The Nebraska Cornhuskers offense has found their identity.
Since UCLA, Nebraska's offense has appeared jumbled. The "scoring explosion" fans expected preseason has struggled more than excelled.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck received a fair amount of flack for his play-calling versus UCLA. It was slightly improved against South Dakota State, but it all still felt a little off.
The bye week turned out to be just what the Huskers needed.
Against Illinois, Nebraska and Beck's play-calling finally fell into place. Aided by the Illini's dismal defense, the Husker offense managed to do exactly what it needed to do: Run the ball.
Love what Nebraska's doing on the ground, seems they learned from UCLA game: KEEP RUNNING THE FOOTBALL!— Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers) October 5, 2013
Junior I-back Ameer Abdullah was a major factor in the offensive success. Abdullah rushed for a career-high 225 yards and two touchdowns, had one reception for 15 yards and, impressively, no fumbles.
According to Huskers.com, Abdullah’s 225 rushing yards are the most by a Nebraska player since Roy Helu Jr. rushed for a school-record 307 yards against Missouri on Oct. 30, 2010.
Abdullah is now just 23 yards shy of becoming the 28th player to record 2,000 career rushing yards.
How did you feel about the Nebraska offense's performace?
The numbers are clear. Nebraska had 50 rushing attempts to only 20 passing attempts, after all.
Beck needed this. The Nebraska offense needed this. A successful game plan made it possible.
There were will moments though, like I-back Imani Cross' fumble after a 12-yard run. Illinois would recover that fumble, too.
Those moments are learning lessons. Aside from the minor mistakes, the Husker offense still put on a good show.
Head coach Bo Pelini was pleased. In his post game press conference, he praised Abdullah and the game plan.
"I thought the game plan and the running game were good," Pelini said. "I thought they were set up well for Ameer. He’s a good [running] back."
Beck's game plan provided an opportunity for the Huskers to make the big plays on the ground. For instance, Abdullah ran for 30 yards in the first quarter to set up the game's opening score. He then went on to add a 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, followed by another 33-yard run shortly after.
The Nebraska offensive line can take some credit for Abdullah's success, too. The unit looked united and strong. Together, they paved the way for the big plays to happen.
Pelini agreed by saying he felt the line blocked well up front.
Considering the circumstances, Nebraska's offense showed up and proved themselves against Illinois. With Martinez still out and the wind making the passing game a challenge, the Huskers responded positively.
The adversity could have brought this group down. Instead, Abdullah and those around him pushed forward.
Whether the wind was a factor, Nebraska stumbled into their identity.
Tommy and the #huskers offense looking fluid. Maybe for the first time this year. I like it.— Blake Lawrence (@Blake_Lawrence) October 5, 2013
Some will say it had to do with quarterback Tommy Armstrong's presence. Armstrong definitely did his part. Regardless of the quarterback though, the group came together when needed.
As far as Beck's concerned, running the ball should be a major focus going forward. Nebraska has talented receivers who may have been clouding just where the Husker offense's true identity lies.
That identity is on the ground.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained via the Huskers' post game press conference.