A Heisman Trophy can't be won in the opening game of the season, but Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah did about as much as a Heisman contender could possibly do to strengthen his campaign against Florida Atlantic.
The senior running back rushed for 227 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries in the Cornhuskers' 55-7 win over the Owls on Saturday.
It was the 18th time Abdullah passed the century mark, which ranks him first among active players in FBS and third in school history, per the Omaha World-Herald:
Today is Abdullah’s 18th 100-yard rushing game, most among active FBS players. He moved into 3rd place among NU players in 100-yard games.— World-Herald Big Red (@OWHbigred) August 30, 2014
This game was largely over by halftime, with Nebraska carrying a 31-7 into the third quarter. Much of the Cornhuskers' offensive success could be attributed to Abdullah. Through the first two quarters, he had a whopping 178 yards on 16 carries, per Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star:
Ameer Abdullah at halftime: 16 rushes, 178 yards. Legs look live. Cuts look explosive. He moved game to another level, it appears.— Steven M. Sipple (@HuskerExtraSip) August 30, 2014
That total was the second-highest for Abdullah in a single game, and he still had two more quarters to go. He eventually beat out his previous single-game best, which was 225 yards against Illinois on Oct. 5, 2013:
Some notes: 178 yards marks the second-most rushing yards of Ameer Abdullah’s career. (it's halftime, BTW)— World-Herald Big Red (@OWHbigred) August 30, 2014
Also worth noting is that Abdullah passed 3,000 career yards rushing, becoming the eighth player in school history to do so, per Eric Olson of The Associated Press:
Ameer Abdullah, with 24 yards so far, has gone over 3,000 for his career. Eighth #Huskers player to do so— Eric Olson (@ericolson64) August 30, 2014
He is now seventh in Nebraska's record books, per Dan Hoppen of Husker Online:
Ameer Abdullah has passed Ken Clark and now has the 7th most rushing yards in school history.— Dan Hoppen (@danhoppen) August 30, 2014
Abdullah didn't warrant mention on ESPN's Heisman Watch before Week 1 got underway, but that could change by next week. Chad Withrow of 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, Tennessee, thinks that the Nebraska star could slowly get voters on his side as the year goes on:
Surprise Heisman Trophy winner this year: Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska. It could happen.— Chad Withrow (@withrowzone) August 30, 2014
You'd think that a player couldn't do much for his Heisman chances when playing FAU. The Owls went 6-6 last year and gave up 162.2 yards per game.
However, the way Abdullah dominated the FAU defense can't be ignored. He averaged a first down every time he ran the ball. That's astounding when you have 20-plus carries. You couldn't help but to watch that game and begin picturing Abdullah in New York City for the Heisman presentation:
Keeping up a pace like this is nearly impossible for Abdullah, but Saturday was a small taste of what he can do in 2014. Expectations were big coming into the season, and so far, he's well on pace.
Before the season, the senior spoke about what he wants to accomplish in Lincoln, per USA Today's Paul Myerberg:
I know it sounds stupid, but a lot of people envision it but they don't believe that they can go out and be an Academic All-American, be one of the top backs in the country and be a shining example for the Big Ten. It means a lot. You never know what kind of history you're writing. You never know who's going to tell your story. Just the fact that my story is maybe a story that may be told, you know, in the future.
With Nebraska playing McNeese State next week, Abdullah has the chance to drop another massive rushing performance. After that, the real test will begin.
If he averages 100-plus yards per game and Nebraska either wins the Big Ten or comes close to winning the conference, then Abdullah could very well transition from Heisman outsider to Heisman favorite.