At the half of the Colorado/Nebraska game, Joe Ganz seemed like it was just another day, just another chance to blow up the scoreboard again. The Illinois native coming off a record-setting 510 yard performance and seven touchdowns against Kansas State , and a 405 yard passing performance against the statistically renown defense of Kansas , the first half against the Buffaloes seemed about right:
15-26 passing, 274 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions.
Remember, that's at halftime.
Not bad, but as good as those stats are, I could see a few fans bristling at his completion percentage, because it wasn't above 60 percent.
As it is, using a combination of the spread and the option, Ganz helped engineer a 35-point first half, which included him using his legs to the tune of four rushes for 42 yards and two scores.
Just business as usual.
Therein lies the problem. If it's business as usual for Ganz and the Nebraska offense, that means things aren't going so well on the defensive side.
Sure, Nebraska had a whopping 393 yards at the half, but Colorado had 275 of their own. Quarterback Cody Hawkins, normally a fairly efficient QB, went 11-of-18 for 145 yards and two scores. Then there was Hugh Charles, who was literally everywhere; running for 87 yards out of the backfield, catching one pass for 33 yards when he split out wide and he totaled 93 yards in kickoff returns.
So, what might have been an obliteration by the midway-break, was closer than you might have thought, the Buffaloes trailing by just 11 going into the third quarter.
This is where I could tell you that Nebraska continued their groove, stormed down the field, extended their lead and the defense rose to the occasion, cementing the Buffs and securing a spot for themselves in a postseason contest.
But that would just be lying.
What happened was, Ganz apparently got dinged up a little in the first half, suffering what Ganz said was something minor, which didn't have any affect on the game. But the first three possessions for the Huskers might have told you that maybe things weren't as "OK" as they seemed:
1st drive – Nebraska runs three plays, gains negative two yards and Ganz throws an interception which was taken back for a TD.
2nd drive – Nebraska runs one play, Ganz throwing an interception, Colorado recovering that pick and taking it down to the Nebraska 23.
3rd drive – Nebraska runs five plays, gains 21 yards, but ultimately has to punt. The punt is blocked and the ball is taken down to the Nebraska 25.
Three straight possessions – three monster blows to any momentum Nebraska had and giving it to the Buffaloes. All three touchdowns resulted in CU touchdowns.
"It makes me sick," Ganz said of his performance. "It seemed like things were going our way and I really let our team down. Those were my fault, nobody else's. We were doing well and I just made some big mistakes."
Senior linebacker Bo Ruud, who played his last game as a Husker, agreed, but said that it wasn't all on JoeWe had the momentum. We were rolling. At one point I thought we were going to put 70 on them," Ruud said. "But the momentum really turned early in the third. They got the ball with a pretty short field.
"But that happens and it doesn't matter where the ball is on the field, we have to stop them and they scored on us every time they got the ball."
The floodgates had opened, though, and while Ganz once again put up monster numbers, throwing for 16 yards shy of 500, scoring 4 touchdowns and running for two more, this game was what you might call typical of how the latter half of this season has gone.
But looking at all that could happen come tomorrow, players choose not to think about what someone didn't do, but what they all tried to do, no matter how bad it got.
"We hung in there and kept fighting for each other and our coaches," senior linebacker Corey McKeon said. "It's not the way anyone wants to go out, but nobody gave up. We could all look each other in the eye and know we didn't give up.
"It might look like it when you look at how some of these games went, but we didn't. I know that."
McKeon has found himself especially close to his position coach and Nebraska 's Defensive Coordinator, Kevin Cosgrove. He has been outspoken in his support, and said that of the defensive struggles, those are on the players. With the chance that Cosgrove could be let go as early as tomorrow, McKeon didn't waste time going to bat for him once again. "I've said time and time again that I wouldn't have played for any other coach," McKeon said. "He's not just a great coach, but he's like your dad. He's someone that cares about you as a person and what you do on the field isn't all that you are to him. I'd hate to see him lose his job, because this isn't all on him. Everyone had to play their part."
Ganz looks at this game, this team and the fact that they aren't going to a bowl as his fault, of course. He chokes up a little as he says it, realizing the finality of it all. And not just for this team this year, but these coaches – not even the players seem to know just what will happen tomorrow when Athletic Director Tom Osborne is set to meet with the entire staff.
Ganz, knowing he still has one more year to play, is hoping for the best. "I'd vote to keep them, but that's not a secret," Ganz said of Bill Callahan and the rest of his staff. "They gave me a shot that nobody else might have given me. I owe a lot to them and I think the offense has shown that we can do some good things as long as the quarterback is not making a lot of mistakes."
You could say mistakes were a theme for this year, and no matter how much you tried to come to terms with them over the 2007 campaign, and try to fix them to the best of your ability, some just can't believe how this whole thing came to an end. "I can't believe it. I really can't. I can't believe it's over," Ruud said. "And yeah, I can't believe my last game here went like this. This isn't how you want it. I seriously thought that we would be playing for a national championship this year and not be a 5.-7 team.
"I never saw that coming. I never even thought it could happen."
Tomorrow there are going to be a lot of changes occur with the football team at the University of Nebraska . There will no doubt be some changes, but most aren't sure just how sweeping the changes will be. To a man there isn't a player I talked to who said that they were glad about tomorrow, but most admitted something needed to change.
They wouldn't say coaching, but they wouldn't, of course. Players don't do that. They talk about what it was like to go through this year, try and talk about what went wrong as constructively as they can and try to make sure not to blame any unit or any individual.
That's probably the way to go about it, but after a season like this, believe it or not, some would still like to play. "When things aren't going well, you don't want to quit. You want to get out there again and prove you can do it like you thought you could," senior cornerback Cortney Grixby said. "I know I never dreamed for a second my career would end like this. You don't want it to end like this.
I don't think anyone wants that,"