LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — With FCS-level Idaho State the only opponent left before the Big Ten opener in two weeks, Nebraska sees no need to rush Rex Burkhead back from injury.
Ameer Abdullah and his fellow running backs have proved to be more than capable fill-ins.
The Cornhuskers ran the ball on 59 of their 73 plays from scrimmage and finished with 347 of their 527 yards on the ground in their 42-13 win over Arkansas State. Abdullah carried 30 times for 167 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns.
Burkhead, an All-Big Ten pick last year after rushing for more than 1,300 yards, hasn't played since he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the first half of the opener against Southern Mississippi.
"He's a great player and we miss him," running backs coach Ron Brown said. "We'd like to get him back as soon as possible. We're not far off with him."
Coach Bo Pelini has said he wants to make sure Burkhead is 100 percent before he plays. Brown was non-committal about whether Burkhead would see action this week against Idaho State. It's more important for him to be ready the following week when Wisconsin visits for the Big Ten opener.
The Huskers (2-1), who re-entered The Associated Press ratings at No. 25 after a week's absence, have seen no drop off in production since Burkhead went out. They've run for at least 250 yards in three straight games for the first time since the opening three games in 2010. The Huskers have won 19 of 20 when running for at least 200.
Abdullah was the featured back against UCLA and Arkansas State. He got lots of help against the Red Wolves. Freshman Imani Cross ran seven times for 66 yards and his first touchdown, and sophomore Braylon Heard had 10 carries for 54 yards.
Nebraska, which came into the season looking to pass more to balance an offense that ran on two-thirds of its plays last year, reverted to a ground-heavy attack against Arkansas State to try to keep the Red Wolves' up-tempo offense on the sideline.