Saturday, October 18, 2008

Game 7: Nebraska 35, Iowa State 7

After next week's game, Joe Ganz will have finally played the equivalent of a full season. He's got 10 games under his belt (as a starter that is) after Nebraska beat Iowa State 35-7 today at Ames, and he's already thrown for 3,524 yards. Which is more than Gill or Frazier, more Vince Ferragamo. The most important thing is the Corn got a win today, even if it was against a team as awful as the Cyclones, but after losing 3 straight, you could tell afterwards that Pelini was relieved to finally get that win in conference play.

Let's go back to Ganz. He was 27 of 37 for 328 yards, all of this despite having to listen to the Versus announcers complain the entire first half about how Ganz was "out of rhythm". Nebraska gets the Versus treatment next week, again at 11:30am. Versus is the former Outdoor Life Network, the home for the NHL. Days of Thunder, the movie known mainly for introducing Tom Cruise to Nicole Kidman, immediately followed the Nebraska/Iowa State game. We'll probably have Vanilla Sky after next week's Baylor game. This tells you all you need to know about the Versus network. I'm really surprised Andre Ware isn't calling some of the College Football games they carry. But get used to Versus, because that could be the network that will carry the Bowl Game Nebraska goes to (two more wins and they're in!).

Unless this is continued proof that Shawn Watson and Ganz have some things figured out. The big phrase of the week to describe the "new" Husker offense was "Dink & Dunk". The quick, short passes that move the chains, keep the clock going, and keeps the opposing offense on the sidelines. The Huskers are doing more than that with Ganz. You still can't completely trust the offensive line, but from a confidence standpoint they did rack up some rushing yards. Nate Swift -- who, when his career at Nebraska is complete, is going to be remembered as one of the better receivers to have played here -- ran a reverse in the first quarter that could have been a huge ran if Ganz would have completed his blocking assignment on the play. So it's not a "Dink and Dunk" offense, they're keeping with doing whatever works with these kids.

Remember, this isn't a very good Iowa State team at all. Yes a win on the road, especially a conference road victory, is harder to come by in this crazy year of college football. Baylor beat the Cyclones just as easily (38-10 at home) last week. I don't think Baylor's that much better than Iowa State, so if Pelini and company really want to keep things going they'll over-deliver next Saturday in Lincoln. There's no reason they shouldn't roll up an even bigger margin against Baylor. Because Pelini has everyone on board with everything.

We mentioned in last week's post about the great theater that Pelini's press conferences have been. This week added a new wrinkle, as Pelini tried to keep things light around the media. He was Johnny Carson to the covering local media, who played Ed McMahon, laughing too-loudly at anything Pelini had to say. Some sounded like Max Cady, sitting in the front row of the movie theater watching Problem Child with Nick Nolte's concerned family in the back during Cape Fear. You had to think that Bo had a moment like Tony Soprano did during the "All Happy Families" episode of The Sopranos. Tony would tell the worst jokes during a poker game, only to have Paulie, Vito and Silvio fake laugh at him like it was the funniest thing they ever heard. There was even that creepy-slow motion shot we got from Tony's perspective, where T watched his employees belly laugh at his "Boring 747" joke. You have to think Pelini had a moment like this at his Tuesday Press Conference, where he could have made these yokels laugh at anything he said. And they did.

After today's game, Bo was in a justifiably more relaxed and even pleasant mood. He commented on how badly his team "needed" a win. Pelini knew he had a great Texas Tech team beat last week, even out-coached Mike Leach. The moment Bo Pelini officially put his stamp on the Nebraska football program, where he became the Head Coach, came on that fake field goal attempt in the final minutes of the 4th quarter last week against Tech. After Leach pulled off that 4th and 5 out of his ass, thinking only to draw the Husker Defense offsides but wound up going for what could have been the deciding touchdown. Pelini calling for the fake field goal afterward, getting the touchdown to force overtime, shifted everything his way going forward. He wasn't going to be happy to just play a Top 10 team close on the road. That call let everyone know he was all in, and since then everyone's officially bought into his "system". Even though we know Bo hates giving things like "systems" a name.

The other thing that has Pelini happier is his defense. He was embarrassed after the Missouri nightmare, and since then his defense has continued to gel and take shape. We knew going into the season that things would get better following Hurricane Cosgrove, if only because things couldn't have gotten worse than Grover Ball. The team still makes mistakes (how many fumbles did they have on that opening drive today? Wasn't it at least 3?), and the penalties have got to get under control (but they only had 4 today). But today was just about getting the win, getting in position to beat up on Baylor for next week.

So how good is Nebraska? We still don't know. They could finish 8-4 and I wouldn't be surprised. The only game left that I feel totally confident in betting the farm on is the Kansas game in Lincoln (we'll get more into that when we get to that week's game). They're not a complete team, but they're finally showing signs of becoming the team that Pelini wants. And shit, right now, that's not bad.