Glenn, Ganz shine as Huskers drop Western Michigan
Nebraska opened its 2008 season under the lights at Memorial Stadium Saturday night and coasted to a 47-24 win over Western Michigan.
Head Coach Bo Pelini, coaching in his first game at the helm of the Huskers, unveiled a defense that displayed a marked improvement over last year's squad that forced just 11 turnovers and allowed a school record 455 points. Despite allowing 24 points and 350 total yards to the Broncos, the Husker Blackshirts were aggressive and flew to the ball, recording four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Defensively, former running back Cody Glenn stole the show in his first game on defense. The senior linebacker led the team with 12 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for a loss of 10 yards, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
After allowing an average of 232 rushing yards per game a year ago, the Huskers shut down the Western Michigan rushing attack, holding the Broncos to just eight yards. The Broncos who trailed the entire game, still managed to throw for 342 yards, completing 30 of 49 passes, including several big plays.
Offensively, Nebraska continued to roll under the direction of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, as NU racked up 483 total yards, including a 345-yard passing performance from senior quarterback Joe Ganz. Ganz threw for four touchdowns, completing 20 of 36 passes to seven different receivers while rushing for another 38 yards. With his performance, Ganz became the first quarterback in school history with four career 300-yard passing games and the only quarterback in NU history with four straight 4-TD pass games.
Senior Nate Swift was the main beneficiary of the passing attack, catching five passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Menelik Holt added another 59 yards on five catches.
Nebraska's rushing game was slowed to just 138 yards on 31 carries as Western Michigan stacked the line of scrimmage throughout the game. Sophomore running back Roy Helu Jr. led the rushing attack with 52 yards on seven carries, while senior running back Marlon Lucky added 43 yards on 12 carries.
Nebraska opened their scoring on the second drive of the game on a four-play, 61-yard drive, capped by a 14-yard run from Lucky. Ganz opened the drive with a 32-yard run on an option play around the left side.
The Huskers stretched their lead to 14-0 with 0:55 remaining the first quarter as sophomore tight end Mike McNeill caught 3-yard pass from Ganz .
After a 44-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Alex Henery stretched the Husker lead to 17-0 with 14:50 left in the second quarter, Western Michigan responded with a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Hiller to tight end Brandon Ledbetter, capping a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
In what proved to be the turning point of the game, Nebraska scored 0:47 later on a 61-yard pass from Ganz to Swift, opening a 27-7 lead and the Huskers would never look back. Henery would finish the game with four 44-yard field goals, were the most by a Husker kicker since Jordan Congdon kicked four against Maine on Sept. 3, 2005.
With the win, Nebraska won its 23rd straight season opener, dating back to a 1985 loss to Florida State. The streak is the longest such streak in the nation.