August 26, 2014

(AP) - Carl Pelini served as Nebraska's defensive coordinator under his brother Bo for four seasons before taking the Florida Atlantic job prior to the 2012 season.

The schools scheduled Saturday's matchup soon after Carl left in hopes of having a Pelini vs. Pelini showdown in Lincoln.

Now that circumstances have changed, a game that could have had a lot of intrigue now simply features the 22nd-ranked Cornhuskers facing a seemingly overmatched Owls squad.

Carl Pelini officially resigned from FAU on Oct. 30 under pressure from allegations of illegal drug abuse. A member of his staff claimed he witnessed Pelini using marijuana and cocaine, which Pelini denies.

No matter what happened, Bo Pelini isn't dwelling on not being able to face his brother. Charlie Partridge will be making his head-coaching debut for FAU, which went 6-6 and won its final four games last season.

"It's not about personal feelings. It's about our football team," Bo Pelini said. "I haven't had a lot of conversation with him about that."

The Cornhuskers finished 9-4 and 5-3 in the Big Ten before beating Georgia 24-19 in the Gator Bowl. Ameer Abdullah rushed 27 times for 122 yards and a touchdown in that contest, and he's prepared to be the focal point of Nebraska's offense in 2014.

Abdullah's 1,690 yards last season were the most by a Cornhuskers player since Ahman Green went for 1,877 in 1997, and he strongly considered entering the NFL draft as an underclassman.

But he came back for one more season - not to set records but to win, and win big. The Huskers have reached the Big Ten championship game once in his three years, and that turned out to be an ugly loss to Wisconsin in 2012.

Abdullah said he's willing to do anything to help the Huskers make it back to Indianapolis in December, even if it means playing on the punt-block unit.

''I consider myself one of the better players on this team, so I want the best players out there the whole time,'' he said. ''Just because you play offense and play a pivotal role doesn't mean you can't contribute on special teams. You want the best 11 out there in every phase.''

Pelini said the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Abdullah's drive to win has been palpable since the spring.

''He's stronger, he's a little bigger, just probably more explosive than he was,'' Pelini said. ''We haven't overused him in camp. I think he's in a great mental state, and I think we need to play well around him to enable him to do what he does.''

Abdullah's 281 rushing attempts last season were second in the Big Ten to Jeremy Langford's 292 for Michigan State and second by a Nebraska player since 1994. Rex Burkhead had 284 carries in 2011.

''I know I might have a heavy workload this year,'' Abdullah said. ''The only way to lighten the load is to take it the distance every time.''

Abdullah said he's tweaked his training regimen to condition himself for breakaway runs. He had 17 runs of 20 yards or longer last season, and he wants more this year.

When he gets tagged in practice, he'll often continue running, he said, ''to get in that mindset of taking it the distance every time.''

If Abdullah rushes for 1,000 yards, he'll pass Green for second on the school's career chart. Abdullah would need 1,804 yards to break Mike Rozier's record of 4,780.

''We understand the legacy here is really strong at the running back position," Abdullah said. "You want to hold yourself to that level.''

Nebraska will begin 2014 banged up, though.

Nickel back Charles Jackson and linebacker Michael Rose are out with season-ending knee injuries and running back Adam Taylor broke his ankle and probably won't make it back this season.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has had two major knee surgeries, is day to day with an ankle injury. No. 1 right offensive tackle Zach Sterup and long snapper Gabe Miller are among other players who are hurt.

''There's no magical thing to injuries. It's a tough sport. Things happen, and there's nothing you can do about it,'' Pelini said. ''Look across the country, we're not the only ones that have some guys hurt.''

Florida Atlantic returns 15 starters from last season, including dual-threat quarterback Jaquez Johnson. Now a junior, Johnson ran for 368 yards and four touchdowns as the Owls won their final four games, and threw for 539 yards and six TDs - half his season total - in closing wins over New Mexico State and Florida International.

FAU gave up a total of 40 points in its last four contests, and its defense was ranked 11th in the nation in 2013 overall and second against the pass behind only Florida State.

Nebraska beat Florida Atlantic 49-3 on Sept. 5, 2009, in the only previous meeting between the schools.

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