LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -Nebraska fans couldn't believe there was a legitimate quarterback competition in the preseason.
Now, some of them wonder if the best man won.
Joe Ganz, who started the season as a third-year backup, has thrown for 915 yards and 11 touchdowns in two starts since Sam Keller went out with a season-ending shoulder injury. Ganz led an offensive explosion in Saturday's 73-31 win over Kansas State, setting school passing records with 510 yards and seven touchdowns.
``It feels real good when you pour your heart and soul into this program like this,'' Ganz said. ``It feels real good to get rewarded.''
Ganz came into the year as an afterthought among most folks who follow the Cornhuskers. Keller was the heralded transfer who had put up big numbers as a starter at Arizona State. Ganz was set to go to Eastern Michigan until newly hired coach Bill Callahan called him in January 2004 with a scholarship offer.
He redshirted his first year and was an understudy to Zac Taylor the next two. Last spring and into the fall, the Big Red faithful figured the quarterback battle between Keller and Ganz was a sham, just a coaching ploy to give Ganz hope.
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson knew what fans were thinking. He also knew how hard Ganz was pushing Keller in practice.
``I privately chuckled because (fans) weren't seeing what I saw,'' Watson said.
Still, when Callahan and Watson put their heads together, they awarded the starting job to Keller.
Ganz knew the ins and outs of the West Coast system, having been around so long, but Watson said Keller did a better job managing the offense. Ganz, Watson said, seemed to press too much in the preseason.
Keller put up decent numbers, but his production couldn't match what Nebraska's maligned defense was giving up to opponents. Ganz took over a team that was 4-5.
Watson said Ganz's time on the sideline prepared him well for his late-season move to starter.
``He got hungry to play,'' Watson said.
Ganz was 25-of-50 for 405 yards and four touchdowns in the 76-39 loss at Kansas on Nov. 3, but he also threw four interceptions.
``He had his first start and did a lot of really good things in that game,'' Watson said. ``Yet he forced some balls. He couldn't wait to play another game to correct what he had done wrong in that game. He's a perfectionist, a competitive guy.''
Ganz missed badly on his first two pass attempts against K-State. Then he hit Maurice Purify with a 28-yarder and Marlon Lucky for a 26-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead.
``I don't know if it was the emotion of starting my first game at home, but I was just a little off,'' Ganz said. ``No big deal. I shook them off and got a couple quick throws on the next series.''
Ganz followed with six more TD passes, three to Frantz Hardy, two to Todd Peterson and one to Terrence Nunn.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Ganz also showed some toughness, scrambling for 23 yards on a fourth-and-20. He punctuated the run by lowering his shoulder into K-State safety Gary Chandler.
``The type of player I am, I'm going to sacrifice my body for the team when they need me,'' Ganz said. ``I didn't know if I had the first down by then or not, so I decided to put my head down and try to get it.''
One other thing Ganz will try to get for the Huskers is a bowl bid. They must win at Colorado on Nov. 23 to finish 6-6 and be bowl eligible.
``I'm not satisfied yet,'' Ganz said. ``We need to beat Colorado. We need to get in that bowl game, and we need to finish the season over .500.''

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