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The Morning After: McNeese State

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Let us take a look at what the folks said after the Cowboys and Huskers go went to the wire yesterday in Lincoln.

Eric Francis

Steven Sipple/LJS: Pelini confident as roller coaster ride continues.

The Cowboys, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, nearly pulled off the stuff of legend.

Instead, Ameer Abdullah did it. Again. His 58-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, with 20 seconds remaining, perhaps saved the season and, if you bleed Husker red, maybe you just stop your imagination right there lest you fail to enjoy a remarkable moment that evoked images of Johnny and Eric and Mike R.

Abdullah, the senior running back from Homewood, Alabama, just might be heading in the direction of the program's fourth Heisman Trophy.

But where is Nebraska heading as a program?

The Huskers last week pounded Florida Atlantic 55-7 and it felt like Big Red's glory years.

After Saturday's scare, Bo Pelini's detractors were out in force. Same ol' roller-coaster, they said. Same ol' sloppiness. Same ol' story: Another four-loss season, here we come.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere between last week's show of strength and this week's letdown.

"Nothing's changed as far as what the potential of this football team is," said Pelini, the seventh-year Nebraska coach, who endured hot-seat speculation late last season.

Tom Shatel/OWH: Ameer Abdullah lives up to reputation; unfortunately, so do Bo Pelini's Huskers.

On third-and-6 from his 42, Abdullah slipped out of the backfield, caught a short pass from Tommy Armstrong, stopped, cut back left, made two defenders miss, ran headfirst into a safety and knocked him back, then ran like mad, like someone in an airport trying to catch a flight.

And helped Nebraska beat McNeese State — Football Championship Subdivision McNeese State — 31-24.

It was a Heismanesque play, except you don’t win the Heisman by beating McNeese State.

It was a play you’ll want to watch over and over — except it will force you to remember the rest of the game.

There are clutch plays that win championship games. And there are clutch plays that prevent absolute disaster.

Abdullah just accomplished the latter. Will he ever get to play for that ring? How strong is his back?

Maybe NU would have won this in overtime without Abdullah’s heroics. But the way the thing was going, it looked like we were about to witness the worst defeat in Nebraska history since, well ...

Superman is who we thought he was. But the rest of this bunch? It’s up for debate again.

All those things that looked so good, so smooth, against Florida Atlantic. Armstrong’s progress, the blocking, the tackling, the fundamentals, all that. They were no-shows in Week 2, the week most teams make a jump in progress.

If you were thinking you have seen this movie before, you weren’t alone.

Dirk Chatelain/OWH: In the end, Huskers find a ninth life

Nebraska’s offseason honeymoon is over. There’s no kitty cat to ease the dismay of a 31-24 thriller against a McNeese State team with 63 scholarships; a McNeese State team that last played a game last Dec. 7, losing to Jacksonville State 31-10 in the FCS playoffs; a McNeese State team with only 13 seniors and a first-time starting quarterback.

"It’s gonna teach me for skipping church last week," Chambers said.

Said NU cornerback Josh Mitchell: "When you go out and play like that, I just see 9-4 all over again."

Sorry Josh, this performance was more befitting of a 6-6 team. A 5-7 team. Al Chambers had flashbacks to Appalachian State-Michigan? I was having flashbacks to Nebraska-Ball State, September 2007.

The Huskers survived a thriller that day, too, but they couldn’t fix their weaknesses. They won twice the rest of the year. Bill Callahan got fired.

Was McNeese State an early-season hiccup? Or the beginning of season-long stomach illness? Anybody who says they know for sure is lying.

One thing we do know: The Huskers haven’t fixed their old ways. The offensive collapse in the second half — one first down in six possessions prior to Ameer Abdullah’s touchdown dash — was downright stunning after a 784-yard opener.