Colorado rallied late in game, thanks in part to a personal foul penalty against the Nebraska defense, and defeated the Huskers 33-28 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
With less than two minutes to go and Nebraska leading 28-27, Antonio Reed was called for a personal foul on third-and-24. Colorado quarterback Steven Montez hit Laviska Shenault for a 40-yard touchdown pass on the next play. The two-point try failed.
With freshman starting quarterback Adrian Martinez out of the game with an injury, Andrew Bunch drove the Huskers to the Colorado 20-yard line, but his pass to the end zone on the last play of the game fell incomplete.
Scott Frost learned quickly how his first Nebraska football team responds to adversity.
The Huskers, opening their season against Colorado a week late after last Saturday’s game against Akron was canceled due to lightning, turned the ball over on their first two possessions and watched an old conference foe turn both mistakes in the points for a quick 14-0 lead.
Turnovers into points. Sound familiar?
But where NU’s 2017 outfit may have folded, this group instead did what Frost hoped it would.
It settled in, made plays and showed the kind of big-play ability on both sides of the ball that is sure to give NU designs of making some noise in Frost’s first season.
Before his injury, Martinez put on a show, rushing for 117 yards and passing for 187.
He got Nebraska on the board after he and junior running back Greg Bell lost fumbles on NU’s first two series. He sidestepped a defender, raced down the left sideline and dove into the end zone for a 41-yard score midway through the first quarter.
After a Devine Ozigbo touchdown run evened the scoreboard, Martinez kept on a zone read and walked in from 3 yards out to give NU its first lead late in the first half.
Colorado, on the other hand, struggled to handle the Huskers’ defensive pressure. Nebraska forced four straight three-and-outs after the Buffaloes scored off the NU turnovers.
Erik Chinander’s defense racked up six sacks in the first three quarters — two from Khalil Davis, 1.5 each from Luke Gifford and Freedom Akinmoaldun and one from Tyrin Ferguson — and did held CU to just 16 rushing yards over the same span.
Martinez showed the full range of freshman play late in the third quarter. Martinez tried to avoid a sack early in the drive and was only saved from having an interception returned for a touchdown by the fact that his knee was down when the ill-advised throw left his hand. Just five plays later, though, he put a perfect deep ball over JD Spielman’s outside shoulder up the left hash mark for a 57-yard touchdown that gave NU its largest lead to date at 28-20 with 5:35 remaining in the period.
Buffs junior quarterback Montez responded with a critical scoring drive, though, converting third downs of 14, 19 and 8, the last a scoring pass to Jay MacIntyre, his second touchdown catch of the afternoon.
The teams traded missed field goals and failed fourth-down conversions in the fourth quarter and the Huskers took over at midfield with 6:05 remaining.
Senior linebacker Dedrick Young stopped Kyle Evans for a loss of 2 at midfield on fourth-and-1 after Montez pitched Evans the ball on an option play.
Martinez, though, was intercepted by Nate Landman on the first play of the ensuing drive. The sophomore linebacker, who blew up Bell on the failed fourth-and-1 earlier in the quarter, returned the pick to the NU 32.
That set up James Stefanou’s second miss of the quarter.
This story will be updated.