October 8, 2008

Ganz taking the good with the bad as QB

Joe Ganz didn't get to where he is today by listening to what other people think.

For his first 45 games at Nebraska, Ganz was an afterthought behind older, supposedly more talented quarterbacks that amassed a combined record of 25-20 while he rode the bench. But since taking over as the Huskers' starting signal caller with three games left in one of NU's worst seasons in decades last year, the Palo Heights, Ill., native solidified himself as the undisputed leader of the offense.

However, along with that title comes pressure to succeed and scrutiny of mistakes that only maybe a head coach could fully understand. As a result, Ganz's biggest flaw has been brought front and center - at times, he simply tries too hard.

When he's relaxed and focused, Ganz is arguably one of the better quarterbacks in the Big 12 Conference, as he's already thrown for more than 2,700 yards and 25 touchdowns in just eight games as a starter.

It's when he tries to create plays out of nothing that Ganz's downfalls become blatantly apparent. In his eight starts, he has thrown 12 interceptions, including at least one in six of those games.

"Sometimes Joe tries to do too much," NU head coach Bo Pelini said. "He's got to take what comes to him. At times you gotta suck it up and pull the ball down, and if it's third down you've gotta be willing to punt in that situation. I think Joe puts a lot on his own shoulders. Sometimes too much, and tries to make a play when there's not a play there to be made."

In all fairness, the blame can't be placed on Ganz alone. While his interception total is certainly point of concern, the majority of them have come when the Huskers have been trying to overcome significant deficits on the scoreboard.

When Nebraska wins - or even holds opponents under 35 points for that matter - Ganz has thrown 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions. When the Huskers lose, he has 12 touchdowns and nine picks.

Ganz will never come out and say that the reason he's made so many questionable throws has anything to do with his defense's inability to keep games within reach. Like he's always done, the only blame he casts goes right upon his own shoulders.

"It is tough," Ganz said. "You want to go out there and help your team as best you can, but sometimes that works out for the worst. It is tough. You think someone is open, then someone falls back and makes a good play. It's going to happen. Some of the plays where I could maybe throw it out of bounds or run and get a couple (yards) then punt is where I am going to have to be more mature and realize the situation."

In fact, Ganz refuses to use the fact that he's made the majority of his mistakes while trying to score as many as 70 points to keep the Huskers close in games as an excuse. In his opinion, it's his responsibility to score points just as much as it's the defense's responsibility to prevent them.

"I mean, it's no excuse really," he said. "That's just how it happened I guess. It's no excuse. I'm not going out there saying I was just trying to bring my team back. I still know that they were bad decisions, and I need to fix those and work on being more consistent."

While Pelini and NU's coaches are well aware of Ganz's tendency to force passes when he probably shouldn't, the staff has been nothing but supportive of its quarterback since taking over the program in the offseason.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has said numerous times he wouldn't want any other quarterback in the conference than Ganz, and that Ganz's mistakes are as much his own fault as they are Watson's.

"Has he made some mistakes? Sure, of course he has. We all have," Watson said. "But the reality is we've got a really good quarterback. The kid's a good player."

Despite his criticisms, Pelini undoubtedly agrees.

"Overall he's played excellent football for us," Pelini said. "When you eliminate that small aspect of it (interceptions), he's played at a pretty high level."

Since becoming Nebraska's starting quarterback last November, Ganz has put up big numbers in the stat columns, some good and some bad. However, there are only two stats he cares about, and those are wins and losses.

At 4-4 as a starter, the jury is still out on what Ganz's legacy will be by the end of his career at NU. One thing that is for sure, though, is that he's going to do everything in his power to make sure he goes out as a winner.

"I don't really care how many yards I throw for," Ganz said. "It doesn't matter to me. It doesn't matter to the rest of the team. We just care if we have one more point than the other guys at the end of the game. Individual stats mean nothing for me, and it doesn't reflect on how hard I'm playing or how well or bad I'm playing."



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