Ganz blossoms in record-setting senior season

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Patience has paid off for Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz this season.

The remarkable ending of his career has pushed his team into bowl eligibility with two games still to play. The Cornhuskers still have a slim hope of claiming the North Division title.

The biggest reason has been Ganz, who has emerged during his senior season after sitting on the bench most of his career.

"It's nice to know that all of the hard work and the heart and soul I poured into everything are paying off in the end," said Ganz, who backed up Zac Taylor and Sam Keller earlier in his career before his big finish. "I could have transferred and left for another school. But I just knew I could play here. And once I got it going, I wasn't going to leave without a shot at trying."

Despite starting one season and three extra games at the end of last season, Ganz is in position to challenge many of the school's career passing records. He has notched five of the top 10 single-game passing totals in school history and accumulated a school-record eight 300-yard passing games in his 13 career starts.

Ganz ranks 15th nationally in passing efficiency, completing 69.4 percent of his passes for 2,833 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He also ranks 12th nationally in total offense (154.3) and 11th in passing yards per game (283.3 yards per game).

The contributions of Ganz haven't been fully appreciated outside the Nebraska program because of the stellar play of all of the other quarterbacks in the Big 12. Ganz gets lost in the shuffle with Heisman Trophy contenders like Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford playing in the same league.

"I feel a little bit underrated in the whole thing, but this is a pretty good conference to be underrated in," Ganz said. "When Texas and Oklahoma and Texas Tech are winning like they have, those guys will get talked about and deserve the accolades they are getting. I'm just focusing on what I'm doing in leading my team and how I'm playing."

But Ganz's numbers are comparable and could break many of the records set by Taylor in 2006 -- a season in which he was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year.

In his nine conference starts, Ganz has thrown for more passing yardage than the opposing quarterback in all but one game. The only quarterback to beat him was Bradford earlier this season. Among the quarterbacks that Ganz has beaten in yardage have been Harrell, Chase Daniel, Todd Reesing (twice) and Josh Freeman.

That production has earned a unique compliment from Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who said last week he is glad he had Ganz in place for his first season coaching the Cornhuskers.

"Joe Ganz is a big reason why we're sitting here at 5-4 instead of 2-7," Pelini said. "I mean, Joe Ganz is a stud. He's played good football."

Since then, the Cornhuskers have won another game to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2006. And Ganz, who said he wishes he had a couple of more years of eligibility left, has been the catalyst of that surge.

"It's a huge thing to help get this program back on track," Ganz said. "Going to a bowl game is a start. I've wanted to leave this program in better shape than when I came into it. If we can do that, I think I've accomplished what I've set out to do."