An instant classic in the saga of Nebraska vs. Colorado. That is what happened at Folsom Field when the Cornhuskers invaded Boulder on Saturday. But this classic game, a resounding win for the Colorado Buffaloes and first-year head coach Mel Tucker, did not root its atmosphere in 2019 alone.
A college football rivalry dating back to 1898, the Colorado-Nebraska rivalry is one college football fans had to deal without for the early part of this decade. Renewed in 2018, the matchup still proves to be one of college football’s best.
Last year, legendary Colorado Buffaloes football coach Bill McCartney stated his belief that the whole state of Colorado could get behind the effort of beating their old Big 12 rivals. The Buffaloes made the state do just that.
Down 28-27 with just over one minute left, quarterback Steven Montez hit Laviska Shenault in the right corner of the end zone. It was the decisive touchdown in a 33-28 win. Then-head coach Mike MacIntyre hugged his son Jaye as Boulder filled with Euphoria. Colorado was back, or so many thought.
But the remainder of 2018 would not prove so kind. After a 5-0 start to the season, the Buffaloes failed to win another game. The result led to MacIntyre being let go and another new era in Colorado football history.
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Setting the Table for 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 3
2019, meanwhile, brings with it positive change and expectations that Colorado is ready to make a national statement.
After dispatching Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, the Buffaloes turned attention to a sea of red. Nebraska, with revenge on their mind, would visit Boulder in college football week two. The Huskers had unfinished business, but the Buffaloes had something to prove.
Drowning Out the Red
Drowning out the red. That was the goal for the Buffaloes as the Huskers invaded Boulder. It looked like a giant pool of red blood that had fissured the usual black and gold colors seen in Folsom Field’s stands. The Buffs’ first drive took up about half of the first quarter, but the offense came out choppy for the second consecutive week, as the team gained 33 yards on 12 plays and was forced to punt. Not exactly the remedy the Buffs were looking for to silence the red.
Nebraska, meanwhile, showed precision and came out swinging. They had touchdown drives of 96 and 95 yards in the first half, igniting their fans. Home chants were infected by chants of “Go Big Red”.
The Buffs looked flustered as they entered the halftime locker room down 17-0. This was much their own doing. In fact, Colorado did about everything wrong on offense in the first half. It seemed like the team had no identity. The choppiness they showed in the CSU game was forwarded into the first half against Nebraska.
Fortunately, the Buffaloes turned it around.
It began with an eight-play, 64-yard drive that gave the Buffs their first score with 1:26 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Question being, would they have enough time to heal the wound of a 17-point deficit to Big Red?
Getting the ball back early in the fourth quarter, Colorado and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson needed to silence the Nebraska crowd and strike fast. They did so by getting creative.
Positioned nearly an entire field length away from their end zone, Colorado drew up its most daring play in years: the flea-flicker. Quarterback Steven Montez took the pitch back from running back Alex Fontenot and stood in the end zone with Nebraska rushers pursuing him. He completed the pass to K.D. Nixon, who ran into the end zone to cut the Nebraska lead to 17-14. Words cannot do this play justice.
With the stadium rocking and silencing the Nebraska faithful, the Huskers struck back with a quick TD to regain a 10-point lead.
The Buffs would not lie down, as those watching the game got a sudden sense this would be one for the history books. Classic Nebraska vs. Colorado.
Sensing their shot and riding a wave of second-half momentum, Colorado pulled within three on a lightning-fast 5 play, 75 yards touchdown drive. Folsom Field thundered, and with the help of a timely fumble by Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, the stadium got louder, especially once the Buffaloes kicked a field goal to tie the game with 8:30 remaining.
An Ending to Remember
But Nebraska proved unrelenting in their effort to make sure the red took over Boulder. Shaking off his mistake, Martinez marched the Huskers down the field and muscled in for a touchdown on 4th-and-1 to give them a 31-24 lead.
With time beginning to wind down, Colorado knew it needed to regain momentum. Unfortunately, they would not get the chance they were hoping for, as Shenault fumbled the kickoff return around midfield, giving the Huskers a prime opportunity to eat the clock.
But it was not Nebraska’s day. The glory was to be had by Colorado.
With Folsom Field thundering, the Buffaloes stuffed Nebraska and got the ball back with 3:33 remaining.
On a defining drive, Montez converted a 4th-and-1 at midfield to keep the Buffs afloat. Then, with 46 seconds left to play, he connected with Tony Brown on a 26-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. The game headed to overtime, where the Buffaloes would finally overtake the red.
Kicking a field goal on their first offensive possession of overtime, Colorado turned to its defense. Fortunately for the Buffaloes, new head coach Mel Tucker knows a thing or two about game-changing defenses.
Needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win, Nebraska was stuffed by Colorado. The end result of their first and only offensive possession in overtime? A four-play, negative six-yard drive that ended with a missed field goal. Wide right.
As the field goal missed, it was the Black and Gold that poured onto the field. This was what Colorado needed to put themselves on the college football map.
These type of wins catapult programs into the national spotlight, and it was the exact type of win that coach Mel Tucker needed. His team has taken on his personality of a never-give-in attitude. They did not surrender to a dangerous Nebraska team, which along with their fans, attempted to invade Folsom Field.
Next Up: Air Force
CU will welcome another team in close proximity to them next week in the Air Force Falcons. The team will be coming off of the high of beating the Huskers, but should not overlook the challenge that the Falcons will present.
Air Force is known for running the option, and it will be important for the Buffs to respect their opponent, who is from what most would say an inferior conference. However, the Pac-12 and Mountain West have always had a “big brother little brother” rivalry, and it is important that the Buffaloes once again show which football team rules the land in Colorado, as they did when they beat Colorado State two weeks ago.
But while the team focuses on the upcoming game, there is no doubting the importance of beating Nebraska. Triumphant two years straight in one of college football’s best rivalries, Colorado has made its statement. The red was drowned out and the Black and Gold has risen. It’s time for the next chapter in Colorado football.