GAME 1: FLORIDA ATLANTIC at NEBRASKA
AUG. 30, 2014 | MEMORIAL STADIUM
LINCOLN, NEB. | 2:30 p.m. (CT)
TV – BTN
RADIO – Husker Sports Network
SATELLITE RADIO – Sirius Channel 146, XM 201
INTERNET RADIO – Huskers.com
Record: 0-0, 0-0
Rankings: Coaches-22; AP-22
Last Game: Season Opener
Coach: Bo Pelini
Career/NU Record: 58-24/7th year
vs. FAU, 1-0
Record: 0-0, 0-0
Rankings: Coaches-NR; AP-NR
Last Game: Season Opener
Coach: Charlie Partridge
Career/FAU Record: First Year
vs. NU: 0-0
Nebraska begins its 125th season of college football by playing host to Florida Atlantic on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff for the Huskers’ season opener is set for shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT with BTN providing national television coverage of the contest.
The 2014 season is an historic one for Nebraska, as it marks the 125th season in the storied history of Cornhusker football. Nebraska ranks fourth all-time in victories among all college football programs and is the nation’s winningest program since 1970. NU has won five national championships and 43 conference championships in the history of its program.
This year’s Husker squad will be looking to capture the school’s first conference title since the 1999 season. Nebraska finished the 2013 season with a 9-4 record, capped by a Gator Bowl victory over Georgia, and NU enters the 2014 season as one of only three schools to win at least nine games each of the past six years.
The Huskers return 14 starters from last year’s team, and Nebraska will open the 2014 season ranked 22nd in both major national polls. Nebraska carries the nation’s longest winning streak in season openers into Saturday’s game. The Huskers have won 28 straight season openers dating back to 1986, including a 2009 win over Florida Atlantic in the season opener in the two schools’ only previous meeting.
Florida Atlantic finished the 2013 season with a 6-6 record, including winning its final four games of the season. FAU returns 15 starters for first-year coach Charlie Partridge.
Nebraska won the only previous meeting with Florida Atlantic, posting a 49-3 victory in the 2009 season opener for both teams at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska rushed for 259 yards in the game, while forcing three Owl turnovers to key the easy victory.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 58-24 record (.707) in his seventh season as Nebraska head coach. Pelini has guided NU to nine or more wins in each of his first six seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne in accomplishing that feat at Nebraska. Pelini joins Alabama’s Nick Saban as the only head coaches in the nation to win nine or more games each of the past six seasons.
Florida Atlantic: Charlie Partridge (Drake, ‘95) is in his first season as Florida Atlantic’s head coach and his first-ever head coaching job. Partridge has served as an assistant coach at Pitt, Wisconsin and Arkansas before moving into his current role. He is just the fourth head coach in the history of the FAU program.
Nebraska is 865-357-40 all-time, one of just eight schools with 800 all-time victories
- Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
- The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
- NU’s 50 all-time bowl appearances rank third nationally.
- Since 1970, NU has 431 wins, 24 more than any other school.
- Nebraska’s 107 football Academic All-Americans lead the nation.
- The Huskers have 110 All-Americans in school history.
Scouting Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic returns 15 starters in Charlie Partridge’s first season as head coach. FAU is one of eight 2014 Husker opponents that were bowl eligible in 2013. Florida Atlantic brings a four-game winning streak into today’s game, the nation’s ninth-longest win streak.
Offensively, the Owls return their leading rusher, passer and two of their three leading receivers from 2013. Defensively, FAU brings back its top two tacklers.
The Owls averaged 26.4 points per game in 2013 following a strong finish, when FAU averaged 37.8 points per game over its final four contests. Florida Atlantic featured a balanced offensive attack, averaging 183 yards rushing per game and 198 yards passing.
