BOULDER, Colo. — So close.
In the end, the Huskers walked off Folsom Field, heads down, as the Colorado student section flooded the field to celebrate a 34-31 win in overtime. Isaac Armstrong, kicking because sophomore starter Barret Pickering is back in Nebraska with injury, missed a 50-yarder on the final play of the game.
No. 25 Nebraska drops to 1-1 on the season
The Huskers are back in action next week against Northern Illinois at home. Kickoff for that one is set for 7 p.m. CT on FS1. But first, here are three thoughts from Saturday’s loss.
Progress but a Ways to Go
Nebraska hasn’t won an overtime game since beating Iowa 37-34 in 2014. The Huskers have lost one, though, in every season since.
Nothing is ever easy with this group. A 17-point lead vanished. An offense that looked good early looked stifled late. A defense that looked like a wrecking crew early looked gassed late. Nebraska turned the ball over three times, including an interception in the final 30 seconds of regulation from quarterback Adrian Martinez with Nebraska trying to drive for a game-winning score.
After everything this group went through last season — the start, the Northwestern game, the late field goal against Iowa — getting this kind of game early in the year and proving to themselves they can win one tight would have done so much for confidence. Instead, it’ll feel like another setback.
Nebraska will not accomplish its goals this season without its offense living up to expectations.
Redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens was much better at center for the Huskers in Game 2. Snapping dominated an uncomfortable portion of the conversation around the offense during and after the South Alabama game, but Jurgens was largely on target Saturday against the Buffs. And the offense opened seemingly firing on all cylinders.
Martinez hit his first nine passes — including a 65-yard bomb to JD Spielman to open the scoring — and engineered 266 yards of offense in the first half. Nebraska held a 17-0 edge and things appeared peachy for Big Red.
Then the offense dried up. Colorado brought delayed blitzers from the second level and it really messed with Martinez in the pocket. Nebraska put up just 50 yards in the entire third quarter (at 2.9 yards a play) and was held scoreless. The Colorado halftime adjustments were met with little from the Huskers.
Colorado scored on a 96-yard flea-flicker on the fourth play of the fourth quarter to cut the Nebraska lead to just three.
By the time the fourth rolled around, Nebraska’s defense was tired. The Husker offense responded to the flea-flicker with a one-play, 75-yard score from Maurice Washington, but it just put the defense right back on the field and the Buffs went another 75 yards in five plays for another touchdown.
A fourth-and-inches gamble from coach Scott Frost on the Colorado 6-yard-line in a tied game midway through the fourth was rewarded by a bullish run from Martinez up the middle on a draw to score. It restored a seven-point lead that had vanished in seemingly the blink of an eye. But then Martinez tossed that pick going for a home run rather than trying to pick up yardage.
In overtime, the Husker defense held Colorado to just a field goal on the opening possession. A massive win. Nebraska got nothing on the first two plays of its possession — two awfully conservative play-calls — and then Martinez was sacked on the third to put Armstrong in the crosshairs.
The defense is not ready to carry this team. The offense needs to be better.
Take a Deep Breath
This one is probably going to feel like a massive blow. A Nebraska media member tweeted during the game it could potentially make or break the season. Another said something similar back during the week.
But a three-point overtime loss in Colorado in the second game of the year has absolutely no impact on the rest of the season. Nebraska is still unbeaten against Big Ten opponents. Northwestern started 2018 1-3 and won the West. Nebraska’s goal is to win the West, and that goal is still attainable.
What this should serve as is a teaching moment. Not a body blow.
Feel bad. By all means, feel bad. Just keep things in perspective.
The Sea Moved
It deserves to be mentioned.
I’ll admit it, I was skeptical. I didn’t think Colorado would be any different than Oregon a couple years ago. A fantastic crowd, but not half of the crowd. And just because people were migrating to Boulder didn’t mean they were all going to the game.
That’s what I thought.
You guys continue to do crazy things.
This was a home game for Nebraska. I don’t know what the numbers were (though Vivid Seats says the ticket edge was 67% Nebraska) and I’m never a good judge of those kinds of things, but I do know that before kickoff while fans were still settling into seats, Colorado tried a “C … U…” chant where one sideline says one thing and the other sideline says another and Nebraska fans hijacked it with a “Husker Power” chant.
Early on, Colorado’s offense looked like it might need a silent count at home. The Buffaloes got flagged for delays of game after a timeout and later after a change of possession.
On Monday, Mohamed Barry said he was hopeful to see the sea of red in Boulder. He got his wish.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.