The dust has settled from another intense college football Saturday that saw the Colorado Buffaloes escape Lincoln, Neb. with a victory for the first time since 2004. In front of a national television audience, the Buffaloes ruined Scott Frost’s debut with a 33-28 win in the 70th meeting between the two schools. Nebraska now holds a 49-19-2 edge in the rivalry which dates back to 1898, but Colorado has won five of the last 11 games since 2001.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the Buffaloes dramatic victory:
1. The Buffaloes were very lucky to escape Lincoln with a win
Take a quick glance at the box score and you’d be shocked to see Colorado won this game. The Buffaloes were dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Steven Montez was sacked seven times and the Buffaloes managed just 44 net yards rushing on 35 attempts.
The Cornhuskers, who rushed for 329 yards, outgained the Buffaloes by 170 total yards (565-395). Despite the inability to run the ball, the Buffaloes did win the turnover battle Saturday, scoring 14 points off three takeaways. Aside from the sacks, junior Steven Montez had another brilliant game completing 33-of-50 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns, including a 40-yard dime to Laviska Shenault that proved to be the game winner. Most of all, they never gave up and came together to steal a win in Lincoln.
“It was a physical, tough game. That is a physical football team, that is one of the most physical teams we will play all year,” Head Coach Mike MacIntyre said after the win. “The size of their D-line, the size of their linemen and their powerful backs. I couldn’t be prouder of the players and the coaching staff and their never-flinch attitude and their togetherness to me was amazing.”
2. Laviska Shenault and Nate Landman should be household names by now
There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how well wide receiver Laviska Shenault and inside linebacker Nate Landman are playing. For the second straight week, they proved they were the best players on the field. Shenault finished with 10 catches for 177 yards and the go-ahead touchdown against Nebraska.
He also added a 3-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter, punching one in out of the wildcat formation to give the Buffaloes a 14-0 lead. Through two games, the sophomore has 21 receptions for 388 yards and has accounted for three touchdowns.
Reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week Nate Landman had another stellar performance on Saturday. The sophomore from Danville, Calif., who’s father was a rugby player for the Zimbabwe national team, led the Buffaloes with 13 total tackles (8 solo). He also added an interception, caused a fumble with a big hit and had a huge tackle for a loss in the 4thquarter to force a turnover on downs. Through two games, Landman has 29 total tackles (14 solo) and two interceptions. From Brian Cabral, to Ted Johnson, to Matt Russell, there have been a number of great inside linebackers to come out of Boulder. He’s only a sophomore with two starts under his belt, but when it’s all said and done, Landman might be one of the best.
3. Rush defense is concerning. Need to shore that up before Pac-12 play
Last season the Buffaloes defense allowed 208 yards per game to opponents. Through two games this season, opponents are already averaging 216 yards per game. Pac-12 play is right around the corner and the Buffaloes must shore up the rush defense if they expect to make any noise in the conference. From Washington’s Miles Gaskin to Utah’s Zack Moss, there are a number of good tailbacks the Buffaloes will face this season. If CU’s defense doesn’t improve against the run, these tailbacks will have their way with D.J. Eliot’s unit.
NEXT UP: September 15 vs. New Hampshire (0-2) – 3:00 PM MT, Pac-12 Networks
Colorado takes on New Hampshire in their final tune-up before Pac-12 play begins. Typically, an FCS powerhouse, the Wildcats started the season 0-2 for the first time in 16 years and have managed a combined 10 points in their two losses (at Maine, 35-7 and vs. Colgate, 10-3) this season. Without senior quarterback Trevor Knight, who injured his shoulder in a 35-7 loss to Maine, the Wildcats don’t appear to be much of a threat.