LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska lost the debut of coach Scott Frost 33-28 to old league rival Colorado on Saturday and with it, perhaps something even more valuable in the late stages of trying to protect a lead.
Quarterback Adrian Martinez, the first true freshman to start a season opener at Nebraska, dazzled in his debut but left with an injury on the Cornhuskers' second-to-last possession. Martinez, who threw for 187 yards and rushed for 117, took a hit at the line of scrimmage on a first-down run with the Huskers up 28-27. He was helped from the playing field and walked to the locker room after the defeat with his right knee in a wrap.
Frost described the early prognosis of Martinez as "semi-encouraging."
"We're going to wait before we talk about it and see what the doctors [say] and everything looks like," said Frost, the former national champion Nebraska QB who returned to his home state amid much celebration after leading UCF to a 13-0 season last year.
"But I thought he played great. I thought Adrian played a great game, especially for his first game. He's going to be a really good player."
Colorado (2-0) forced a Nebraska punt after Martinez left and drove 77 yards in seven plays for the winning TD, a 40-yard strike from Steven Montez to Laviska Shenault with 66 seconds to play. The decisive drive was aided by a personal foul for unnecessary roughness on Nebraska safety Antonio Reed, as Montez fired incomplete over the middle on third-and-24 at the Buffs' 45.
After the go-ahead touchdown, backup Nebraska QB Andrew Bunch, a sophomore walk-on, led the Huskers 44 yards to the Buffs' 21, but he misfired twice into the end zone, with the final throw on fourth down intended for JD Spielman as time expired.
If the Martinez injury is significant, the Huskers will be without a healthy scholarship quarterback. Bunch is backed up by true freshman walk-on Matt Masker. Tristan Gebbia, a redshirt freshman whom Martinez edged for the starting job in August, transferred to Oregon State after the decision.
Fellow second-year QB Patrick O'Brien transferred in the spring to Colorado State, and Tanner Lee, the starter in 2017, left a year early for the NFL after Frost and his staff took over for the deposed Mike Riley.
The prize signee in Frost's first recruiting class, Martinez led Nebraska back from an early 14-0 deficit, created as running back Greg Bell and the freshman quarterback lost fumbles on the Huskers' opening two drives.
Nebraska (0-1), playing after its scheduled opener last week against Akron was cancelled because of severe weather, led 21-17 at the half. The Huskers controlled CU at the line of scrimmage, sacking Montez seven times and rushing for 329 yards.
But costly penalties, a dropped TD by star wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. and a pair of failed fourth-down attempts by Nebraska helped keep the Buffs close. CU linebacker Nate Landman stopped Bell on the second fourth-down try, midway through the fourth quarter, and later intercepted Martinez at midfield.
"When you're trying to go from an average team to a great team, you don't beat yourself," Frost said. "Every time I thought we'd found every way to give the game away, we found another way. It'd be hard to think of too many other ways to beat yourself."
Nebraska gained 565 yards to the Buffs' 395.
"We all believe that we're a good football team," said offensive guard Jerald Foster, a Nebraska co-captain.
Frost said he would struggle to savor the positive emotion of Saturday because of the result in his first game back on the sideline at Memorial Stadium -- 21 years after his senior season.
"It's all wiped out when you lose," Frost said. "I don't care. I'm a competitor like all these guys in the locker room. For three quarters, I was having about as much fun coaching as I've ever had in my life -- doing it back home. But we've got to learn lessons to be able to win games like that.
"When you're trying to become a good team, you don't find ways to lose games."