BOULDER — Colorado staged one of the most improbable comebacks in program history Saturday afternoon, rallying from a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 34-31 win over 25th-ranked Nebraska in overtime at Folsom Field.
James Stefanou’s 34-yard field goal in the first overtime gave the Buffs their first lead of the day and the Buffs then held NU on the ensuing possession. A Mustafa Johnson sack of Adrian Martinez put the Huskers back at the 31-yard line, and an Isaac Armstrong 48-yard field goal attempt went wide right to give the Buffs the win.
Colorado’s Steven Montez finished with 375 yards passing and two touchdowns, with 291 of those yards and both scores coming after halftime. It was CU’s first win over a ranked opponent since the end of the 2016 regular season.
HOW IT HAPPENED: After a tough first half on both sides of the ball, the Buffs came alive in the second half to stage a furious rally.
The defense set the tone, forcing Nebraska punts on the Huskers’ first three possessions of the half. The Buffs offense couldn’t take advantage of the first two, but finally got on the board after the third, marching 64 yards in eight plays for their first touchdown of the game.
The drive included a 22-yard Steven Montez pass to Nixon, a 14-yard Jaylon Jackson run on a reverse and a 14-yard Montez pass to Brady Russell. Jaren Mangham capped the drive with an 11-yard run to pull CU to within 17-7 with 2:24 left in the third period.
CU’s defense then answered the bell again to force another Nebraska punt — and this time the Buffs needed just one play to score. Montez took a pitch back on a flea flicker play, then heaved a 96-yard touchdown pass to K.D. Nixon. It was the longest play from scrimmage in CU history, and when Nixon broke from from a last-gasp tackle attempt by Cameron Taylor-Britt, the Buffs had cut the margin to 17-14 with 14:22 still to play.
The Huskers then finally answered — and it didn’t take long. On their first play from scrimmage following CU’s score, Maurice Washington took a short pass from Adrian Martinez and galloped 75 yards to the end zone to give the Huskers a 10-point lead, 24-14.
Colorado, though, answered again. CU went 75 yards in five plays for a touchdown on its next drive to pull within 24-21. Montez hit Jaylon Jackson with a 57-yard pass, which set up a 7-yard Mangham run.
That set the stage for another CU defensive big play. On third-and-9 for Nebraska, CU’s Mustafa Johnson sacked Martinez, forcing a fumble. CU’s Nu’umotu Falo recovered — his second recovery of the game — and seven plays later, James Stefanou’s 20-yard field goal for Colorado tied the game at 24-24.
But the Huskers had one more answer. NU drove 75 yards on the ensuing possession to regain the lead, getting a 6-yard run from Martinez on fourth-and-1 for the touchdown and 31-24 lead.
Misfortune then struck the Buffs on the following kickoff. Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr. returned the kick past midfield but fumbled and Nebraska recovered with 5:35 to play. Colorado’s defense, however, forced one more punt and the Buffs regained possession with more than four minutes remaining.
That set up Colorado’s last possession — and the Buffs had another punch in their arsenal. Montez guided a 10-play, 71-yard march that culminated with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tony Brown to tie the game at 31-31.
Nebraska then had one more shot in regulation, but a Chris Miller interception ended the possession to send the game into overtime.
In the first half, the Buffs had no answer for Nebraska’s Martinez. The NU sophomore was a perfect 9-for-9 for 180 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown strike to JD Spielman to open the scoring. Martinez also had 45 yards rushing, including a 5-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter when the CU defense flushed him from the pocket but couldn’t contain him around the edge.
Colorado’s offense, meanwhile, struggled to establish any consistency. The Buffs managed to penetrate Nebraska territory on their first possession of the game, but a sack of Montez stymied the drive and CU never really threatened again the rest of the half.
The sack was one of three by Nebraska in the first half. While Montez did complete 13 of his 18 attempts in the first half, they accounted for just 84 yards total. The CU senior also threw an interception in the second quarter, which the Huskers converted into a field goal and their 17-0 halftime edge.