By Randy York
Engraved photos of Ameer Abdullah and Ciante Evans were hanging on the wall outside the locker room Tuesday, but the Huskers’ junior running back and senior cornerback were too fixated on Saturday’s 11 a.m. nationally televised game against UCLA to notice. The Homewood, Ala., and Arlington, Texas, natives were named Nebraska’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, respectively, for their performances in last Saturday night’s 56-13 mastery of Southern Miss.
“I feel like every week is a statement game, but UCLA beat us (36-30) last year, so we have a little more incentive to win this game and prove something,” said Abdullah, who rushed for 114 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a 37-yard highlight reel TD, against the Golden Eagles.
“All losses are a sticking point, especially when you want to win them all, but we definitely remember this one as a team, so we have a sense of urgency this week,” said Evans, who intercepted two passes against Southern Miss and returned one of them 22 yards for a first-quarter touchdown to give Nebraska a 21-3 lead.
Joining Abdullah and Evans on the plaque hanging outside the locker room is Wil Richards,Nebraska’s Special Teams Player of the Game. A 5-11, 190-pound senior safety from Lee’s Summit, Mo. Richards is in his fourth season as a key member of the Huskers’ special teams. The Two-Time Academic All-Big Ten selection is majoring in Business Administration.
Scout Team Player of the Game honors for the Southern Miss game went to Harrison Jordan (Offense), a freshman walk-on fullback from Omaha Westside; Courtney Love (Defense), a freshman linebacker from Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown, Ohio; and Connor Ketter (Special Teams Offense), a freshman tight end from Norfolk Catholic.
Abdullah acknowledges that Nebraska has started its first two games on offense this season too slowly. “Coming out focused is pretty much the big thing and what we have to do against UCLA,” he said. “We need to take the field with a better attitude than we’ve had in the first two games.”
Unrivaled uniforms should give the Huskers “a little more swag” and something “definitely huge for recruiting,” Abdullah said, “but I don’t care what we wear. We could be out there in underwear. I just want to win the game.”
Evans puts UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in a category with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. Hundley is “a very good quarterback,” Evans said. “He’s probably up there in the top two, if not one. He’s mobile and a very good passer. He can do a lot of great things. We just need to corral him and get some pressure on him. We have a high level of focus. They did catch us off guard last year. We’re aware of how explosive they can be, so we’ll tune some things up and be ready to go. I don’t believe in payback, but we’ve had it (UCLA) on our minds since the loss and we have a pretty good idea of what to expect.”
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