Nebraska tailback Ameer Abdullah finished off a strong junior season Wednesday by rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown on a wet, muddy field as the Huskers held off Georgia in the Gator Bowl, 24-19.
Abdullah too often is overlooked when the nation's top tailbacks are mentioned. While he has had fumbling issues, he also has been ultra-productive. He finished this season with 1,690 yards -- fourth-most in school history -- and Wednesday's performance was his 11th 100-yard performance of the season. In addition, he was the definite focal point of the Huskers' offensive effort in the Gator Bowl; Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed just six passes, though two did go for touchdowns.
Abdullah is just the fourth back in Nebraska's storied history to rush for 1,600 yards; Mike Rozier did it twice, and Ahman Green and Lawrence Phillips each did it once; Rozier and Phillips were first-round picks, and Green -- the leading rusher in Green Bay Packers history -- was a third-round pick. Abdullah, who is from Homewood, Ala., a Birmingham suburb, has 16 career 100-yard games; that's tied for fourth-most in school history, 10 behind Rozier's school-record and four behind Green, who is second in school history.
Abdullah should be the definite focal point of the Huskers' offense next season, as well. The offensive line will be a concern, but Abdullah and wide receiver Kenny Bell give coach Bo Pelini and his staff two solid offensive building blocks.
Abdullah outdueled Georgia sophomore Todd Gurley in the tailback battle. Gurley missed three games this season with an ankle injury, and even when he returned, he didn't look 100 percent. He didn't look 100 percent Wednesday, either, and the rainy conditions looked to further hamper him. Gurley finished with 86 yards on 21 carries, and he also had 97 yards and a TD on seven receptions. He should head into next season as perhaps the SEC's most talented offensive player and a top-10 Heisman candidate.
Gurley's scoring reception was Georgia's only touchdown of the day; the Bulldogs bogged down all day in the red zone, perhaps not surprising considering junior quarterback Hutson Mason was making just his second career start in place of injured four-year starter Aaron Murray. Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan made four field goals, and the longest was from 39 yards.
Mason did throw for 320 yards, with a TD on a screen pass to Gurley and a pick. Mason rallied Georgia to a win at Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale but wasn't helped by his receivers Wednesday. Senior tight end Arthur Lynch, who will be a Senior Bowl participant, dropped two passes, including an eminently catchable ball on a fourth-and-3 from Nebraska's 16 with 25 seconds left. Senior wide receiver Rantavious Wooten also dropped what would've been a first-down pass inside Nebraska's 15 with 4:42 left in the game.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.