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Nebraska's 1,000-yard man Abdullah keeps on going

Nebraska's 1,000-yard man Abdullah keeps on going

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown likes to call Ameer Abdullah ``Mighty Mouse.''

The diminutive sophomore also could be called ``The Man.''

Abdullah, who ran the ball all of 42 times last season, reached 200 carries and crossed the 1,000-yard threshold for the season against Minnesota on Saturday.

The knee injury that has put All-Big Ten back Rex Burkhead on the sideline for most of his senior season necessitated Abdullah's heavier workload.

``Remember the old cartoon `Mighty Mouse?' That's him,'' Brown said after the 38-14 win over the Gophers. ``He's Mighty Mouse, man. He's a muscled up little guy who has a big, giant heart and runs like a bear. He's a versatile guy and he has great mental toughness.''

The 2012 offense was supposed to feature Burkhead, the fan favorite who is among only seven Nebraska backs to run for 3,000 yards in a career. Burkhead sprained his left knee in the opener and aggravated it twice after trying to come back.

Burkhead, limited to 47 carries this season, was suited up but didn't play against the Gophers. If his knee cooperates, he'll play some in the 17th-ranked Huskers' game at Iowa on Friday.

If he doesn't, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Abdullah will keep on going like that little cartoon mouse.

He's on pace to finish with 254 carries and 1,299 yards, assuming the Huskers go to the Big Ten championship game and have three games left. That would be 30 carries and 58 yards fewer than Burkhead had last year but more than any other Nebraska back the past 10 years.

Abdullah also has been the Huskers' primary punt returner, ranking second in the Big Ten at 13.9 yards a return. He also is second in all-purpose yards, at 151.3. He's sixth in rushing, at 92.6.

Abdullah said he's done more than even he expected this season, especially as a ball carrier. He's proved to be a tough inside runner in spite of his size, and he's just as good on the perimeter.

``Everybody wants to get 1,000,'' he said. ``To do it as a partial backup means a lot to me. All credit for the O-line. That shows how hard they've been working. They've been challenged some games. The fullbacks as well. That's one position that goes unnoticed. I give all the credit to them. I'm just running behind them.''

Abdullah ran 18 times for 79 yards against the Gophers on a day the starters played three quarters and Nebraska emphasized the passing game. Nebraska rushed for a season-low 133 yards, and the game marked just the second time this season that the Huskers didn't run for 200 yards.

Brown said he was glad to see Abdullah go over 1,000. The assistant coach said many people underestimate Abdullah's talent and toughness. Lots of fans have called for backups Braylon Heard and Imani Cross to get more work, but Abdullah has made it difficult for Brown to take him off the field.

``He ain't about just his stats,'' Brown said. ``He'll do anything for you. He doesn't get that hyped up. But it's a milestone for a kid to be a second-string running back and to have Rex go down. For that kid to step in ...''

As Abdullah's role has increased, so has his willingness to become a team leader as the program prepares for Burkhead and 28 other seniors to leave.

Abdullah stood up and addressed the seniors and the rest of the team on Friday.

``It was tough for me, but something needed to be said,'' he said. ``We really needed to express that the seniors since January have laid it on the line for us and it's time to return the favor this game.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

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Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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