Quarterback Jaquez Johnson was a dual threat who led Florida Atlantic with 772 rushing yards and 1,876 passing yards. He also led the team with 10 rushing touchdowns, while completing 58 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Florida Atlantic featured one of the nation’s top defenses in 2013, and the Owls return six starters. FAU allowed only 326 yards per game in 2013, a total that ranked 11th nationally. Florida Atlantic was especially stingy against the pass, ranking second nationally by allowing only 162 passing yards per game. The Owls also ranked third nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Linebacker Andrae Kirk led the team with 84 tackles last season and safety Damian Parms was second with 78 stops. Both players return for the Owls this fall. Defensive lineman Brandin Bryant, an Omaha native, is FAU’s returning sack leader after totaling 6.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for losses as a junior in 2013.
Nebraska and Florida Atlantic meet for the second time Saturday. The only other meeting was a 49-3 NU victory in the 2009 season opener at Memorial Stadium. The 24th-ranked Huskers cruised to the win behind three rushing touchdowns from Roy Helu Jr., who ran for 152 yards on 16 carries.
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini
Bo Pelini is in his seventh season as Nebraska’s head coach and owns a 58-24 record with the Huskers. Pelini has won or shared four divisional titles in his first six seasons as head coach, including the 2012 Big Ten Legends Division crown. He guided NU to three straight Big 12 North Division crowns from 2008 to 2010, becoming the the first coach in the history of the Big 12 to win at least a share of a division title in each of his first three years.
He has guided Nebraska to at least nine wins each of his six seasons, and three 10-win seasons. Pelini is one of five NU coaches to win 50 or more games, joining Tom Osborne, Bob Devaney, Frank Solich and Dana X. Bible.
Pelini took charge of the Huskers after a highly successful five-year run as a collegiate defensive coordinator, including orchestrating NU’s defensive efforts in 2003. Pelini picked up his first college head coaching victory as NU’s interim coach in the 2003 Alamo Bowl against Michigan State.
Following his one season at Nebraska, Pelini served as the co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 2004, helping the Sooners to the Big 12 title and BCS title game. He then followed with three seasons as the defensive coordinator at LSU. With the Tigers, Pelini led three consecutive defenses to No. 3 national rankings in total defense. He culminated his time in Baton Rouge by helping the Tigers to the 2007 national championship.
In addition to his five seasons as an assistant at the collegiate level, Pelini coached in the NFL for nine seasons, serving three years each with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. Pelini was a team captain and four-year letterman as a safety at Ohio State from 1987 to 1990.
Florida Atlantic Head Coach Charlie Partidge
Charliee Partridge is the fourth head coach in Florida Atlantic history, as the Owls program dates back to only 2001. Partridge will coach his first game as a collegiate head coach today. A South Florida native, Partridge has spent the past 12 seasons as a full-time defensive assistant.
Partridge was the assistant head coach and coached the defensive line on Brett Bielema’s Arkansas staff in 2013. Partridge also served on Bielema’s staff at Wisconsin from 2008 to 2012, including his final two seasons as associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator. Partridge was on the sidelines for Nebraska’s 30-27 come-from-behind victory over Wisconsin in 2012. He was on the winning side in Badger victories over the Huskers in 2011 and the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game.
Before his five-year tenure at Wisconsin, Partridge spent five seasons at Pitt from 2003 to 2007. He earned his first full-time coaching position as the recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach at Eastern Illinois in 2002. Partridge also served as Iowa State’s director of football operations in 2000 and 2001 and was the Cyclones’ defensive graduate assistant in 1998 and 1999. He received his start in the coaching field as a graduate assistant at Drake in 1996 and 1997 after starring for the Bulldogs as a player from 1992 to 1995.
Huskers vs. Conference USA/Florida Schools
Nebraska will look to improve to 2-0 against Florida Atlantic and continue its success against members of the Conference USA. Florida Atlantic is in its second season in the conference, after previously being a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Owls posted a 4-4 record in league play last season.
Heading into Saturday’s matchup with FAU, Nebraska owns an 11-1 all-time record against schools that are currently members of Conference USA. Nebraska is 3-1 against Southern Miss, including wins in both 2012 and 2013. The Huskers are 2-0 against Louisiana Tech and own single victories over FAU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, UAB and Western Kentucky.
