The Gator Bowl: A Nebraska Fan's Take
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Nebraska, in its first season under Bo Pelini, finds itself in the Gator Bowl for the first time. This will be the Cornhuskers' 45th bowl appearance, and first in Florida since beating Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl for the national championship.
Pelini, the former LSU defensive coordinator, said Nebraska is headed in the right direction after four dismal seasons under Bill Callahan.
"We wanted to make progress," Pelini said. "We feel we made some progress - not as far as we wanted to go, as far as the record is concerned, but it gives us an opportunity to get one more win."
As interim coach in place of Frank Solich in 2003, Pelini guided Nebraska to a 17-3 win over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.
The Huskers followed a season-opening three-game winning streak with three straight losses, two against ranked foes Missouri and Texas Tech. Nebraska's lone loss in its final six games was to Big 12 champion Oklahoma in Norman.
Led by senior quarterback Joe Ganz, Nebraska scored 141 points in its final three games. Ganz completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 823 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions in wins over Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado.
In a conference that includes Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, Heisman finalist Colt McCoy of Texas, former finalist Chase Daniel of Missouri and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, it's easy to overlook Ganz. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this season for 3,332 yards with 23 touchdowns.
Nate Swift and Mike McNeill were on the receiving end of most of Ganz's passes. Swift led the team with 60 catches for 909 yards and nine TDs, while McNeill had 29 receptions - six for touchdowns.On the ground, the Huskers were led by Roy Helu (804 yards) and Marlon Lucky (517), who each had seven scores. Quentin Castille added six and Ganz five.
That helped Nebraska finish in the top 20 in the nation in scoring with 36.2 points per game. Pelini's squad will be tested by Clemson's defense, which was 10th in the nation allowing an average of 16.6 points.
Clemson and Nebraska have met before in a bowl game. The Tigers wrapped up a 12-0 season and won the 1981 national championship with a 22-15 victory over the Huskers in the Orange Bowl.
Quick Take: Nebraska comes into this game with arguably the best ball control offense in the country, holding the football for up to 40 minutes a game. A rapidly improving defense gives NU fans something to look forward to next year. Clemson touts one of the strongest defenses in the ACC, as well as a potent running attack, but struggles at times through the air.
Predictions: If Nebraska gets its balanced offensive attack going, Clemson will be in big, big trouble. Likewise, if Clemson manages to get its running game going, something that no primarily running team has tried on NU this year, the Blackshirts could be in for a long day. Nebraska will control the clock, holding the football 35-38 minutes. Nebraska's inefficiency in the redzone will keep Clemson in the game, but NU will triumph in the end.
Final Score: Nebraska 30, Clemson 21
Player of the Game: Joe Ganz, Nebraska
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