Steven Branscombe / Getty Images
Steven Branscombe / Getty Images
LINCOLN, Neb. — In the moments after Colorado kicker James Stefanou missed a field goal attempt for the second time on Saturday, quarterback Steven Montez made sure his teammate wouldn’t hang his head.
“I told him, ‘Look dude, those kicks, they’re behind you now. Right after you miss them, it doesn’t matter anymore. You can’t think about,'” Montez said after the Buffaloes knocked off Nebraska, 33-28, at Memorial Stadium.
Stefanou, who had made two field goals earlier in the game to improve to 20-for-25 (80 percent) in his CU career, sailed back-to-back kicks in the fourth quarter wide left. Those misses kept the Buffs in a 28-27 deficit.
There was still 4 minutes, 49 seconds left on the clock, however, and Montez knew that was no time to lose confidence.
“We just have to keep a very positive mentality on the sidelines, because that’s where you prosper,” Montez said. “A negative setting on the sideline isn’t good for anybody. We just have to stay positive.”
Staying positive, the Buffs rallied with two defensive stops and a game-winning touchdown pass from Montez to Laviska Shenault.
Several big plays were crucial, but the Buffs could not discount the role that team camaraderie played in that win, and Montez’s interaction with Stefanou was proof of that.
“They truly have a brotherhood,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “They really, truly care about each other and they really, truly want to help each other.
“I just see how they react with each other, how they’re pushing each other, how they’re working on everything; I see how they motivate each other and how they care for each other.”
All offseason, the Buffs spoke about bonding together and how they felt closer as a team than they were a year ago. The efforts to bond in the offseason paid off against the Cornhuskers — and could be crucial as the Buffs go throughout this season.
“We love each other too much to let each other down,” linebacker Rick Gamboa said. “We never want to give up on each other no matter what the score is. That love for each other to never give up and fight to the very end. That’s one thing that’s helped us a lot in the offseason.”
Although none of the current Buffs had ever participated in a game against Nebraska until Saturday, they said they were well aware of what it meant to their fans.
Linebacker Nate Landman, who is from Danville, Calif., said he didn’t really understand it until this past week, but really felt it on Saturday.
“I could see the crowd going crazy, the plays people were making and how the alumni was affected, too,” he said. “I had people saying how big of a game it was. Just to get that win, not only for our team but everyone back in Boulder, and everyone where who traveled to come to the game, we had a pretty good turnout for this away game, so I was happy to get that win for them.”
Now the Buffs will head into Saturday’s home opener against New Hampshire with a 2-0 record, and Gamboa said he and his teammates can’t wait to get to Folsom Field.
“I know everybody back home in the state of Colorado is very excited after this win,” he said. “As a team, the rest of the guys who didn’t get to travel, I know they’re all very excited to finally be able to go out in Folsom, especially some of the new guys. I think everybody is excited.”
Praise for Martinez
CU came away very impressed with Nebraska true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, who completed 15-of-20 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown and ran for 117 yards and two scores before leaving with an injury in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Landman said. “He really uses his legs well. He gashed us a couple of times. He’s a good passer, too. He stays in there and he’s a tough kid. He took some shots today. I hope he gets well. He’s a great player and he’s going to be great in the future.”
MacIntyre said that with Martinez, the Cornhusker offense should be in good shape.
“If he stays healthy, they’ll be really powerful offensively,” he said.
After the game, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said the news on Martinez was “semi-encouraging. We’re going to wait before we talk about it until the doctors and everything see what it looks like. I thought Adrian played a great game, especially for his first game.”
Following the big win against Nebraska, the Buffs received some votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. CU received 25 points in this week’s poll, which ranks them 31st overall in the voting … CU is ranked No. 24 in the Athlon Sports Top 25 that was released Sunday. …Through the first two weeks of the season, Shenault leads the country in receiving yards per game (194.0) and catches per game (10.5), while Montez ranks eighth with 344.5 passing yards per game.
CU opponent glance
Opponent: New Hampshire Wildcats
Game time: Saturday, 3 p.m., at Folsom Field in Boulder
Coach: Sean McDonnell, 19th season (150-90)
This season: 0-2
Last week: UNH lost at home to Colgate, 10-3.
Key players: LB Quinlen Dean, Jr. (27 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack); RB Evan Gray, Jr. (16 att., 67 yards); S Evan Horn, So. (14 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU); DE Jae’Wuan Horton, Sr. (10 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks); QB Trevor Knight, Sr. (3-for-8, 25 yards); QB Christian Lupoli, So. (19-for-37, 231 yards, 1 TD); WR Neil O’Connor, Sr. (12 catches, 132 yards).
Notable: The Wildcats have been outscored 45-10 in two games this season. … New Hampshire has qualified for the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs in each of the last 14 years, the longest current streak in the country. … Since 2010, the Wildcats are 1-7 against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams, defeating Georgia Southern, 22-12, last year. … UNH’s last win against a Power 5 team was a 34-17 victory at Northwestern on Sept. 9, 2006. Since then, the Wildcats are 0-2 against Power 5 teams, losing to Pittsburgh in 2010 and Minnesota in 2012. … Knight injured his shoulder in the opener and Lupoli made his first career start on Saturday against Colgate. The Colonial Athletic Association offensive player of the year in 2017, Knight suffered a “bad AC sprain,” according to McDonnell last week. As of last week, the Wildcats weren’t sure if Knight would be back in time to face the Buffs. … CU will pay UNH $400,000 to play this game – much lower than the going rate around the country.