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All Points West: Have no fear in the year of Ameer
October 23, 2014 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
This season will most likely be remembered as the year of I-back Ameer Abdullah.

The Cornhuskers looked to be in great form against Northwestern after the bye week. The game at Ryan Field was as advertised — a close shootout, at least for one half. Then, Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) made adjustments at halftime, shook off a small amount of rust, and proceeded to light up the scoreboard in a business-as-usual romp over the Wildcats, 38-17. Because of Abdullah’s feet and feats, and talented supporting cast, the Huskers have managed to stay on the college football radar.

I was in Greensboro, N.C., for drill weekend continuing to serve my
country as a soldier in the Army National Guard. On Saturday, with a little down time, I scanned Google, which turned up a nearby Big Red watch site. Because of a local furniture trade show, all the local hotels were booked up, and the only available hotel was in Reidsville, about 25 miles away from Greensboro, and 40 minutes as the crow flies. After the ground-pounding day and with time ticking, I shed my Army uniform, and got into my jeans and Huskers jacket like Superman in a phone booth. With the thought of weaving through heavy traffic and missing kickoff, desperation set in.

North Carolina (the state, not the school) is not Big Ten country. The ACC rules here, but the only ranked school in the state is No. 18 East Carolina. The game of the week between Notre Dame and Florida State was on more channels than if the president was giving a state of the union address. In a doozy, the Irish barely lost, as QB Everett Golson completed a touchdown pass in the last 17 seconds. Officials called PI which nullified the score.

Too bad; a victory would have produced a slight shakeup in the rankings as the Seminoles would have likely fallen a few more spots. The real value for other teams was discovering how Famous Jameis Winston and the’Noles are beatable. But as one of my wisest brothers often retorts, “would have, should have, and could have.” There’s no use crying over spilt milk for Notre Dame. When it comes to close games, make sure you get the job done. And that continues to apply to the Huskers, who need to run the table in the West Division and make a much needed statement with a conference championship. So, keep believing Big Red.

As I frantically poked at the channel button on the remote control, the magic of television failed. The Nebraska game did not miraculously appear. Instead, I saw more SEC games being played despite being in ACC country. The same thing happens when watching college football at my home in Alexandria, Va., enough for me to believe there’s a slight bias when it comes to the TV networks choosing which games to feature. Fans worth their salt know all of this inarguably has a significant bearing on the AP (media) rankings.

How do reporters effectively evaluate any team in the preseason? Frankly (no pun intended), I have more respect for the Coach’s Poll because more of the voters have actually played the game.

Husker fans — and all Big Ten fans — deserve more options when it comes to watching the games. If it wasn’t for the Big Ten Network, this game would have missed prime time almost entirely. And less exposure, fewer reporters see the game. Hopefully, they’ll catch the highlights on ESPN or College Game Day — Jordan Westerkamp’s behind-the-back catch and Abdullah breaking tackles against McNeese State, among other notable plays. Lack of publicity is one of the reasons Abdullah will probably be dissed in the Heisman voting.

No. 16 Nebraska (just one spot above old-time rival Oklahoma), along with No. 8 Michigan State and No. 13 Ohio State are considered contenders, and by no means are they out of the playoff picture. Yet, all three teams remain on the fringes of being nationally televised. If you keep up with this column, you may recall that I said NU makes it’s living in a small market. Though, it does not play in a vacuum. Watch sites like the one in Greensboro open its doors to the Husker faithful each and every day there’s a game.

There’s at least one watch site in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Yes, some Big Red faithful, like me, may live a long way from Nebraska, but we’re never too far away from home when it comes to seeing the Huskers win.

After some anxious moments, win they did. I was grateful to finally see the game on my laptop. Sure, the digitized images lagged with the bad signal, but it was better than missing the game entirely. I could only think about what it was like for the remote farmlands before radio and TV, when news of a victory might have travelled as slowly as the tractors on the highway. Nonetheless, farmers probably felt getting word about a win was probably as sweet as when the game was played. Seeing it in headlines in newspapers like this one made the game historic, marking what Abdullah did Saturday as he increased his career rushing total to 4,001 yards, moving him into second place on Nebraska’s all-time rushing chart behind only Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier (4,780). Versus Northwestern, Abdullah rushed 23 times for 146 yards and a career-high four touchdowns; increased his season rushing total to 1,024; and became the first player in Nebraska history with three 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

It doesn’t sound right calling him an I-back. He’s probably the most selfless player on the field. Before the game, Abdullah reportedly deflected individual attention, ignoring the statistics and the shattered records. Instead, he only thinks about what these accomplishments will do for improving Nebraska’s program. However the rest of the season goes, this is certainly a win for the fans.
Next up: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-2) visit Lincoln with the kickoff scheduled for noon Eastern Time. The Knights took a shellacking at the hands of the Buckeyes, 56-17, last Saturday and are looking to rebound. Now hitting the toughest part of their schedule, Rutgers is probably having second thoughts about joining the Big Ten. Likely, it’ll be a long day for QB Gary Nova with DT Randy Gregory and company gelling at just the right time and raring to bury Nova’s face in the turf.

Advice for the Huskers this week: Keep high stepping and build on the wins.
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