Unfazed CU Buffs stun rival Nebraska in overtime

Buffs rally from 17-point deficit to quiet the Huskers

BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 7, 2019: University of Colorado’s Nate Landman (53) celebrates the missed field goal by Isaac Armstrong (98) on the far right. Colorado 34-31 OT win over Nebraska on September 7, 2019. (photo by Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Throughout the week, Colorado football players heard the verbal jabs being thrown at them from Nebraska players – and even Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost.

Then, Colorado had to endure its failed efforts to keep the red out of the Folsom Field seats. Of the 52,829 fans in the stands – the first sellout at Folsom since the 2016 finale against Utah – on Saturday, at least half were cheering for the visitors.

On top of all that, the Huskers and their fans got to enjoy the pleasure of a 17-point lead in the first half.

In the end, the sea of red was overcome by the rush of black and gold, as the Buffaloes completed one of the largest comebacks in program history to stun the 25th-ranked Huskers, 34-31 in overtime.

James Stefanou’s 34-yard field goal in overtime gave CU it’s first and only lead, and when Nebraska’s Isaac Armstrong sailed his game-tying attempt wide right, a mass of CU fans spilled onto the field.

“When I’m playing out there, I block it out,” said Buffs linebacker Nate Landman, who finished with 14 tackles, “but seeing that missed field goal at the end and seeing our fans rush the field, it’s a feeling that not many have experienced having played in that game. To bring that win home for Boulder was just amazing.”

Amazing, stunning and, oh so satisfying for the Buffs (2-0), who completed a two-game sweep of their former Big 12 rivals. Last year, they stunned the Huskers in Frost’s debut, 33-28, in Lincoln.

Nebraska’s first trip to Boulder since 2009 was highly anticipated and gave CU bragging rights over the Huskers (1-1) for another several years. The two won’t meet again until 2023 in Boulder.

“There is a lot of red that left here disappointed,” first-year CU head coach Mel Tucker said. “I never sensed that they had any type of advantage from a fan standpoint in our stadium. Our fans were loud. They were very supportive. We fed off of our fans.”

Nebraska players were clearly eager for this one after last year’s disappointment. Frost called the Buffs “ex-rivals,” while several players weren’t shy in talking about their dislike for CU.

CU players kept quiet, focusing on themselves, but quarterback Steven Montez took some pleasure in sending the Huskers home disappointed.

“You saw all those crazy quotes they were putting out early in the week,” he said. “To be honest, truly, I think they talked themselves right out of the game. I think they came in too amped up and they talked themselves right out of it. Before the coin toss they were talking trash; at the bottom of piles they were spitting and doing dirty stuff; so, I mean, they got what was coming to them.”

Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Colorado’s KD Nixon escapes Nebraska’s Marquel Dismuke on Saturday.

For a while, though, it appeared that the trash talking got Nebraska fired up for the trip to Boulder.

In the first half, Huskers quarterback Adrian Martinez went 9-for-9 for 180 yards and a touchdown and added a touchdown run. Nebraska outgained the Buffs 266-84 in the first half and took a 17-0 lead into intermission.

It was still 17-0 until late in the third quarter, when the Buffs got the offense going.

Freshman Jaren Mangham scored on an 11-yard run with 1:42 to play in the third and that seemed to open the floodgates. The Buffs scored 31 points in the final 17 minutes of regulation.

Montez overcame a shaky start to finish 28-for-41 for 375 yards and two touchdowns, KD Nixon had six catches for 148 yards and a touchdown and Mangham ran for two scores.

“We just kind of got it together,” Montez said. “We all kind of just calmed down and started to play outside ourselves.”

The defense stood up, too, sacking Martinez six times and forcing two turnovers after intermission. After his perfect first half, Martinez was 7-for-17 for 110 yards in the second half, although he did have a touchdown pass and run.

Tony Brown’s 26-yard touchdown catch from Montez tied the game with 46 seconds to play in regulation, making up for a pass he dropped in the end zone earlier in the quarter that would have given the Buffs the lead.

“My teammates were telling me to pick myself up, that Montez is going to come right back to me,” Brown said. “I picked my head up, I had confidence in myself and when the play was called, I knew it was coming to me, so I had to make a play for my teammates.”

