In a game that was dominated by the Nebraska defense for nearly three quarters, Colorado's offense erupted for 31 points in the final 17 minutes of regulation to force overtime before the Buffaloes hit a 34-yard field goal on the opening possession of OT to claim a 34-31 win over the Cornhuskers on Saturday afternoon at Folsom Field.
Nebraska won the overtime coin flip and elected to defend. The Blackshirts came through by holding the Buffaloes to a James Stefanou field goal to give Colorado its only lead of the game.
The Huskers took their overtime possession 25 yards from victory, but were shut down on first and second down, before a third-down sack of Adrian Martinez put Nebraska at 4th-and-16 from the CU 31. Nebraska elected to try a 48-yard game-tying field goal with Isaac Armstrong, who earlier in the game kicked his first career field goal. Armstrong, Nebraska's regular starting punter, was making his first career collegiate appearance at place-kicker as a replacement for injured returning starter Barret Pickering.
Armstrong's attempt was short and right, as Colorado escaped with the win. Prior to that kick, Armstrong was outstanding during regulation, going a perfect 4-for-4 on PAT kicks. His 26-yard field goal with 2:47 left in the second quarter staked Nebraska to a 17-0 halftime lead. Armstrong also boomed five punts for an average of 46.2 yards in the game.
Nebraska completely controlled the first half in front of nearly 53,000 fans - well over half of which were covered in Husker red - building a 17-point lead while out-gaining Colorado 266-84. The Blackshirts shut down the Buff running game in the half, holding CU to 0 yards on 14 carries.
After halftime, the Blackshirts continued to play well in the third quarter but the offense was unable to get anything going. Colorado finally broke into the scoring column late in the third quarter with an 11-yard touchdown run from Jaren Mangham with 1:42 left to cut Nebraska's lead to 17-7. Mangham finished the game with a team-high 44 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns to lead the Buff running game, which finished with just 89 yards on 37 carries.
Nebraska started the fourth quarter with the ball, but was forced to punt. Armstrong pinned the Buffs at their own 4 to start the drive in the shadow of their own goal line. However, Colorado set the tone for the final quarter with a flea-flicker on its first play, and Steven Montez connected with K.D. Nixon on a 96-yard touchdown pass to pull the Buffs within 17-14 with 14:22 left. Dixon finished with game highs of six receptions and 148 yards.
Montez finished the game by completing 28-of-41 pass for 375 yards and two scores. He also threw one interception and was sacked three times.
While Colorado had momentum, Nebraska's offense quickly answered on its next offense play, with Maurice Washington taking a short pass from Martinez and racing 75 yards for a touchdown to put the Big Red back up 24-14 with 14:09 left. Washington produced 196 all-purpose yards, including four receptions for a team-high 118 yards, while adding 15 carries for 77 rushing yards to help the Husker offense.
Colorado kept coming, producing an answer of its own with a five-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by Mangham's second touchdown run - this time from seven yards out to pull back within three points at 24-21.
Colorado then came up with a big defensive play, forcing a Martinez fumble to start a potential go-ahead drive on a short field at the Nebraska 35. The Blackshirts stiffened and held Colorado to a 20-yard Stefanou field goal to tie the game for the first time at 24 with 8:30 left.
Martinez and the Husker offense then found an answer of their own, covering 75 yards in eight plays and 2:55, capped by Martinez's six-yard touchdown run to move back in front at 31-24 with 5:49 left.
For the game, Martinez completed 16-of-26 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also threw an interception on a deep pass on Nebraska's final play of regulation. Martinez was 9-for-9 for 180 passing yards and a touchdown in the first half. For the game, he added 19 carries for 66 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground to account for 356 yards of total offense.
On the ensuing kick-off, Laviska Shenault Jr. broke into the open on the return for Colorado, but Cam Taylor-Britt came up with a big individual special teams play by forcing a fumble that was recovered by walk-on Luke Reimer near midfield. However, an unsportsmanlike penalty on Nebraska during the recovery and an intentional grounding call on first down put Nebraska at its own 21 facing 2nd-and-17.
The Buffaloes forced a punt and took over 75 yards from a tie. Colorado completed the comeback to force overtime with Montez's 26-yard touchdown pass to Tony Brown with 46 seconds left. Brown finished with five receptions for 60 yards.
Junior wide receiver JD Spielman made Nebraska's first big play of the game with his 65-yard touchdown catch on NU's opening drive. Spielman finished with five catches for 112 yards, while adding one carry for eight yards.
Defensively, Nebraska got big games across its defensive line, led by five tackles, including two for loss from Khalil Davis. Ben Stille and Alex Davis both added two tackles for loss, while Carlos Davis added a 12-yard sack. Will Honas led the Blackshirts with a career-high nine tackles, while Mohamed Barry, Collin Miller and Marquel Dismuke all pitched in six stops. Lamar Jackson added a first-half interception, while Cam Taylor-Britt forced two fumbles while coming up with five tackles.
Nebraska (1-1) will look to bounce back next week at home with another tough test from Northern Illinois. Kickoff between the Huskers and the Huskies is set for 7 p.m. in what will be the 370th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The game will be televised by FS1.