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Huskers end season with Gator Bowl win over Clemson

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Joe Ganz may have had the worst and best performances of his career all in one day.

The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl truly was the tale of two halves for the senior NU quarterback who led Nebraska to its 9th win of the year after knocking off Clemson 26-21.

Ganz was named the Gator Bowl MVP after the season-defining win. NU Coach Bo Pelini couldn't stop talking about what Ganz meant to him and the Nebraska program.

"He epitomizes what this team is," Pelini said. "He had some bad things happen to him in the first half. A lot of kids who aren't as strong and don't have as much character would have wilted in that kind of circumstance, but Joe just kept going - the same way the rest of the team did. They just keep playing."

The Gator Bowl wasn't Nebraska's first comeback win of the season. Other notable comeback Nebraska wins include a 40-31 win over Colorado and two other wins against Kansas and Baylor.

"It's big for this program for us to cement or legacies and cement our hard work and what it takes to get back to the top, to win ball games and get back to where we need to be," Ganz said. "We have the right guy at the head with coach Pelini, and these guys are seeing what it takes to get us back to that level."

Nebraska ended its season on a four-game winning streak, but it was anything but an easy road for Ganz in his final game.

Ganz headed to the locker room with one interception, one fumble returned for a touchdown and no offensive touchdowns with Clemson up 14-3.

"Clemson was doing stuff that they haven't done all year," Ganz said. "We expected it to be different, but not that different. They were bringing all-out blitzes on third down, and it just took us that long to settle in."

The 14-3 lead and Ganz's frustration not only disappeared in the second half, but the offensive struggles for both teams vanished just as quickly.

In the matter of five plays, Ganz and the Huskers shot out of the gate for 54 yards and a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ganz to senior receiver Nate Swift.

The second-half performance had some people referencing the Nebraska teams of old. Some fans even joked that Clemson players won't be able to shake off the game for at least a week.

"There is no question that when two good teams play, the difference in winning and losing is always four to five plays," Swinney said. "Our guys fought hard, but we came out on the short end of the stick (Thursday). We just did not make enough plays in the end, but you have to give Nebraska credit."

Nebraska's expectations for 2009 are only going to get higher. Pelini and NU look to lay more pavement on the road back to college football supremacy. Pelini knows it's still a long road, but says a win on Thursday was as big a step as any.

"Our kids are excited and are starting to believe and showing how good they are," Pelini said. "It's fun to see. Now we just have to keep it going and pick up the torch that the seniors left and keep running with it."

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