Stefanou’s kick gave them the lead in overtime, and Mustafa Johnson’s third sack of the day pushed the Huskers back and forced a longer field goal attempt.

It matched the fourth-largest comeback in CU history and was their largest deficit overcome since a 35-34 win at Washington State on Sept. 22, 2012. It was also CU’s first win against a ranked opponent since the 2016 game against Utah.

“I’m really proud of our players,” Tucker said. “They did a phenomenal job just continuing to play the next play, never looking at the scoreboard and playing for each other. It’s all about execution and they showed a lot of fight.

“We fed off of our fans. We could feel the intensity of this game going into it, but our guys were able to stay focused on the task at hand and focus on execution. This win means a lot to so many people and we don’t take that lightly and we’re going to play hard.”

Colorado 34, Nebraska 31 (OT)

Play of the game: Early in the fourth quarter, with CU trailing 17-7 and backed up at their 4-yard line, offensive coordinator Jay Johnson called a flea-flicker and the Buffs executed it perfectly. Steven Montez took the pitch from Alex Fontenot and threw a strike downfield to KD Nixon for a 96-yard touchdown – the longest play from scrimmage in CU history.

Turning point: CU opened the second half by forcing Nebraska to punt on three straight possessions. Finally, the offense capitalized with a Jaren Mangham touchdown run to pull within 17-7 with 1:42 to go in the third. CU’s confidence rose after that score.

Top 3 Buffs of the game

1. Davion Taylor: The Star back was all over the place on defense, making big play after big play. He finished with eight tackles and two pass breakups, but his impact was bigger than that.

2. Steven Montez: The senior QB had a rough first half, but was sensational in the second, throwing for 375 yards and two touchdowns.

3. Mustafa Johnson: He came up big, especially in the second half, with three sacks, four tackles and a forced fumble.

Colorado 34, No. 25 Nebraska 31, OT
Nebraska 7 10 0 14 0 — 31
Colorado 0 0 7 24 3 — 34
First Quarter
NEB — Spielman 65 pass from Martinez (Armstrong kick), 6:02
Second Quarter
NEB — Martinez 5 run (Armstrong kick), 6:37
NEB — FG Armstrong 26, 2:47
Third Quarter
COL — Mangham 11 run (Stefanou kick), 1:42
Fourth Quarter
COL — Nixon 96 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), 14:22
NEB — Washington 75 pass from Martinez (Armstrong kick), 14:09
COL — Mangham 7 run (Stefanou kick), 12:19
COL — FG Stefanou 20, 8:30
NEB — Martinez 6 run (Armstrong kick), 5:49
COL — Brown 26 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), :46
Overtime
COL — FG Stefanou 34, :00

NEB COL
First downs 19 22
Rushes-yards 46-179 37-89
Passing 290 375
Comp-Att-Int 16-26-1 28-41-1
Return Yards 0 58
Punts-Avg. 5-45.4 6-41.83
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 2-1
Penalties-Yards 6-65 9-65
Time of Possession 29:13 30:47
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING — Nebraska, Washington 15-77, Martinez 19-66, Mills 8-24, W.Robinson 2-9, Spielman 1-8, (Team) 1-(minus 5). Colorado, Mangham 11-44, Fontenot 10-42, J.Jackson 1-14, Stanley 1-8, L.Shenault 3-6, (Team) 1-(minus 1), Nixon 1-(minus 3), Brown 1-(minus 4), Montez 8-(minus 17).
PASSING — Nebraska, Martinez 16-26-1-290. Colorado, Montez 28-41-1-375.
RECEIVING — Nebraska, Spielman 5-112, Washington 4-118, W.Robinson 3-35, Mills 2-21, Stoll 2-4. Colorado, Nixon 6-148, Brown 5-60, L.Shenault 5-31, Russell 4-31, Fontenot 4-20, Stanley 2-17, J.Jackson 1-57, Mangham 1-11.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Nebraska, Armstrong 48.

Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Colorado’s Tony Brown celebrates his touchdown with assistant coach Darrin Chiaverini on Saturday.