Another top-10 rusher comes to Kinnick Stadium
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, one of the nation's leading rushers, will be in town Friday.
That's a new twist to an old story for Iowa's football team this season. Abdullah, averaging 128.8 yards a game, will be the fifth top-10 rusher the Hawkeyes have faced this season.
"He's a good back," Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said. "We've been seeing some good backs, and we know how to play them."
Stopping them has been another matter. And if Iowa is to match its victory total from last season and go into bowl season on an uptick, it needs to limit Abdullah's damage Friday at Kinnick Stadium.
Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin is currently the nation's leading rusher, averaging 191.7 yards a game. Tevin Coleman of Indiana is second, David Cobb of Minnesota eighth and Abdullah 10th.
"Good luck picking the all-conference team," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Iowa also has faced the nation's fourth-leading rusher, James Conner of Pittsburgh, this season.
"I love the competition," senior linebacker Quinton Alston said. "This is my last game at Kinnick. What a way to go out, with another high-profile running back coming to town."
That star-studded list of opponent running backs is one reason why Iowa is seventh in the Big Ten in rush defense, allowing 158.5 yards a game. Since the Hawkeyes went to their first bowl game under Ferentz in 2001, only one team has allowed more yards on the ground during a season. That was the 162.1 yards allowed by the 2012 team that finished 4-8.
Iowa did a solid job of keeping Gordon under wraps. He had 16 carries that netted three yards or less. But he still got away for an 88-yard run in the third quarter and a 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Coleman had 219 yards against Iowa on just 15 carries. Conner had 155 on 29 carries. Cobb was limited to 74 on 16 carries.
Iowa allowed just four players to rush for at least 100 yards last season. LSU's Jeremy Hill had 216 yards on 28 carries in the Outback Bowl. Wisconsin's James White had 132. Ohio State's Carlos Hyde went for 149 and Braxton Miller 102.
Abdullah and mobile quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., who was injured and didn't play against Iowa last season but has rushed for 633 yards in 2014, give the Cornhuskers a formidable one-two punch.
This would be the perfect time for Iowa's defense to punch back.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.