Nebraska fans had to wait an extra week for the start of the Scott Frost era at the school. They’ll have to wait at least one more to see a win.
Steven Montez lofted a perfectly thrown ball into the arms of Laviska Shenault along the sidelines for a 40 yard score with the clock ticking down in the final quarter as Colorado stunned the crowd at Memorial Stadium to escape with a 33-28 win against their old rival in Lincoln.
The Buffs struck first on the scoreboard and had briefly stunned Big Red after capitalizing on a pair of fumble recoveries to quickly take a two-score lead before Nebraska was even able to really get going. Montez was quite the playmaker in throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns despite an iffy offensive line and carried the team at times during the game. Shenault remains a nice revelation for the CU offense and caught 10 passes for 177 yards — none bigger than the final reception that he caught over a defender and took into the end zone. The dynamic threat was also effective on the ground, carrying the ball twice for five yards and a touchdown.
The late heroics took the load off 31-year-old (yep) kicker James Stefanou, who missed two field goals that would have given the team the lead down the stretch but wasn’t needed in the end.
Such an ending certainly put a damper on the homecoming for Frost in his first game in charge of his alma mater and was a double blow for Big Red considering the emergence of true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. The electric Californian dazzled with the ball in his hands, throwing for 187 yards and a touchdown (one interception late) while rushing for 117 more on the ground and adding two more scores. He scored the first points of the season after the team had their opener cancelled, keeping it on the option and scampering 41 yards around the edge before vaulting into the end zone to ignite the crowd.
As great as Martinez was though, there was concern throughout Nebraska’s program after he suffered a knee injury in the final few minutes of the game while running the ball. He failed to put much weight on his leg and needed to be helped off the field. Thanks to transfers over the past few weeks, there’s zero depth behind the freshman as Andrew Bunch, a sophomore walk-on, took reps trying to close the game out but couldn’t quite find the end zone on a final play Hail Mary.
All told, the team still racked up 565 yards of offense and averaged nearly seven yards a play — numbers rarely seen under Frost’s predecessor Mike Riley. Greg Bell flashed on some big runs and recorded 104 yards rushing while fellow tailback Devine Ozigbo chipped in with 60 more and scored an eight yard touchdown.
Maybe more encouraging for the team moving forward was also the reemergence of the Blackshirt defense. The group stepped up with several critical stops as the game went on and had seven sacks on the day as they looked as swarming as ever.
As entertaining as the back-and-forth game was, it was even nicer to see the two teams play each other again between the lines. The last time Colorado and Nebraska met on the gridiron, Frost was the wide receivers coach at Oregon, Mike MacIntyre was just finishing his first season leading San Jose State, and the two schools were going head-to-head in the now-defunct Big 12 North division. Things have changed quite a bit since, with both head coaches moving on to their current jobs and each side having joined a new conference.
The two proved that fun things happen when two rival hook up again in the non-conference schedule and certainly raise the bar for next year’s edition in Boulder.