Big plays, mental toughness lead CU Buffs past rival Nebraska

  • Steven Branscombe / Getty Images

    Colorado receiver Jay MacIntyre celebrates with teammates after the Buffs scored a late touchdown on Saturday against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Neb.

  • Steven Branscombe / Getty Images

    Colorado quarterback Steven Montez throws a pass on Saturday against Nebraska.

  • Steven Branscombe / Getty Images

    Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault breaks free from a tackle on Saturday against Nebraska.



Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

Play of the game: Steven Montez threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Laviska Shenault with 66 seconds to play to give the Buffs the winning score. From there, the CU defense held on.

Turning point: Down 21-17 at the half, CU opened the second half with a 12-play drive that resulted in a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-20. While a lot of game was left, it gave the offense some much-needed momentum, and the defense fed off that, as well. During the second half, CU outscored the Cornhuskers 16-7.

Top 3 Buffs of the game

1. Laviska Shenault — The sophomore receiver was sensational again, with 10 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown, while also running for a score.

2. Steven Montez — CU’s junior QB remained poised all day, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns, despite being under heavy pressure (sacked seven times).

3. Mustafa Johnson and Nate Landman — Both were great for the defense. Landman had 13 tackles and an interception, while Johnson had seven tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. He also recovered a fumble and forced a fumble.

Bottom line

Colorado faced its first real test of the season, fought through adversity and found a way to in. The Buffs flashed their talent on offense again and made key in-game adjustments on defense. It’s a huge victory that could set the Buffs up for a great season.

LINCOLN, Neb. — With just under five minutes to play on Saturday afternoon, the Colorado Buffaloes were in enemy territory and had good reason to throw their hands up in frustration.

For the second time in five minutes, the Buffs watched their normally reliable kicker pull a field goal attempt wide left. Either one would have given CU the lead.

CU head coach Mike MacIntyre then saw his team grow up a bit.

“After he missed the second one, our defensive guys were in the huddle going, ‘We’re going to stop them and win the game,'” MacIntyre said. “And, I hear the offense going, ‘We’re going to get the ball back and we’re going to go down and score.’

“I didn’t have to say a word. When I’m not having to say a word, that means the coaching staff has done an unbelievable job of getting that ready and the kids have bought in. They didn’t flinch one bit.”

No, they didn’t.

Despite those missed field goals and a shaky first half on defense, CU rallied to knock off Nebraska, 33-28, in the renewal of a rivalry that had been dormant for eight years.

Steven Montez connected with Laviska Shenault on a 40-yard touchdown pass with 66 seconds to play and the defense came up with one last stop in the closing seconds. When Nebraska’s last gasp pass fell incomplete, the Buffs (2-0) exploded off the sidelines in celebration.

“You’re just flooded with emotions,” said sophomore linebacker Nate Landman, who was exceptional once again, with 13 tackles and an interception. “I don’t even remember what I did. Jumping up and down throwing my helmet.”

Montez couldn’t watch the final play, instead clutching the hand of good friend and walk-on quarterback Josh Goldin. When the crowd of 89,853 didn’t erupt, Montez knew he could look.

“The emotions kind of catch up to you a little bit,” said Montez, who threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns. “It was just a crazy game. Crazy.”

For the CU community, which has lived through so many of these games with the Cornhuskers (0-1), this could not have been more satisfying. This was the 70th meeting between the two, with CU improving to 19-49-2. CU had not defeated the Cornhuskers since 2007 had not won in Lincoln since 2004.

It’s been eight years since these teams were Big 12 Conference rivals, playing big-time games on the final weekend of the regular season every year. Having gone their separate ways — CU to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten — in the summer of 2011, they haven’t played in a while. The passion for the rivalry has not died, however.

“I just heard a couple of alums out there say, ‘Thank you,'” Landman said. “That just proves how big this game is; how big it’s been in the past, how big it is now — not only for us here, but everyone back in Colorado. It was a great win and I feel like we really came together as a team.”

