BOULDER, Colo. — It’s one of those weird statistics that seems unreal, and yet defines the struggles of Nebraska football for the past five seasons.
The Huskers have lost their past five games that went to overtime. That happens.
But NU hasn’t scored a single point in any of those overtime games, either. Not a touchdown, not a field goal. Nebraska can’t go 25 yards to cross a goal line or kick a ball between two white pipes. Overtime has become, curiously, a no-score zone for Husker football.
The streak continued Saturday afternoon in a 34-31 loss to Colorado. And it didn’t come close to ending, either.
After CU took a three-point lead — its first of the day — on its opening possession of overtime, NU’s offense, which gained 469 yards, took the field. In three plays, the Huskers went backward. Running back Maurice Washington ran twice — once in between the tackles, once on a sweep — for a combined total of 1 yard. On third down, quarterback Adrian Martinez received a low snap, picked it up and waited for a receiver to come open. He waited some more. Then he was sacked, around the legs, by Colorado’s Mustafa Johnson, for a 7-yard loss.
This left NU senior Isaac Armstrong — starting as a kicker for the first time — attempting a 48-yarder that came nowhere near being good. Cue the Colorado students storming the field.
“As a playcaller you kick yourself — you should have run something else,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “We picked two of the plays that had been working and the way they’d been lining up the whole game. And they didn’t. And then we made a bad call or a bad decision on third down.”
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Frost was critical of Martinez’s decision to wait for an open receiver. The sack left NU facing a fourth-and-16. Frost quipped that he didn’t have a playcall for that down and distance, and he didn’t have a proven kicker, either, because Armstrong was filling in for an injured Barret Pickering, who didn’t make the trip.
“We do overtime ad nauseam in practice,” Frost said. “We know the situations there. Can’t be holding the ball, obviously, back there, so we’ve got to do a better job of coaching it.”
Martinez said he got caught in a “bad spot.”
“I was probably looking to throw across the seam there to Wan’Dale (Robinson) but I kind of got stopped,” Martinez said of the freshman receiver. “I’ll have to look back on film, but it kind of caught me between two things.”
The Husker sophomore got caught in a tough spot in last year’s overtime loss to Northwestern — also a 34-31 setback. There, Martinez was unable to convert a first down in part because of a bad snap that killed the possession. Northwestern then won the game on a field goal.
The Wildcats beat Nebraska 31-24 in overtime in 2017, as well. The Huskers lost 2 yards in four plays, as then-quarterback Tanner Lee misfired to tight end Tyler Hoppes.
In 2016 — perhaps the best-known loss in the five-game streak — then-undefeated Nebraska only needed a touchdown and an extra point to beat Wisconsin and essentially clinch the Big Ten West. But the Huskers, again, came up empty-handed, with Tommy Armstrong’s pass to Stanley Morgan being knocked away in the end zone.
The 2015 overtime loss — 36-33 at Miami — included one Husker offensive play. After a wild comeback, Armstrong threw an interception on the opening play of overtime. A personal foul penalty by Alex Lewis on the resulting tackle helped give the Hurricanes a chip-shot field goal to win.
Since Nebraska beat Iowa 37-34 in the final game of the Bo Pelini era, it’s always been something with NU’s overtime offense. On Saturday against Colorado, it seemed to be uninspired playcalling and, of course, a bad snap at the worst time.
Martinez refused to blame anyone else for the sack.
“You’ve got to make things happen,” Martinez said, angry. “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for anything. That’s on me, whether the snap was frickin’ 5,000 feet over my head, I don’t care. There’s no excuse. And I think that’s an important thing for this team to know and a lesson to myself. Regardless of the snap, who gives a (expletive)? You know? I’ve got to be able to make the play.”
The quarterback then asked reporters to excuse his language. His press conference was over.