Erik Chinander made it clear on Tuesday that his Nebraska defense gave up far too much in the fourth quarter against Colorado.
The Buffaloes put up 256 yards and 24 points in the final 15 minutes to go from trailing 17-7 to tied at 31 in the final 15 minutes and scored the game-tying touchdown on a 26-yard pass from Steven Montez to Tony Brown with 46 seconds left.
Chinander on Tuesday, though, was not pleased with how the sequence leading up to that play was officiated by John O'Neill's Big Ten crew.
Nebraska was not allowed to substitute before a second-and-1 play even though CU junior receiver Laviska Shenault subbed in for fellow receiver KD Nixon after Nixon caught a 9-yard pass near the home sideline.
Nixon caught the ball in bounds with 1:10 remaining and the clock continued running because he didn’t get enough for a first down. Nixon started back to the huddle before subbing out for Shenault.
At that point, Chinander and the NU defense tried to sub in a fresh defensive line and a defensive back to account for Shenault’s presence.
By rule, if the offense substitutes, the defense must be allowed to.
"It’s that simple," Chinander told the Journal Star. "Really, if there’s any question when the ball goes to their sideline and gets tackled, they’re supposed to iron cross it because they don’t know if people are coming in and coming out."
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Instead, NU got penalized for having too many men on the field.
If NU is allowed to sub, time continues to roll off the clock from the 34-yard line. Instead, CU hustled to the line and snapped the ball with 58 seconds left as the Huskers tried to run players on and off — NU was nowhere near properly aligned and had just two defensive linemen near the line of scrimmage — and picked up 8 yards and a first down.
The officials flagged Nebraska for illegal substitution, the Buffs declined the penalty and took the first down. But because the flag was thrown, the clock stopped until Colorado’s next snap, which was a 26-yard touchdown pass to the back corner of the end zone.
Head coach Scott Frost was seen on television talking with an official after the penalty and Frost tugged at the back of Chinander's shirt to get him back toward the sideline.
Might that touchdown have still happened? Absolutely. But Chinander was clearly still frustrated three days later. In his estimation, the Huskers should have been allowed to run a whole set of players on and off to the far hash mark, which would have chewed up most of the play clock. Because they weren’t, the Buffs saved precious seconds, got a free play without his defense aligned and then had the clocked stopped until the game-tying snap.
"Because there was under a minute left on the clock, if they have to hold that ball, 20 more seconds roll off, it’s back on the (34)," Chinander said. "Instead, they get 10 yards with no time off the clock and we get a penalty.
"It’s a huge penalty."