While this game meant a lot to CU and its fans, it was monumental for the 2018 Buffaloes.

CU has had just one winning season in the last 12 years and is coming off a 2017 season in which it went 5-7 and crumbled under pressure a lot.

This group is different.

“The thing I’ve kept saying and I’ve seen in this team … that’s what I saw, a mentally tough football team,” MacIntyre said. “A team that never is going to quit, never give in. They showed that.”

CU had its back up against the wall coming into the game, with the NCAA-record 362nd consecutive sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium eager for the debut of head coach Scott Frost. The Nebraska native and former Cornhuskers quarterback was hired in the offseason to help restore some glory to a once-proud team.

Colorado came out looking to spoil the party, though.

Both of Nebraska’s first two possessions ended with fumbles, and CU took advantage.

A touchdown pass from Montez to Jay MacIntyre got the scoring started, and after the second fumble, Shenault scored on a 3-yard run. Quickly, it was 14-0 in favor of the Buffs.

The tide turned in a hurry, though, as Nebraska powered through the Buffs for 21 straight points, shredding the defense for 243 rushing yards in the first half alone.

Although CU got a field goal just before halftime to pull within 21-17, it felt like Nebraska had seized control of the game.

CU’s mental toughness took over in the second half, though. The Buffs outscored Nebraska 16-7 and held the Cornhuskers to 86 yards on the ground after intermission.

“Adversity makes a team,” said Jay MacIntyre, who caught two touchdown passes. “Last year we didn’t handle it all that well sometimes. This year, we’re going to have to handle more adversity. There’s going to be a lot of stuff that happens. You have to come back the next play and go make the play and go win the game.”

The Buffs did just that and now have their most impressive 2-0 start in years. Montez hopes this is just a launching point, though.

“This is not the end game for us,” he said. “Beating Nebraska is great, but that doesn’t taste nearly as good as a Pac-12 championship. We have to keep pushing forward and keep working hard.”

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or

Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

Colorado 14 3 10 6 — 33

Nebraska 7 14 7 0 — 28

First quarter: COL — MacIntyre 3 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), 9:00 COL — Shenault 3 run (Stefanou kick), 6:47 NEB — A.Martinez 41 run (Pickering kick), 3:47Second quarter: NEB — Ozigbo 8 run (Pickering kick), 10:15 NEB — A.Martinez 3 run (Pickering kick), 2:24 COL — FG Stefanou 40, :28 Third quarter: COL — FG Stefanou 35, 10:59 NEB — Spielman 57 pass from A.Martinez (Pickering kick), 5:35 COL — MacIntyre 8 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), 1:24 Fourth quarter: COL — Shenault 40 pass from Montez (pass failed), 1:06 A — 89,853.


First downs 26 25

Rushes-yards 35-44 54-329

Passing 351 236

Comp-Att-Int 33-50-0 19-29-1

Return Yards 61 43

Punts-Avg. 5-43.8 3-39.33

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-2

Penalties-Yards 8-46 11-95

Time of Possession 30:15 29:45


RUSHING — Colorado, McMillian 8-25, Evans 12-25, Shenault 2-5, Nixon 2-(minus 4), Montez 11-(minus 7). Nebraska, A.Martinez 15-117, G.Bell 13-104, Ozigbo 14-60, Washington 8-34, Lindsey 2-9, Spielman 1-4, Bunch 1-1.

PASSING — Colorado, Montez 33-50-0-351. Nebraska, Bunch 4-9-0-49, A.Martinez 15-20-1-187.

RECEIVING — Colorado, Shenault 10-177, MacIntyre 8-45, Winfree 5-48, Nixon 5-39, Brown 2-28, McMillian 2-5, Evans 1-9. Nebraska, Morgan 5-75, Spielman 3-67, M.Williams 3-40, Ozigbo 2-17, Washington 2-16, G.Bell 2-3, Rafdal 1-14, Stoll 1-4.

MISSED FIELD GOALS — Colorado, Stefanou 37, Stefanou 43. Nebraska, Pickering 43.