Colorado Nebraska Football

Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. (8) and wide receiver JD Spielman (10) pause after bumping into the wall in an attempt to catch a ball in the end zone at the end of their game Saturday against Colorado in Lincoln. Colorado won 33-28.

LINCOLN — Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same spot, unless you count the beginning of the Scott Frost era at Nebraska.

The prodigal son's week-one debut was wiped away by lightning and rain, and the much-anticipated game against Colorado in Lincoln on Saturday was plagued by turnovers and penalties raining down an early 14-0 hole.

Then came the thunder.

Nebraska physically took over the game by turning up the juice on both sides of the ball, rallying to lead 21-17 at half.

Then came more rain.

Nebraska turnovers and penalties, particularly in the second half spelled doom in NU's 33-28 loss.

Then there's the injury to freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. The extent of a knee injury sustained in the fourth quarter is not yet known, although Frost said it is "semi-encouraging."

For three quarters, the Nebraska defense played like Blackshirts — they were flying around and ended the game with seven sacks on CU quarterback Steven Montez.

This may be one of the more maddening losses for Nebraska for this reason: NU clearly dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball and has a loss to show for it.

Unlike recent seasons, you could see on the players' faces in the postgame how much they hate to lose.

In such a short time Frost has turned a 180 on the culture of Nebraska football, and eventually it will pay off in championships.

Coaches often talk about how mistakes can be the difference in a game — today it was THE difference in the game.

"I told the team I'm proud of them," Frost said in the postgame.

"I'm brokenhearted for them, but I'm proud of them. Looking out on the field we had an offense — the only time we got stopped on offense was when we made mistakes and stopped ourselves. Defense, at times, looked like the Blackshirts. We had their quarterback on his back, we stopped the run all day.

"I'll talk about our mistakes and we'll address them. I think we made some undisciplined plays and that's what average teams do."

The offense led by Martinez was dynamite, and the defense responded to an early Colorado drive of 87 yards by nearly pitching a shutout the rest of the first half. NU held the Buffs to just 139 total yards in the first half.

That early hole brought back some nightmares, but this new Nebraska offense has found lightning in a bottle with Martinez.

Here's to hoping that right knee will be alright — the success of the 2018 team depends on it.

You don't replace 304 total offensive yards easily — the quarterback cupboard is slim behind him although sophomore Andrew Bunch had Nebraska in a position to tie the game in the closing seconds.

Sure, the young guy from Fresno, California, fumbled once in the first quarter and threw a bad interception late in the game, but Martinez showed great poise by directing the Husker offense down the field consistently.

Heck, the kid was downright spectacular.

On two separate plays in the first half Martinez completed passes to Morgan Stanley and tight end Kurt Rafdal, throwing across his body while moving left.

Early on this just had that same dark feel we've come to know in recent seasons — when an opponent smacks Nebraska in the mouth and sows seeds of doubt.

There should be little doubt that this wasn't your average first game of the season.

Colorado is the real deal, but on this day Nebraska was the better team.

After that early smack from Colorado, the Nebraska defense rose up for three-and-out after three-and-out.

Not sure what Frost and company said on that sideline after the early hole, but senior safety Aaron Williams took it to heart making two big stops for the Husker defense on the following Colorado possession.

Would have been easy for Nebraska to hang its head after those two fumbles in the first quarter — we've seen it before.

Instead, we saw a Nebraska team with a staff capable of making in-game adjustments and a group of players who responded with aggression and determination.

What a refreshing spectacle.

Not only was Martinez on point, but the Huskers' rally in the first half was on the backs of its running game — 243 yards rushing on 35 carries, including 90 on the ground by Martinez and two touchdowns, and 80 from Greg Bell.

Martinez is the perfect dual-threat quarterback for this offense. He finished the day 187 yards on 15 of 20 passing and a touchdown, as well as 117 yards rushing. Minus a fumble and an interception, Martinez played as well as any true freshman quarterback can play in his first game.

He made a veteran throw in the second half to JD Spielman — a perfect deep ball for a 57-yard touchdown to give Nebraska a 28-20 lead with 5:35 to go in the third quarter.

The play was made possible with Frost's play-calling.

All game long Nebraska pounded the line of scrimmage with its load of running backs and Martinez, essentially drawing in the Colorado defense to the line of scrimmage.

Clearly the future of this team hinges on the health of its quarterback, playing great defense and cutting out the mistakes.

A loss is a loss, but this team is close — oh so close to putting it all together.

When was the last time Nebraska fans could say that?

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