The grades: Colorado 33, Nebraska 28
RUNNING GAME (B)
Nebraska finished with 329 rushing yards while averaging 6.1 per attempt. Adrian Martinez’s first carry of his college career went for 18 yards. Later in the first quarter, he sped 41 yards for a touchdown on a perfectly executed zone read. He obviously carried the ball too loosely at times. What’s more, Nebraska had two run plays stuffed on fourth and short, which kept this grade from being an “A.”
PASSING GAME (B)
Martinez’s 57-yard touchdown pass to JD Spielman was a high-level throw. The freshman had several excellent throws, including a 19-yard strike to Mike Williams on a third-and-16. In the second quarter, another defining play: A 315-pound lineman had his hands on Martinez in the pocket, but he managed to break free and complete a 19-yard pass. But Stanley Morgan dropped what should’ve been a TD pass in the third quarter, and Spielman had a critical third-down drop in the fourth.
AGAINST THE RUN (A)
You’ve been looking for big plays from senior Dedrick Young. And there it was: He blew up Steven Montez’s option pitch to Kyle Evans on a critical fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter. Colorado’s offensive line is regarded as a weakness, and Nebraska exploited it. The Buffs finished with only 44 rushing yards on 35 attempts.
AGAINST THE PASS (B)
If you figured Montez would be a handful, you figured right. He was 33-for-50 for 351 yards and three touchdowns despite being sacked seven times. Khalil Davis lowered the boom on Montez early in the second quarter for Nebraska’s first sack, and Ben Stille and Luke Gifford closed the deal later in the period. The hits kept coming, but Montez delivered several big throws in the second half. CU’s skill players were as good as advertised, especially Laviska Shenault (10 catches, 177 yards).
SPECIAL TEAMS (D)
Nebraska’s return game was surprisingly quiet and a lot of Nebraska’s penalty issues were on special teams. Also, Barret Pickering missed a field goal wide right from 43 yards on his first career attempt. Special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt has some work to do.
GAME MANAGEMENT (D)
Nebraska was sloppy for far too much of the game, finishing with 11 penalties for 95 yards. NU was particularly undisciplined early in the game as the Buffs built a 14-0 lead. “We can’t beat ourselves,” Husker coach Scott Frost said. “We’ve got to learn those lessons. We’ve tried preaching that to them a lot.”
Plenty of folks questioned why Martinez threw on first down right after Dedrick Young blew up CU’s fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. It’s a fair question. But Frost gave a good answer, saying he always wants to stay aggressive. He said he called an easy pass play and said there was too much time left to go exclusively to the ground. The final numbers were impressive: 565 yards on 6.8 per play.
There was so much to like — the swarming defense, Martinez’s poise and play-making prowess, the sacks — but Frost was right: Nebraska too often was its own worst enemy. But this was progress, pure and simple, with one gnawing question: How’s Adrian?