LINCOLN, Neb. — Steven Montez connected with Laviska Shenault Jr. for a 40-yard touchdown with 1:06 to play and Colorado’s defense held at the end, allowing the Buffaloes to beat Nebraska 33-28 on Saturday and spoil Scott Frost’s debut as the Cornhuskers’ coach.
There was no lack of drama in the teams’ first meeting since 2010, the last season in the Big 12 for both.
“We knew we were going to win,” CU receiver Jay MacIntyre said. “You’ve got to have that mentality. I’m sure they have that mentality. But we went out there and did it.”
Colorado (2-0) got the ball for the last time with 2:23 left after Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez went out of the game because of an injury.
Montez moved the Buffaloes from their 23 to the Nebraska 41 before Ben Stille sacked him to set up a third-and-19 that became third and 24 after a false start. Montez overthrew MacIntyre over the middle, but safety Aaron Williams was called for a personal foul for hitting the defenseless MacIntyre.
“I got drilled,” MacIntyre said. “I kind of made eye contact before he hit me. We got a 15-yarder, so I’m glad he hit me.”
Given new life, Montez hit Shenault along the right sideline for the go-ahead score.
“He made a great catch, got into the end zone,” Montez said. “That’s what he’s there for. He’s a great receiver.”
Sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch, who took over for Martinez, moved the Huskers to the CU 21, but JD Spielman couldn’t come down with the ball in the end zone on the game’s final play.
Martinez, the first Nebraska true freshman to start at quarterback in an opener, ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 187 yards and another score. Martinez was injured on a short run with 3:29 left and had to be helped off the field.
The Huskers (0-1) were playing their opener a week late. Last week’s game against Akron was cancelled right after the opening kickoff because of inclement weather.
“I will never make an excuse, but having a game last week certainly probably would have helped the way we came out and played,” Frost said. “It is what it is. Those are the cards dealt to us.”
Montez was 33 of 50 for 351 yards and three touchdowns, with Shenault catching 10 balls for 177 yards.
Nebraska committed turnovers on its first two possessions, and Colorado capitalized for a 14-0 lead.
The Huskers led 21-17 at half and were up 28-20 in the third before the Buffaloes stormed back.
Montez passed 8 yards to MacIntyre for a touchdown that pulled the Buffs to 28-27. After missing two field goals that would have given them the lead, the Buffaloes got the ball back for the winning touchdown.
“Beating Nebraska is great, but it doesn’t taste nearly as good as a Pac-12 championship,” Montez said.
Colorado: Montez continues to stamp himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the Pac-12, making play after play on a day when the running game couldn’t gain traction.
Nebraska: Martinez had a splendid debut before getting hurt, and the defense looks much better than the unit that ranked among the worst in the nation last year. The Huskers had seven sacks after having only 14 last season.
Colorado plays at home against FCS opponent New Hampshire.
Nebraska hosts Troy, which visits Lincoln for the fifth time in 18 years.