LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska piled up more than 500 yards of offense and won its nation-leading 28th straight opener.
You wouldn’t have known it from the atmosphere inside the 18th-ranked Cornhuskers’ locker room minutes after their 37-34 victory over Wyoming on Saturday night.
“I feel like we lost the game,” receiver Kenny Bell said.
Up 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Huskers had to sweat this one to the end after the four-touchdown-underdog Cowboys converted two late turnovers into touchdowns.
“It wasn’t very excited,” receiver Quincy Enunwa said of the mood of the team. “We got a win and that’s always a great feeling. It’s not exactly how we wanted it to happen. We want to put this one in our past, watch the film and get better and come back next week with a better game.”
Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross each ran for more than 100 yards and Taylor Martinez passed for three touchdowns.
The Cornhkuskers scored on four of five possessions after trailing 14-10 early in the second quarter and then had to hang on as Wyoming made it a game to the end.
“Well, we’re 1-0 and I’m happy we’re 1-0, but obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “I just told our team, whether you win the game by three or win 65-0, it’s never as good as you think it is, and it’s never as bad as you think it is.”
The Cowboys converted two late Nebraska turnovers into touchdowns to pull within 37-34 with 1:32 left. Nebraska recovered the onside kick after Brett Smith’s 47-yard TD pass to Robert Herron.
Wyoming’s defense held, and the Cowboys got the ball back on their 6 with 1:07 to play, but time ran out on them before they could even get to midfield.
“There’s not one happy kid in that locker room,” Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. “There’s a whole bunch of (mad) people because they know we could have won the football game but we didn’t make enough plays. Nebraska did.”
Martinez completed 17 of 22 passes for 155 yards. Abdullah ran for 114 yards and Cross for 105 and two touchdowns.
Nebraska needed all 530 of its total yards because Wyoming was able to put up alarming numbers against a defense that had to replace eight defensive starters.
The Cowboys generated 602 yards, with Smith completing 29 of 43 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns. Dominic Rufran caught 11 of his passes for 120 yards, and Shaun Wick rushed for another 101.
“To me, it was a bad dream,” Huskers defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. “It was close to being a nightmare.”
The Huskers never could get comfortable, not even after Ciante Evans’ interception at the Nebraska 10 with his team leading by 16 points with less than 10 minutes to play.
The Cowboys got the ball back when Blair Burns intercepted Martinez, and Smith’s 29-yard touchdown to Jalen Claiborne pulled the Cowboys within 37-27 with 6:02 to play. The Cowboys’ 2-point try failed when Smith was sacked by Josh Mitchell.
After Marqueston Huff recovered Martinez’ fumble at the Wyoming 38, Smith found Herron along the right sideline for another TD that stunned the crowd on a sweltering night at Memorial Stadium.
“I was expecting a lot cleaner performance,” Pelini said, “but by no means am I panicking.”
The Huskers looked like they would take control after going into halftime ahead 17-14.
Cross scored his second touchdown after he took a handoff, slipped up the middle, bounced off linebacker Jordan Stanton and spun around twice before finishing his 31-yard touchdown run for a 24-14 lead.
Nebraska went 67 yards in 15 plays on its next series, with Martinez lofting a 3-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Enunwa. Officials ruled Enunwa didn’t get his foot down inbounds, but the call was overturned on video review.
Wyoming pulled to 31-21 when Brandon Miller caught a short pass from Smith and battled his way into the end zone for a 22-yard TD.
“There was screaming on the sideline, telling everyone we were going to win that game,” Smith said. “Everyone bought into it. We thought we were going to win that game.
“It came down to the final seconds. We put up better numbers. I’m so proud off how we executed. I’m proud of our guys but, shoot, it hurts.”
Nebraska has won all seven meetings with Wyoming and is 33-2 against current members of the Mountain West Conference.
The game drew a school-record attendance of 91,185, made possible by a 6,000-seat addition to the east side of Memorial Stadium.