Published Saturday, September 15, 2012 AT 9:41 PM / Updated at 9:41 PM
Nebraska-Arkansas State: Tracking the offense, defense
Rich Kaipust Omaha World-Herald

World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust takes a look at key players, plays and more on both sides of the ball.

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TRACKING THE OFFENSE

NU star: I-back Ameer Abdullah continues to make the most of his chance, turning 30 carries into 167 rushing yards (both career-high totals). Abdullah battled hard for some yards — a trademark of Rex Burkhead, whom he has been replacing — and scored twice. The sophomore also had a 26-yard reception to set up his first touchdown run.

Highlight: Nebraska was facing third-and-11 from its own 32-yard line late in the first quarter when Taylor Martinez led a three-play blitz that gave the Huskers a 14-0 lead. After hitting Kyler Reed on a 22-yard pass and running for 4 yards, Martinez delivered a 42-yard touchdown throw to Kenny Bell with 30 seconds left in the quarter.

Busted play: Martinez lost the football on back-to-back third-quarter series, but a closer look at the second showed it wasn’t a hit that forced the fumble. Martinez mishandled the ball before linebacker Nathan Herrold got to him, and Ryan Carrethers recovered.

Our take: Pretty hard to find much fault with an offense that ran the football (347 yards, 5.9 per carry) and was efficient in the passing game (13 of 14, 180 yards). Abdullah has been solid with Burkhead on the mend from a knee injury, and Bell and Quincy Enunwa are becoming more and more dependable receivers. There were two turnovers in the third quarter, but NU then finished strong.

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TRACKING THE DEFENSE

NU star: Senior safeties P.J. Smith and Daimion Stafford were active and effective to lead the Nebraska defensive effort. Smith had a sack among his nine tackles and also intercepted a pass. Stafford made his presence felt with a pair of big hits and finished with seven tackles and a pass breakup.

Highlight: Nebraska sniffed out a Red Wolves trick play in the second quarter, when backup quarterback Fredi Knighten lined up at receiver and was throwing after taking a backward pass from Ryan Aplin. Knighten was a little late and a little short with his throw for David Oku, and Smith intercepted the pass at the Huskers’ 17.

Busted play: Nebraska wasted a timeout after the first play of the game when it had 12 defenders on the field.

Our take: It was definitely better than a week ago for the Blackshirts, who got lit up for 653 total yards at UCLA. Arkansas State at times made some progress, but the Red Wolves’ offense produced only a pair of field goals. NU also stopped a fourth-down play in the first quarter and also forced a pair of turnovers. There figured to be some risk/reward with the Huskers taking a look at some players who hadn’t played much so far, and there was.

About Rich Kaipust

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football. You can follow Rich on Twitter (@RKaipustOWH) or email him at rich.kaipust@owh.com