For the first time since 2010, shortly before Colorado moved to the Pac-12 Conference, the Buffaloes met up with old foe Nebraska for the opening contest in a renewed rivalry. In a game that was not decided until the final minutes, the Buffs defeated the Cornhuskers in a close one, 33-28.
Before Saturday’s game at Memorial Field in Lincoln, Nebraska, Colorado was 18-49 in the all-time series with the Huskers.
About a third into the first quarter, the Buffs’ offense began running at a pace similar to last week’s 45-13 win over Colorado State, which featured two early touchdowns in quick succession.
The Buffs did go up 14-0 by the 6:47 mark in the first quarter, with both drives coming off Nebraska turnovers early in the game.
Senior wideout Jay MacIntyre caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Steven Montez to cap an 8-play, 86 yard scoring drive on which CU drew first blood.
Sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.’s touchdown grab about two and a half minutes later was the second opening punch the Buffs were able to get on the Huskers.
Heading into the game, questions lingered concerning Nebraska’s true freshman quarterback, Adrian Martinez. Finishing 15-of-20 with 187 yards passing and a touchdown plus a pick, Martinez was a catalyst for many of his team’s touchdowns, but ultimately, the Buffaloes’ defense was able to limit him just enough.
A late interception by sophomore linebacker Nate Landman was a setback for Nebraska, and although Colorado missed two field goals in the game, Montez and the offense came up big when it mattered.
After Colorado took a 14-0 lead, the Buffs seemed to let some momentum slip back into the Cornhuskers’ corner. The Huskers outscored CU 14-3 in the second quarter and by halftime, a field goal from sophomore placekicker James Stefanou from 40 yards out with half a minute remaining brought the Buffs within four, although they still trailed, 21-17.
Stefanou converted two kicks for the Buffs in the game, but he also missed two in the fourth quarter, from 37 and 43 feet, contributing greatly to the Buffaloes’ late-game dramatics.
At halftime, the Buffs had yet to convert a third down. Nebraska’s defense had so stuffed Colorado’s run game that with just over three minutes before the half, CU had accumulated -5 rushing yards in total.
After receiving the kickoff to open the second half, the Buffs’ first drive resulted in a Stefanou field goal from 35 yards out.
Down 21-20 and after a series of punts, Nebraska went up 28-20 after Martinez launched a 58-yard bomb to JD Spielman for 57 yards with around five minutes left in the third quarter.
MacIntyre caught his second touchdown of the day on Colorado’s ensuing drive, but Martinez was able to move the Huskers’ offense forward. In the game, he torched Colorado’s defense for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
The fourth quarter opened with a slew of errors. First, Nebraska missed a field goal. Stefanou shanked a 37-yard attempt on Colorado’s ensuing drive. When Nebraska took over on offense, it failed to convert a 4th and 1 from CU’s 42 line.
From there, Colorado’s offense took the field, and after a 4-play, 7-yard drive, redshirt senior tailback Kyle Evans was tackled for a loss of two yards on a futile 4th and 1 shot at Nebraska’s 48-yard line.
After the series of deflaters, the Buffs suddenly caught a major break. Landman picked off Martinez during the first play of the Huskers’ offensive possession following CU’s field goal miss. Landman returned the interception 22 yards.
But the celebration following the big play was short-lived, as shortly thereafter, Stefanou missed another field goal, this time from 43 yards out.
Landman and the defense held firm though and forced a punt on the Huskers’ next drive, partly due to Martinez being helped off the field mid-drive due to an apparent leg injury.
Montez and the offense did not let yet another chance to score evade them. With less than two minutes to play, the Buffs faced a 3rd and 24 from their own 45-yard line. Montez’s pass to MacIntyre was incomplete, but the Huskers suffered a debilitating personal foul penalty for a late hit on the defenseless receiver, resuscitating the drive.
Soon after, Shenault Jr. caught a 40-yard touchdown from Montez to give Colorado a decisive 32-28 lead late in the game. Stefanou’s extra point made it 33-28, and from there, Colorado’s defense held against a final red zone attempt by Nebraska to take the game.
Montez was 33-of-50 for 333 yards and three touchdowns while Shenault Jr. had a 10-catch, 177-yard day while also scoring a touchdown. Landman led CU with 13 total tackles.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo