LINCOLN — Nebraska led in almost every category during the season opener against Colorado.
The Huskers had more rushing yards (329-44), more total yardage (565-395) and also had seven sacks on defense.
Unfortunately, Nebraska (0-1) also led in turnovers and penalties. The Huskers had three turnovers, including two on its first two drives, and had 11 penalties for 95 yards. Colorado had no turnovers and had only eight penalties for 46 years.
That led to a 33-28 Nebraska loss to the Buffaloes Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Colorado led in passing as Steven Montez was 33 of 50 for 351 yards with three touchdowns. That included a 40-yard touchdown strike to Lavis Shenault with 1:06 left to give the Buffaloes the lead for good.
Scott Frost, who was coaching in his first game as the Huskers’ head coach after the game with Akron on Sept. 1 was canceled, said mistakes hurt their chances.
“The only time we got stopped on offense was when we hurt ourselves,” Frost said. “When you are trying to come from being an average team to a great team, you can’t beat yourselves.
“Getting holding calls when you are trying to run out the clock is a good way to get beat. Getting penalties on third and long when they are going down for the winning score is a great way to get beat. If we don’t beat ourselves, we win that game.”
Colorado hurt itself in the fourth quarter when kicker James Stefanou missed two field goals.
But the Buffalo defense made some key stops to keep Nebraska from running out the clock, including intercepting an Adrian Martinez pass after the first missed kick.
The Husker defense also had a personal foul penalty on third-and-24, setting up Montez’ game-winning strike to Shenault, who had 10 catches for 177 yards.
Nebraska still had a chance as backup quarterback Andrew Bunch, who came in for an injured Martinez, took the Huskers to the Buffalo 20-yard line. But Colorado got the win when JD Spielman couldn’t come up with a catch in the end zone as time expired.
“I’ve seen in this team that they are a mentally tough football team. They are a team that is never going to quit and never give in,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “They showed that, we made some good drives in the second half and our coaching staff did a good job of making some adjustments. I couldn’t be prouder of the players and the coaching staff and their never-flinch attitude, and their togetherness to me was amazing.”
Early on, Colorado took advantage of Nebraska’s mistakes.
The Huskers drove the ball on their first series all the way to the 23-yard line. But Colorado recovered a Greg Bell fumble at the 14-yard line.
The Buffaloes took advantage with an eight-play drive where Montez was 6-for-6 for 72 yards, including a 28-yard pass to Shenault. Montez threw a 3-yard strike to Jay MacIntyre for the game’s opening score.
It didn’t get much better for the Huskers on the ensuing series as Colorado recovered a Martinez fumble at the Nebraska 24. Four plays later, the Buffaloes went up 14-0 on a Shenault 3-yard run.
“We can’t turn the ball over on our first two possessions. We’re going for a score in the first and turned it over to them, and it’s 7-0 them instead of us having the lead,” Frost said. “If you spot any team 14 points, it’s hard to come back.”
Nebraska did come back after falling behind.
At first, though, it looked like the Huskers were in trouble after Martinez lost seven yards. But he responded by finding Mike Williams for a 19-yard gain on the next play. Two plays later, Martinez scored on a 41-yard run to put the Huskers on the board.
Later, Nebraska used a seven-play drive to tie the game in the second quarter. During the drive, Martinez appeared to be in trouble but escaped pressure and found Stanley Morgan, Jr. for a 19-yard play. Devine Ozigbo scored on a 4-yard run on the next play.
After the two teams exchanged possessions, the Huskers got the ball back after stopping the Buffaloes on three plays. Maurice Washington had a 45-yard run to put Nebraska at the Colorado 30-yard line. Six plays later Martinez scored on a 3-yard run to give the Huskers the lead.
Colorado brought the game closer on a Stefanou 40-yard field goal to end the first half.
The Buffaloes started the second half on a 12-play drive that ended on a Stefanou 35-yard field goal.
After an exchange of punts, the Huskers scored on a Martinez 57-yard pass to Spielman for a 28-20 lead.
Colorado bought it within 28-27 when Montez found MacIntyre for an 8-yard strike with 2:17 left in the third quarter, setting up the fourth quarter.
Martinez started his first game as the Nebraska quarterback. Martinez was 15-of-20 for 187 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception and also had 15 carries for 117 yards with two touchdowns before leaving the game with an injury.
Frost didn’t discuss the status of Martinez’ injury but was pleased with what he saw when he played, even though he would have liked to have seen him play against Akron the week before.
“I thought he played great for his first time out there,” Frost said. “He did make some freshman and first-game mistakes out there that we could have gotten out of our system last week. But he’s going to be a great player when he’s done here.”
Despite the loss, Frost said he was pleased with the effort Nebraska gave.
“I’m proud of them and I’m brokenhearted for them,” Frost said. “I knew the team prepared well. I knew they knew the game plan, I knew they were going to play hard, but I didn’t know what it would look like because I hadn’t been on the field with them.
“Short of losing the game and being healthy, I don’t know if I could have been much more pleased with the way we moved the ball.”
Nebraska returns to action against Troy at 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.