Late injury to Martinez helps seal Husker loss to Buffs
LINCOLN — Colorado spoiled Scott Frost’s debut Saturday, knocking off the Huskers, 33-28, in Memorial Stadium.
A 40-yard touchdown pass from Colorado quarterback Steven Montez to wide receiver Laviska Shenault late in the fourth quarter put the Buffs up by five with just over a minute remaining.
Walk-on quarterback Andrew Bunch, who replaced true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez late in the fourth after Martinez got hurt, couldn’t lead Nebraska down the field in the final minute. His heave into the end zone as time expired fell incomplete, and Nebraska lost its first game of the Scott Frost era.
Martinez was excellent in his debut before that injury, throwing for 187 yards and a touchdown and running for 117 yards and two touchdowns. But late in the fourth quarter he was flattened by a Colorado lineman and had to be helped off the field by trainers.
In Frost’s debut, the Huskers ran for 329 yards and amassed 565 total yards. Junior college transfer Greg Bell ran for 104 yards on 13 attempts. JD Spielman caught three passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, Nebraska got to the quarterback for seven sacks. Outside linebacker Luke Gifford had 1.5 sacks, Freedom Akinmoladun had 1.5 and Khalil Davis had 2. Nebraska had 14 sacks total in 2017.
Montez threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns on 50 pass attempts. The Buffs also forced three turnovers.After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, Nebraska went on a roll and scored 21 unanswered points. Martinez juked a linebacker on a zone-read and took it to the house from 41 yards out for his first career score in the first quarter. Nebraska struck again early in the second quarter with an 8-yard rushing touchdown.Nebraska took a 21-17 lead into halftime. From there, the two former Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12 teams traded blows.The Huskers took a 28-20 lead in the third quarter on a 57-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Spielman. Colorado followed that up with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass by Montez to pull within one point.After that, the teams traded missed field goals, both failed to convert fourth-and-shorts near midfield, and with 6:05 left in the fourth, it was still a one point game.Martinez was picked off on first down from the 50 and again Colorado had a chance to take the lead, and again kicker James Stefanou missed a field goal, this time from 43 yards.Nebraska stuck to the ground game on its next possession, and that’s when Martinez got hurt. An incomplete pass on third-and-16 by Bunch to Spielman forced a Nebraska punt, which gave Colorado another chance to take the lead.Montez completed pass of 15, 4 and 17 to put Colorado at the 41-yard line. A sack by NU defensive end Ben Stille forced Colorado into a third-and-19 at the 50. A false start backed it up to third-and-24.Montez’s pass on third down fell incomplete, but a personal foul by Nebraska safety Antonio Reed saved Colorado and gave them a first down at the 45-yard line with 1:14 left. That’s when Montez threw a bomb 40 yards and put the Buffs up 33-28. Bunch led Nebraska down the field into the red zone in the final 60 seconds. He found Stanley Morgan for 25 yards to put Nebraska in scoring position. A pass to Bell put Nebraska at the 20 with 13 seconds remaining and no timeouts. A pass went just off the fingertips of Morgan with seven seconds to go.On the final play of the game, with three seconds remaining, Bunch threw up a prayer into the end zone, which fell incomplete.Nebraska falls to 0-1, and loses the opening game of the season for the second time in 33 years. The last loss was on Mike Riley’s debut against BYU in 2015.Nebraska returns to action next week against Troy at home at 11 a.m.