Huskers' Pelini says Abdullah needed more touches

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Bo Pelini's weekly news conference sounded more like a mea culpa.

The Nebraska coach spent all but a couple of his 28 minutes in front of the reporters Monday listing his team's deficiencies in its 31-24 win over McNeese State of the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision.

''I'm responsible for how we played,'' Pelini said.

He repeated that sentiment, or a variation of it, several times. Even with his buck-stops-here mantra, Pelini couldn't take all the blame for an uninspired performance that was just good enough to let the Huskers avoid what would have been the program's most embarrassing loss.

''I don't know if I've ever been part of a locker room after a win that was as quiet,'' Pelini said. ''It obviously got our attention.''

The Huskers are unranked this week after going into the McNeese State game No. 19 in the Associated Press poll. Since the AP poll expanded to 25 teams in 1989, no team ranked as high had ever dropped out after a win.

Nebraska defied the coaching adage that says a team makes its greatest improvement between the first and second games. The Huskers looked polished, particularly on offense, in a 48-point win over Florida Atlantic in the opener.

The biggest head-scratcher on offense might have been the use of Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah. McNeese State limited him to 17 carries for 54 yards. But he had three catches for 99 yards, including the electrifying 58-yard catch-and-run that produced the winning touchdown with 20 seconds to play.

Abdullah touched the ball just once in the fourth quarter before his big play. Pelini said that was unacceptable. He suggested Abdullah should have been more involved in the passing game.

''He's our best football player,'' Pelini said. ''We have to make sure we get the ball in his hands.''

Asked if he should have been on the headset with offensive coordinator Tim Beck demanding Abdullah get more touches, Pelini said, ''Exactly what I'm saying.''

Pelini recounted other disconcerting issues that cropped up.

Defensively, he said, poor tackling allowed McNeese State to turn 2-yard gains into 7-yarders. There also were busted assignments, especially covering passes to running backs in the backfield.

Offensively, the line missed blocks and couldn't create a consistent push against McNeese State's undersized players. Receivers dropped passes and ran routes incorrectly.

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. struggled with his footwork and often forced passes rather than looking at other receivers.

''It's disappointing putting that on film and seeing what we did,'' Armstrong said. ''We let our coaches down. We got out of it. Any other team, we would have lost.''