Over and over as today's game unfolded, you heard this question throughout Memorial Stadium. You read it online in various forums. Where did this team come from? Well, the answer is very simple.
It's been here all along.
How can that be, you ask. I watched this team get wiped out on both sides of the ball by USC, Missouri, and Oklahoma State. We watched this team struggle with Ball State and Iowa State. No way was this team there those days, you insist.
But it was there. And if not for two very stubborn men, we would have seen it long before today. Actually, we did see both halves of it the last two weeks, but today it came together.
Up until late in the Texas game, Nebraska's best quarterback had to patiently wait on the sideline for his chance. We watched Nebraska's offense sputter against USC. We watched them trail Ball State. We watched them get blown out three straight weeks against Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M. Even against Texas, the offense wasn't very effective. Sam Keller came to Nebraska with the big arm, the potential NFL draft pick, and the history of picking apart defenses. We all assumed he was going to be the savior to take Nebraska to the Big XII title game and a big bowl game.
Then the season started. We saw Keller stare down receivers. We saw him misfire repeatedly. We saw him turn the ball over. Yet Bill Callahan stuck with Keller until a shoulder injury forced Keller's season to come to an end. And Nebraska's offense suddenly came to life. Joe Ganz came in cold and led them to a late touchdown. Last week, he led them to 39 points in his very first start. And this week, 73 points.
Now we know who the better quarterback is, at least in this offense. Joe Ganz. The 2-star Rivals recruit who was mostly recruited by MAC schools. Sam Keller might have had the game experience and the big time arm. But Joe Ganz brings many more important things to the game: a solid mastery of this offense, vision to know where receivers such as Maurice Purify are, and a little mobility to buy himself some time and possibly make a play when nothing else is available.
The other factor? Simply put, a much more aggressive defense. Maybe not as aggressive as what Nebraska showed against Texas...but much more aggressive than we've seen most of this season. It wasn't a great performance by the Husker defense, giving up 400+ yards and 31 points. But it was an improved performance by a unit that was setting records for futility. We saw two weeks ago how an aggressive scheme allowed Nebraska to control the game for the first three quarters. Today's game should provide more evidence that CozBohl's "Bend and Break" defense is not suitable for college football.
Some people might look at today's 73-31 victory over Kansas State and ask just how Nebraska could fire Bill Callahan after a huge victory like this. They are missing the point. This team has been there all season long.
Bill Callahan and Kevin Cosgrove just didn't realize where it was. 73 points from Nebraska isn't redemption for Bill Callahan, but rather an indictment of him. As taught by Callahan, it takes years to master it. See Joe Dailey (sub-par in 2004), Zac Taylor (sub-par in 2005), Zac Taylor (Big XII offensive player of the year in 2006), Sam Keller, and now Joe Ganz. With only four years of eligibility, quarterbacks do not have the luxury of spending years to master Callahan's system. The fact that the quarterback switch was forced by injury, and not by recognition by Callahan of the offense's problems only magnifies the problem.
It's simply more damning evidence that Bill Callahan isn't the man to lead the Nebraska football program.