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Big Ten Notebook: Cornhusker RB Abdullah coming up big

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini delivered a backhanded compliment to running back Ameer Abdullah earlier this week, knowing it would get a rise out of the sophomore.

Pelini told Abdullah that he is pretty tough for a smaller running back to which the latter replied, “I'll remember that.”

“He is a prideful kid,” Pelini said Tuesday during the Big Ten football coaches' teleconference. “He's been fun to coach.”

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Abdullah is also a big reason why Nebraska will win the Big Ten's Legends Division barring an upset in the Cornhuskers' final two games.

Abdullah is sixth in the Big Ten in rushing (94.2 ypg), and he has emerged as Nebraska's featured back with Rex Burkhead hampered by knee problems.

Abdullah, an Alabama native, rushed for 116 yards on a career-high 31 carries in a 32-23 win over Penn State last Saturday.

Despite his small stature Abdullah has averaged 24 carries in Nebraska's last four games.

“He's so elusive, he makes it hard for people to get a hard shot on him,” Pelini said. “If anything, I think he wants more carries.”

Last chance

Michigan needs to beat Iowa on Saturday if the Wolverines want to have any chance of overtaking Nebraska in the Legends Division. But that isn't the only incentive Michigan will take into its final home game.

“Our seniors have never beaten Iowa,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

Michigan is 5-1 in the Big Ten and tied with Nebraska atop the Legends Division. The Cornhuskers hold the tiebreaker because of an earlier win over the Wolverines, which means Michigan will need help from either Minnesota or Iowa.

Spirits still high

Northwestern bowed out of the Legends Division race last Saturday with another deflating conference loss.

But if Tuesday's practice is any indication, the Wildcats (7-3, 3-3) are hardly down on themselves.

“We executed as well as we have all year,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said his players were so excited that they were chest-bumping him before early-morning meetings. That enthusiasm carried over to the practice field.

“That's what's cool about Big Ten football,” Fitzgerald said. “There's no time for a pity party.”

If any team had reason to feel sorry for itself, it was Northwestern.

The Wildcats blew double-digit fourth-quarter leads earlier this season to Penn State and Nebraska. Northwestern took a three-point lead in the fourth quarter last Saturday at Michigan, but the Wolverines tied the game with a last-second field goal and won in overtime, 38-31.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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