Nebraska football writer Parker Gabriel offers his extra points from Nebraska's 33-28 season-opening loss at home to Colorado.
Turning point: It’s hard to go to anything but Adrian Martinez’s final snap of the night. Not only did the dynamic freshman quarterback suffer an apparent right leg injury that ended his night, but Cole Conrad was also flagged for holding.
That turned the situation from NU leading by one with 3:29 to go, with a first-and-10 near midfield and a confident young dual-threat QB at the controls to a long-yardage situation helmed by a walk-on making his Division I debut.
Andrew Bunch certainly held his own and made some really good throws, but the combination of Martinez’s injury and the penalty was a killer moment for the Huskers.
It was over when: Bunch’s ninth and final pass attempt of the afternoon hit the turf. He drove the hosts 44 yards in 44 seconds, but the Huskers just couldn’t cover the final 20.
Quotable: Senior outside linebacker and captain Luke Gifford on his team’s resiliency after falling behind 14-0 in the opening minutes.
“I don’t think that, last year, if we fell behind 14-0 like that, that we would have ended up doing what we did. We answered in a different way than we ever have while I’ve been here, I think. I’m proud of the guys for doing that. We took the lead back and we have to keep it, but there’s a lot of good we can take away.”
Game ball: For Nebraska, it can’t go anywhere besides Martinez. The freshman put the first of what will be many highlights on his personal reel, from the 41-yard touchdown run to get NU on the board to the 57-yard scoring throw to JD Spielman to the times he eluded pressure enough to make a play. He made a couple of critical mistakes, but heck, he’s 18 and he had 304 total yards and three scores in his first ever college game in front of 89,000-plus. He’s a special player. Plain and simple.
Bonus: A tip of the cap to NU’s starting quartet of linebackers — Gifford, Tyrin Ferguson, Dedrick Young and Mohamed Barry — who finished with 42 combined tackles (eight for loss) and 2.5 sacks.
Game ball: Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault.
The sophomore wide receiver finished with 10 catches for 177 and a touchdown, and rushed for another. He hauled in the winning score with 66 seconds remaining. He converted two fourth downs as a wildcat quarterback, including a first-quarter score. He did everything the Buffaloes needed of him.
Notable performance: Nebraska senior safety Aaron Williams
The Atlanta native has been limited since having labrum surgery in May — really, he’s been dogged by multiple injuries for a year now — but he provided a spark for the Huskers early when they really needed one. He made knifing tackles on his first series, NU’s third of the afternoon, and helped the hosts get off the field for the first time. He finished with eight tackles and a hurry and played extensively. If he’s healthy, he’s among the Huskers’ best options in the secondary.
Deep connection: Spielman’s 57-yard touchdown was no gimme. The sophomore worked up the left side and appeared to begin to break his route to the inside as Martinez let a deep ball fly. The freshman quarterback, though, alertly threw it outside the hash marks and Spielman made a nice adjustment to catch it in stride. The ball placement allowed Spielman to stay ahead of cornerback Trey Udoffia and gave safety Nick Fisher no chance of ranging over the top to help.
Numbers for the road
7.2: Yards per play in a big-time first half for the Huskers. Despite two turnovers, NU rolled up 329 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes.
4: Rushes of 20-plus yards by NU against CU. The Huskers had just 10 in 12 games in 2017. Both Martinez’s 41-yard scoring run and Greg Bell’s 45-yard scamper up the middle would have been the Huskers’ longest rush play last year.
14: Tackles for loss. The kind of numbers only very disruptive defenses can put up week in and week out.
0: 500-plus yard offensive days for Nebraska since September of 2016 before Saturday.
50: Percent of Nebraska’s rushing attempts for Bell (104 yards) and Ozigbo (61), who each turned in productive nights.
Minus-3: Turnover margin for the Huskers. Dicaprio Bootle had his hands on a near-interception in the first half, but the defense did not take the ball away from CU.