Ameer Adbullah turned a short pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. into a 58-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left to send No. 19 Nebraska to 2-0 with a 31-24 win over McNeese State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The Cornhuskers, who notched their NCAA-record 335th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, were facing a 3rd-and-6 with the game tied against the FCS power Cowboys with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Armstrong, who finished 16-for-31 for 242 yards and two touchdowns through the air, hit Abdullah in the flat short of the marker and gave the senior All-America candidate a chance to make a play.
And what a play he made.
After turning upfield and heading for the McNeese State sideline, Abdullah made a Cowboy miss, cut back toward the middle of the field and then broke free from a pair of Cowboy tacklers. He outran several Cowboys to open space in the middle of the field, then sprinted to the end zone for the game-winning score on a career-long reception.
The Cowboys had done a good job of keeping Abdullah contained throughout the day, but Abdullah's final touch was enough for the win.
After rushing for more than 200 yards in a season-opening win over Florida Atlantic last week, Abdullah was limited to just 54 yards and one rushing touchdown on 17 carries against MSU. However, he added three receptions out of the backfield for a career-high 98 yards. He added 34 yards on a fourth-quarter kickoff return to finish the day with 184 all-purpose yards.
Armstrong led the Husker rushing attack with a career-high 131 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries to lead a Nebraska ground game that finished with 195 yards. NU finished with 437 yards of total offense.
McNeese State finished with 338 total yards, including 178 rushing and 160 passing, but it was a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter to set the tone for the game for the Cowboys.
The interception return for a touchdown by MSU's Aaron Sam was a school-record play for the Cowboys and the second-longest interception return in history against the Huskers. The play also ended a drive inside the NU 5 that could have put NU up 21-7.
McNeese State took an early 7-0 lead on a Derrick Milton nine-yard first-quarter run. Armstrong and the Huskers answered on the ensuing drive with a 40-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Westerkamp with 6:44 left in the opening period. Westerkamp finished his day with four receptions for 61 yards.
After a defensive stop by the Blackshirts, NU headed to the second quarter with a 14-7 lead following a two-yard Abdullah run with 3:00 minutes left in the first.
The defensive kept the Cowboys at bay again and Nebraska sprinted into the red zone on a long run by Armstrong, before he threw his first interception of the season to tie the score at 14.
Despite the major momentum swing, Armstrong and the Huskers responded with a 12-play, 82-yard drive capped by his one-yard touchdown plunge to take a 21-14 lead to the halftime locker room.
In a third quarter dominated by both defenses, freshman place-kicker Drew Brown connected on a 31-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the period to push NU's margin to 24-14.
McNeese State refused to fold, answering with a one-yard touchdown run by Tyler Bolfing to cap a 12-play, 83-yard drive and pull the Cowboys within 24-21.
Nebraska's offense continued to struggle in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys capitalized to tie the score on Alex Kjellsten's 24-yard field goal with 4:21 left. Kjellsten's kick capped a 14-play, 88-yard drive that consumed 6:06 of the fourth quarter clock.
Following Abdullah's 58-yard dash, the Cowboys started deep in their own territory with 14 seconds left and next crossed midfield as Corey Cooper intercepted Bolfing on the the final play of the game to seal a Nebraska victory.
The Huskers hit the road for the first time next Saturday, when they head to California to battle Fresno State. Kickoff between the Big Red and the Bulldogs is set for 9:30 p.m. (CT) with live national television coverage by CBS College Sports.