JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz was sprawled out on the ground, trainers huddled around him, teammates, coaches and fans wondering whether he would be able to continue playing.
Ganz eventually made his way to the sideline, cleared his head, got back in the game and ended up hoisting the Gator Bowl’s most valuable player trophy.
His comeback provided an appropriate ending for Nebraska’s season. After all, the Cornhuskers enjoyed one of college football’s best turnarounds.
Ganz shook off a horrible first half and a slight concussion, threw for two touchdowns and led Nebraska to a 26-21 victory against Clemson in the Gator Bowl, giving the storied program plenty of optimism following coach Bo Pelini’s first season.
“I’m proud of this group,” said Pelini, who replaced fired coach Bill Callahan after Nebraska finished 5-7 in 2007. “It’s been a tough 12 months, but there’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of people and it’s paid off. Now, we’ve got to keep it going.”
Nebraska (9-4) ended the season with a four-game winning streak, including a victory against rival Colorado, won six of its final seven games and had success in a January bowl game for the first time in nine years.
“We have some momentum going right now,” Pelini said. “People are excited, the kids are excited. It’s starting to show how good they can be as a football team. It’s fun to see. Now, we have to keep it going and pick that torch the seniors left and keep running with it.”
The Tigers (7-6) took a 14-3 lead into the locker room, but Ganz brought Nebraska back with a 20-point third quarter.
Ganz had some help.
Alex Henery kicked four field goals, including three in the second half. Quentin Castille, ran for 125 yards. And Nebraska’s defense held Clemson to 91 yards in the second half.
“There were a lot of little plays along the way where we had opportunities and just didn’t get it done,” said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, adding that Nebraska dominated his offensive line.
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