2014 Schedule to Feature Seven Bowl Teams
In 2014, Nebraska will face seven teams that participated in bowl games a year ago. The Huskers’ non-conference schedule will open with home games against Florida Atlantic (Aug. 30) and 2013 FCS playoff participant McNeese State (Sept. 6).
NU will take to the road for the first time in 2014 on Sept. 13 with a trip to Fresno State for a matchup with a Bulldog team that won 11 games in 2013. The Fresno State game is the first of five straight prime-time contests for the Huskers. Nebraska closes non-conference play against Miami on Sept. 20 in Lincoln. The game will feature programs that combined for eight national championships from 1983 to 2001.
The Huskers open Big Ten action with Homecoming against Illinois on Sept. 27, followed by prime-time road games at defending Big Ten champion Michigan State on Oct. 4 and at Northwestern on Oct. 18. Nebraska will welcome both Rutgers (Oct. 25) and Purdue (Nov. 1) to Lincoln for the first time on back-to-back weekends.
The home stretch of the 2014 season will feature road trips to Wisconsin (Nov. 15) and Iowa (Nov. 28) sandwiched around the home finale against Minnesota on Nov. 22.
Abdullah Looks to Add to His Husker Legacy
Senior I-back Ameer Abdullah enters 2014 as one of the nation’s top returning rushers. He rushed for a Big Ten-leading 1,690 yards in 2013 and ranked seventh nationally in rushing yards per game. Abdullah also led the Big Ten and ranked 13th nationally in all-purpose yards per game. His 1,690 yards are the most for any returning player in the FBS ranks in 2014.
Abdullah was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award. Abdullah will be a leading contender for numerous national honors this fall, including the Doak Walker Award, first-team All-America honors and the Heisman Trophy.
Abdullah is the nation’s active career leader in all-purpose yards and is third among active players in career rushing yards. His 17 career 100-yard rushing games are also the most among active players returning to the FBS ranks in 2014.
The Homewood, Ala., native not only ranks among the nation’s statistical leaders, he has also put himself in lofty territory on Nebraska’s career charts.
- Abdullah has topped 1,000 yards on the ground each of the past two seasons, and is one of only nine players in Nebraska history with a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons. This fall, Abdullah will attempt to become the first player in Husker history with three 1,000-yard seasons.
- Abdullah has 2,977 career rushing yards to rank eighth in school history. A third 1,000-yard rushing season would move him to No. 2 on Nebraska’s all-time rushing list, trailing only 1983 Heisman winner Mike Rozier. Abdullah would need to rush for 1,803 yards in 2014 to match Rozier’s school-record total of 4,780 yards.
- Abdullah’s 1,690 yards in 2013 were fourth on the NU single-season rushing list. The rushing yardage total was the highest by a Nebraska player since 1997.
- Abdullah was the first Husker to reach 1,000 rushing yards in eight or fewer games since Ahman Green in 1997.
- Abdullah rushed for 100 or more yards in 11 of 13 games in 2013, including a career-high 225 yards against Illinois. His 11 100-yard games tied the school record, also held by Rozier, Green and Lawrence Phillips. He rushed for 100 yards in eight straight games last season, tying the fourth-longest streak in school history.
- Abdullah has 17 career 100-yard rushing efforts, tying Eric Crouch for the third-most in school history. The 17 100-yard games, trails only Rozier (26) and Green (20) on the NU career list.
- In addition to his running skills, Abdullah is a receiving threat out of the backfield. He had 26 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns in 2013 and has 51 career receptions.
- Abdullah had 1,999 all-purpose yards in 2013, the No. 3 single-season total in school history. With 4,914 career all-purpose yards, Abdullah is 672 all-purpose yards from the top spot on the NU career list. He trails only Heisman winners Rozier and Johnny Rodgers in that category.
- Abdullah has scored a total of 26 touchdowns during his Nebraska career, and has reached the end zone four different ways. He has 20 career rushing touchdowns, including nine in 2013, four receiving touchdowns, as well as a punt return touchdown and a touchdown on a kickoff return.
