Down 10 points early in the fourth quarter and pinned at their own 4-yard line, the Colorado Buffaloes had their backs against the wall.
But, not for long.
Offensive coordinator Jay Johnson called for a flea-flicker. Lined up for the run, with two tight ends in to block, to get out of the shadow of the end zone, the Buffs handed the ball to running back Alex Fontenot. He got to the line, turned and flipped the ball back to quarterback Steven Montez, who threw a laser to wide-open KD Nixon, who went 96 yards for the touchdown.
“Talk about the guts to call that on our own 4,” Montez said. “Just guts from coach Johnson up top in the booth to send that down to us.”
That touchdown pulled the Buffs within three points and sparked a thrilling fourth quarter and overtime before CU’s 34-31 victory.
Nixon, who finished with six catches for 148 yards, gave the credit to Johnson, too, and said he just had to do his job.
“We practice it every day in practice, so it’s really just a play I have to execute,” he said. “Just do your job.
“Making that play made me happy because I know the type of player I am and if I make a play, I know the team will get excited. That’s all we need is other players to make plays and once we all make plays, we all feed off each other.”
Johnson said the time was right for that type of gutsy call.
“We’ve always had that up,” he said. “Throughout several weeks we’ve had that play ready to go. Earlier in the game, we had a similar set and they gave us a defensive look that we thought was favorable. We anticipated collectively as a staff they might be looking at the run, so we thought that was a good time to try to dial it up.”
The play was the longest from scrimmage in CU history, topping the 95-yard run by Emerson Wilson against Kansas State in 1954.
Big moment for Stefanou
A year ago, James Stefanou wasn’t healthy and it showed in CU’s trip to Lincoln. He went 2-for-4 on field goals that day, missing a pair of kicks wide left.
On Saturday, he was a hero.
Stefanou’s 34-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Buffs to a victory and capped a perfect day for the junior (2-for-2 on field goals, 4-for-4 on extra points).
“You can’t let the emotions get to you, or the moment get to you,” he said. “You just have to go out and kick it. The boys fought all frickin’ game to come back. They did some job. When we come out there, our special teams, I think we did our job today quite well.
“Not relief. You expect to make them, knowing you’re not perfect, but you expect to make them all.”
For the second game in a row, Buffs receiver Laviska Shenault was the focus of the opposition and held in check.
The junior finished with five catches for 31 yards and also ran three times for six yards.
His teammates picked him up, though, as Nixon and Tony Brown both had big days at receiver.
Shenault did hit a milestone, though, topping 100 catches for his career. He now has 101 catches for 1,258 yards.
Climbing the charts
Montez moved into second place on CU’s all-time career passing list.
The senior now has 7,448 passing yards for his career, passing Joel Klatt and Cody Hawkins on Saturday. He trails only former teammate Sefo Liufau (9,568).
Montez also hit the 50-touchdown pass mark. He’s third, behind Liufau and Hawkins, who both threw 60.
Unranked CU teams are 2-22 all-time against ranked Nebraska teams. … CU is 7-8 in its history in overtime games. … Freshman linebacker Joshka Gustav made his CU debut, playing on special teams. … CU played without starting outside linebacker Carson Wells (concussion). … Cornerback Chris Miller had his first career interception. … Mel Tucker is the 10th coach in CU history (out of 26) to start 2-0.