LINCOLN, Neb. – Ameer Abdullah returned a kickoff 100 yards after Fresno State made it a two-point game in the fourth quarter, and Taylor Martinez's 46-yard touchdown run secured the 10th-ranked Cornhuskers' 42-29 victory on Saturday night.
Martinez ran 15 times for 166 yards and two TDs and passed for another as the Huskers turned back an upset bid by the Bulldogs, who were four-touchdown underdogs.
Derek Carr threw incomplete to a well-covered A.J. Johnson on a 2-point try after his 26-yard TD pass to Josh Harper pulled the Bulldogs to 28-26.
Abdullah, who set a school record with 211 kick return yards, then made the biggest play of the night to break open the game.
Fresno's Robbie Rouse ran 36 times for 169 yards and Carr was 20 of 41 for 254 yards.
With the cloud of a welfare fraud investigation hanging over the program, and retired basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian watching from the press box, the Bulldogs made a strong run at their first win over a Top 10 opponent since 2001.
Fresno State led 17-14 at half and extended the lead to 20-14 early in the third quarter before Nebraska came back.
The Huskers took a 21-20 lead on Martinez's 18-yard TD pass to Quincy Enunwa, and Martinez hit Kyler Reed with a 53-yard pass before Rex Burkhead scored on a 6-yard run.
But the Bulldogs weren't done. Carr passed 55 yards to A.J. Johnson and then Harper hauled in a touchdown pass over Ciante Evans.
Abdulluah's big kick return thwarted any momentum Fresno State might have generated. He caught the kick 2 yards deep in the end zone, burst through the middle and then down the right sideline. He cut back to the left inside the 10 and crossed the goal line as Davon Dunn brought him down.
Kevin Goessling's 38-yard field goal pulled Fresno State to 35-29 with 5:24 left.
Burkhead did some tough running between the tackles before Martinez broke free for the Huskers' last touchdown.
Devon Wylie ran back a punt 67 yards for a touchdown, Carr scored on an acrobatic run and Goessling kicked a tie-breaking 22-yard field goal late in the half.
Nebraska got uneven play from Martinez. He fumbled twice, but the Huskers recovered both, and he threw two interceptions, though the second one was a desperation heave at the end of the half.
Fresno State coach Pat Hill has built his program on playing, and often beating, opponents from BCS conferences. The Bulldogs came to Lincoln having won seven of their last 11 against BCS schools but having lost 12 straight against opponents ranked in the Top 25.
Carr, brother of former Bulldogs star and 2002 No. 1 NFL draft pick David Carr, wasn't intimidated by Memorial Stadium's "Sea of Red."
The Bulldogs' young offensive line, which lost starting center Richard Helepiko last week, got dinged again early when starting left guard Matt Hunt left with what appeared to be an injury to his right foot.
Still, Nebraska's vaunted front four couldn't get much pressure on Carr as the Bulldogs had him move the pocket.
Wylie caught a 49-yard line drive off Brett Maher's foot and made three defenders miss on his way to a 67-yard touchdown. It was the first punt return for a touchdown against Nebraska since Texas Tech's Wes Welker went 85 yards in 2001.
Fresno State was up 14-7 on Carr's TD run. He rolled to his left on fourth-and-2 from the Nebraska 3 and turned toward the goal line as Will Compton and Austin Cassidy closed in on him. He reached the ball out as he went out of bounds. He initially was ruled down at the 1, but a video review showed he stretched the ball over the goal line before he tumbled out of bounds.