation's leading rusher, was fitted with a sleeve and returned after missing one possession. He was hit for a 5-yard loss on his lone carry and left the game for good.

Pelini said Abdullah underwent an MRI that revealed a minor strain.

He finished with six carries for 1 yard.

Nebraska's next game has been billed as a duel between two of the nation's top backs -- Abdullah and Wisconsin junior Melvin Gordon.

Junior Imani Cross and sophomore Terrell Newby replaced Abdullah, combining to rush for 108 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.

The victory over the Boilermakers moved Nebraska to 8-1 overall for the first time since 2010, and 4-1 in Big Ten play.

Pelini said the absence of Abdullah did not negatively impact the mindset of his offensive teammates, who struggled at times. Nebraska finished with 297 yards, a season low, including 179 on the ground.

"Ameer's a great player, but he's not Superman," Pelini said. "I don't think that affected other guys. If anything, it should make them want to rise up and play that much harder and rally around each other."