For a second straight week, Nebraska’s turnover issues cost the team, as the Huskers recorded four giveaways in a 36-14 loss to No. 22 Colorado.
The Buffaloes, one week after putting up 45 points on a then-ranked TCU team, were held scoreless for the first 25 minutes of the game. This came despite starting beyond their own 40-yard line on two of their first four drives and at their own 35 on another.
However, Nebraska’s offense failed to take advantage in embarrassing fashion. The first drive of the game went into Colorado territory, then ended when quarterback Jeff Sims dropped a shotgun snap that was recovered by Colorado. Three drives later, tight end Luke Lindenmeyer went in motion on third down only to have to dive on the ball seconds later as he was hit by the snap. Kicker Tristan Alvano followed that up by missing a 45-yard field goal.
On the next Husker possession, with just under six minutes until halftime, the turnovers started to become costly. A third snap went awry, once again off the hands of Sims, and Colorado recovered. That drive ended in a field goal, then a Sims interception opened the door for Colorado’s first touchdown. One more field goal made it 13-0 at halftime, while Sims entered the locker room having committed six turnovers in the first six quarters of his Husker career.
“Jeff will be the first guy to say we can’t have that many turnovers, especially down in the red zone,” head coach Matt Rhule said postgame. “And we turned the ball over twice inside our own 30, which led to points.”
Sims showed signs of bouncing back out of the half, completing a 13-yard pass and running for a 56-yard touchdown on Nebraska’s first drive of the third quarter. However, Colorado responded with a touchdown minutes later and kept control through the rest of the game. Perhaps the moment that sealed the loss came to begin the final quarter with the score 23-7. A fumbled handoff between Sims and running back Gabe Ervin Jr. was recovered by the Buffaloes, who then marched down to score a touchdown and go up 29-7.
Despite a poor performance, Sims wasn’t pulled out of the game until the coaches had no other choice. He went down with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter, prompting Heinrich Haarberg to take all but one snap down the stretch (his helmet came off on one play, prompting Chubba Purdy to enter for one snap). Rhule said postgame that turning to Haarberg sooner was never in discussion.
There were few positives for the offense, but the running game did prove to be mostly effective. Ervin Jr. amassed 74 yards on 17 carries, while Rahmir Johnson took 11 rushes for 66 yards. Through the air, Billy Kemp IV had five receptions for 57 yards after being held without a catch last week. Thomas Fidone made his first career catch late in the fourth quarter, following it up with a garbage-time touchdown.
The defense finished with fairly poor stats, allowing 36 points and 454 total yards. The lone forced turnover came on Colorado’s last drive, when Nebraska’s eighth sack also forced a fumble from a backup quarterback. Still, the Huskers held off the opponent well for much of the game with little support from their offensive counterparts.
“I think we wore down,” Rhule said. “But I also don’t want to take any credit away from [Colorado]. I thought they made an adjustment, and they just threw a couple of balls up on third down that hurt us. And the screen game.”
Fans of the ranked Buffaloes stormed their home field after the game’s conclusion, with plenty of Husker fans in attendance watching. First-year Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, has gotten off to a strong 2-0 start behind quarterback Shedeur Sanders, two-way player Travis Hunter and other notable skill players such as Xavier Weaver, who had 170 receiving yards on the day.
Meanwhile, Rhule drops to 0-2 in his first season. His home opener will come next week in a night game against Northern Illinois (1-1). The status of Sims’ ankle injury will be worth watching throughout the week, as will be the way the team responds on the field. The head coach remains confident in Nebraska’s ceiling, although acknowledging that the games haven’t reflected that.
“I know everyone’s gonna be, as they should, you know, upset and panicked and those things,” Rhule. “We’re better than we’re showing, but that’s just words, you know, and we have to put that into action.”