Bell Poised to Move to Top of NU Receiving Lists
Abdullah is not the only Husker offensive playmaker poised to leave a legacy in the Nebraska statistical record books in 2014. Receiver Kenny Bell has been a regular in the starting lineup the past three seasons and is in position to break the Husker career records for receptions and receiving yards.
Bell battled through nagging injuries as a junior to lead Nebraska with 52 receptions for 577 yards and four touchdowns. His play earned the 6-1, 185-pound Bell honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades after he was a second-team choice as a sophomore in 2012.
Bell enters 2014 with 134 career catches for a total of 1,901 receiving yards. His 134 catches rank fifth in school history, 32 catches behind career record holder Nate Swift. Bell has 1,901 career receiving yards to rank third in school history. He sits 578 yards from Johnny Rodgers’ school-record 2,479 career receiving yards.
- Bell has led Nebraska in receptions for each of the past three seasons, becoming the first player to do so since Matt Davison from 1998 to 2000. In 2014, Bell could become the first player in school history to lead the team in receptions for four straight seasons.
- Bell has topped 50 receptions each of the past two years and could become the first player in Nebraska history with three seasons of 50 or more receptions.
- Bell has 15 career TD catches to rank in a tie for fourth in school history. Bell has a knack for the big play. Each of his last 13 touchdown receptions have covered at least 20 yards, including all four of his TD catches in 2013.
- Bell was also a strong threat in the kickoff return game in 2013. He averaged 26.5 yards per return, highlighted by a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Penn State. Bell ranked first in the Big Ten and 18th nationally in yards per kickoff return.
- Bell had a standout sophomore season with 863 receiving yards, the fourth-highest single-season total in NU history and the most by a Husker sophomore.
- Bell had a streak of 23 straight games with a catch end at Iowa in 2012, the third-longest streak in NU history.
- Bell reached the 1,000-yard career receiving mark in 20 games, making him the second-fastest Husker to reach that mark. Only Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers reached 1,000 career receiving yards in fewer games.
Gregory Set to lead Blackshirts
Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory immediately showed he was one of the Big Ten’s top newcomers in 2013. By season’s end, Gregory reached another level and was one of the nation’s top overall defenders.
Gregory was a first-team All-Big Ten choice for his play and was also named the Nebraska Team Defensive MVP in his first season in the program. He is in line to contend for national honors in 2014.
The 6-6 Gregory led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks for 69 yards in losses. Gregory’s 0.8 sacks per game ranked 15th nationally. Gregory was at his best in conference play, with nine of his sacks coming in Big Ten action. Gregory’s nine sacks in conference play were 2.5 more than any other Big Ten defender.
Gregory had a season-high three sacks at Michigan and added 2.5 sacks against Purdue, with one of those resulting in a Husker safety. Gregory had at least one sack in six of eight Big Ten games, including five straight games from the Purdue through Michigan State contests. He closed the year with a sack and two tackles for loss in the Gator Bowl victory over Georgia.
Gregory finished with a team-leading 19 TFL for 101 yards in losses and had a team-high 18 hurries, including four against Michigan State. He added an interception return for a touchdown against South Dakota State and also recovered a fumble and forced a fumble.
Gregory was a dominant force at Michigan, keying a Blackshirt defense that recorded seven sacks and limited Michigan to -21 rushing yards. Gregory had three sacks for 14 yards in losses, including a key sack on the Wolverines’ final offensive possession. He added a 10-yard tackle for loss. Gregory’s play was recognized as he was the co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
- Gregory’s 10.5 sacks were the most ever for a Nebraska newcomer, while his 9.0 sacks in league games were just one shy of the most ever by a Nebraska player in a conference season. Jim Skow had 10.0 sacks in seven Big Eight games in 1985.
- The 10.5 sacks by Gregory ranked ninth on the NU single-season chart, while his 19 tackles for loss tied for ninth, matching the total of Ndamukong Suh from his junior season in 2008.