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H U S K E R    D A N

GATOR BO: THE AFTERMATH
You wonder what Bo Pelini must have been thinking as he lifted the shiny Gator Bowl trophy above his head moments after the Huskers had overcome themselves to beat a good Clemson team, 26-21.

Obviously, he had to be happy (relieved might be a better word) that his underdog Huskers had won a bowl game and finished the season with a 9-4 record. And by reaching the 9 win mark, he joined an elite group of coaches-Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich who, in their first years as Husker head football coach, won 9 games. In fact, no one in the history of Nebraska football other than these four has ever won 9 games in his first year.

(You have to go back as far 1907 to find a coach who even came close to a 9 win first season. W.C. "King" Cole went 8-3 in '07 and in 1898, Fielding H. Yost posted an 8-2 record in his debut.)

The Gator Bowl win had to be especially sweet for Bo because:
1.) The Huskers twice overcame 11 point deficits.
2.) They overcame 2 fumbles and a pass interception.
3.) The D-line played perhaps its best game of the season. Ty Steinkuhler, Zach Potter, Pierre Allen and "The Beast", Ndamukong Suh had great games. Together, they made life miserable for the Clemson Tiger offense, holding them to 210 yards of total offense, including just 4 yards rushing.
4.) The Huskers won despite losing two of their top running backs-Marlon Lucky and Roy Helu, Jr. to injuries.
5.) Husker running back Quentin Castille rushed for 125 yards, including a 58 yarder that stands as the longest run from scrimmage this season.
FATHER'S DAY
But despite the euphoria of the bowl win and all the hoopla surrounding it, I'm sure at the top of the minds of Bo and his brother Carl was the loss of their father, Anthony, who passed away December 23rd in Youngstown, Ohio. How proud Mr. Pelini would have been of his boys and the Cornhusker football team! To show their respect, the entire football team wore "AP" stickers on their helmets. Perhaps Anthony was looking down on the field that day. If so, he had to be smiling along with everyone else in Husker red.
A VERY SUH-WEET DEAL
Husker fans got a great present last week when Ndamukong Suh announced that he will be returning for his senior season at Nebraska.

His presence will shore up a D-line that will need to be rebuilt due to the graduation of Ty Steinkuhler, Zach Potter, Shukree Barfield and Clayton Sievers. If Barry Turner gets the medical hardship everyone is predicting, Suh could be part of another, perhaps even better defensive line in '09. Also returning will be Pierre Allen (6'5"-265, Jr.), Jared Crick (6'6"-280, So.) and Terrence Moore (6'3"-275, So.).

What makes Suh's decision even more special is the fact that he must think this fall's D-line has a very good chance of being something special. If he didn't think so, I doubt he'd be coming back this fall.

It's amazing to see the development of Suh this past year. I saw him at the Qwest Arena in Omaha this spring, not long after his knee surgery. As I watched him labor up the stairs of the arena, I didn't think he'd even be able to play in the fall, let alone have a breakout year.

Suh is going to be counted on to be the leader of the defense this fall. Considering the holes that have to be filled on offense, the Blackshirts (we can finally use the term again) may have to carry the team, especially in the first part of the year.
YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY!
That the Huskers ended this season at 9-4 should make Husker Pride Worldwide feel almost giddy. Consider where the defense was a year ago at Boulder, Colorado when they surrendered 65 points to a "fugly" 6-6 Colorado team.

Bo Pelini and his staff deserve an enormous amount of appreciation from all Husker fans for what the Huskers achieved this year. As I said before the season began, years from now, this coaching staff may look back at the '08 season as being perhaps their finest hour.
GANZ GUT
I heard Joe Ganz on several of the local (Omaha) radio stations last week. What seemed very strange to me was that he was referred to as, "Former Husker quarterback, Joe Ganz." Didn't he just get here?

In German, "ganz" means, among other things, entire. It's fitting that that is Joe's last name. For the Huskers this year, he was the entire package. He was the kid who was always the extra coach on the field-a tough kid who handled his career at Nebraska with class-despite the adversity he faced for most of his career. He was the kid the old coaching staff always seemed to be looking to replace.

But not once did Joe publicly complain. When he got his chance to play, he laid everything on the field, on every play and in every game.
TOUGH AS NAILS
Last week, I had a chance to ask Joe about the '07 Colorado loss (65-51) at Boulder-a game the Huskers were leading at the half. If you'll recall, just before the first half ended, Joe left the field and headed for the locker room. I said to Joe, "I know you were injured at that time and it seemed to affect your play in the second half. I also know you are not one to make excuses, but what happened?"

"I cracked a rib just before the half," Ganz said. "They took me to the locker room, taped me up, gave me a couple of shots and I came out played the second half."

Here's another Ganz story. As you know, Joe was taken out of the Gator Bowl game after he'd been slammed to the turf in the second half. Before any of the coaches came to check on him, Joe grabbed Matt Slauson and asked him what were the last three plays he (Ganz) had called. Joe knew that the coaches would ask him about the plays to see if he was mentally able to go back into the game. Matt obliged and Joe missed only play.

Joe, we're going to miss you!

HUSKER DAN'S ARMY T-SHIRTS
Remember, Husker Dan's Army doesn't stop when the football season is over. We still have men and women who are risking their lives every day of the year serving our country in the armed services. As most of you know, HDA raises money to send Husker Care Packages overseas to any trooper who registers with HDA. To register, send me an email that includes your name and APO address.

Depending on our funds, you will soon receive a Care package that includes such items as Husker T-shirts, media guides, caps, sweatshirts etc. It may take several weeks for the package to arrive overseas, but we will get them out ASAP.

To buy a Husker Dan's Army T-shirt, send your $20.00 tax deductible (501 {c} 3) contribution to:
Gary McGirr
President
Northeast Kansans For Nebraska
Att: Husker Dan's Army
3610 S.W. Wood Valley Terrace
Topeka, KS 66614


The $20.00 includes material, shipping and handling. Please specify Large or Extra Large (the sizes run big). HDA is a grass roots organization-we have no administrative costs. All the money we get from donations or the sale of T-shirts goes directly to buying the Husker material we include in our Care packages.

The brave men and women who are serving our country in the armed services in the Middle East don't ask for much in return for all the sacrifices they make. By donating to Husker Dan's Army, you are helping to let them know we care. Thanks!

Send your comments to huskerdan@cox.net. For past Husker Dan columns, click here.