Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah’s text message to Melvin Gordon on Monday morning wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
The Heisman Trophy hopefuls have kept in touch since bonding over a number of breakfasts at a Denny’s in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when they were high school seniors playing in the same all-star game.
But Gordon, the University of Wisconsin’s star running back, thought there may have been a hidden meaning behind this particular message from Abdullah.
Gordon said the text wished him luck before continuing with, “I’ll see you Saturday.”
Saturday is when No. 11 Nebraska travels to 22nd-ranked UW, pitting two of the nation’s elite running backs against each other for the second time in their college careers.
“It don’t sound like we’re going to be talking until then,” Gordon said. “That’s pretty much what it sounded like. That text sounded like, ‘I’ll talk to you then. Until then, it’s business.’ ”
Plenty has changed since Gordon and Abdullah struck up a friendship years ago.
First of all, Abdullah no longer plays defensive back. He’s keeping pace with Gordon in trying to lay claim to the status of the nation’s top runner.
Gordon leads the country with 1,501 rushing yards and ranks second in rushing touchdowns with 19.
Abdullah’s 1,250 rushing yards are the fifth-most in the nation even after he left early with an MCL sprain in Nebraska’s win over Purdue two weeks ago. He’s scored 17 rushing touchdowns this season.
“I believe you’ve got the two best in the country right here coming at you,” UW coach Gary Andersen said. “It’s going to be fun to watch those two kids tee off against each other this weekend.”
Gordon checks Abdullah’s stats after every game, and the two compliment each other following great performances.
While Gordon said he and Abdullah have never engaged in playful trash talk, they’re still competitors chasing the same dream of winning a Heisman Trophy.
Gordon can’t help but want to outdo Abdullah.
“You can probably put too much pressure on yourself sometimes when you see him ball out against a team, and then you’re like, ‘OK, now I’ve got to go out here and do the same,’ ” Gordon said. “I find myself sometimes trying to make the big play too many times, just trying to compare myself to him a little bit.”
Now, hopefully, the two will have an opportunity to one-up each other from drive to drive instead of game to game.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he expects Abdullah to return from his sprained MCL this week, but the Cornhuskers haven’t made any guarantee he’ll be at 100 percent.
“If I was a doctor and had a crystal ball, I’d be able to answer it with some certainty, but I’m not,” Pelini said Tuesday. “You just get him ready to play and see what happens.”
Even with Abdullah’s health in doubt, the two friends find themselves as the major storyline for one of the most anticipated games of the Big Ten season.
“It’s going to be a rough and a hard-fought game because (while) everyone is talking about us, both defenses are hearing it,” Gordon said. “They’re going to be tired of hearing it come Saturday, and they’re going to be ready to shut both of us down.”
That’s been a task most defenses have failed at this season, and chances are good the two will put on a show at Camp Randall.
Gordon, like just about everyone else, hopes to see Abdullah at 100 percent.
“I want to see him at his best, and I want him to give it all he’s got,” Gordon said. “Let’s just say I’ll be standing up watching to see what he’s out there doing. Firsthand. I don’t have to go check the stats after the game. He’s right there, and I’ll get to see it on the board. … It’s going to be exciting to see who’s the best.”
‘They’re going to be tired of hearing (about us) come Saturday, and they’re going to be ready to shut both of us down.’ MELVIN GORDON,
speaking of the UW and Nebraska defenses