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Published Sunday, April 15, 2007

Quarterback quandary

QBs Keller, Ganz both perform well in Huskers' annual spring game

By Tony Boone
For the Independent

LINCOLN -- Sam Keller talks as if he is the starter. Joe Ganz believes he's right there.

If the race to be Nebraska's quarterback in 2007 is as close as coach Bill Callahan has said it is throughout the team's spring workouts, then Saturday's spring game really did nothing to separate the two.

Alternating possessions with the No. 1 Husker offense, Keller and Ganz shredded the No. 2 defense for 350 passing yards in the Red team's 38-0 victory over the White in front of 54,288 fans at Memorial Stadium.

The duo combined to complete 21 of 31 pass attempts and led the Reds to scores on their first six possessions. They threw for 217 yards in the first quarter alone as their squad raced to a 28-0 lead after only 15 minutes of play.

"We felt very good about how Sam Keller and Joe Ganz performed," Callahan said. "When you look at some of the numbers they posted today, it's pretty impressive. I was really pleased with everything they did on the field of play. I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys."

Keller got the start and proved immediately that he's as good as advertised.

The senior transfer, who threw for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns in seven games for Arizona State in 2005 before suffering a season-ending injury, marched the Reds 73 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of his first game-like appearance in nearly 18 months.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder was 5 for 6 for 66 yards on the opening series, which ended with his 14-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Nunn. Keller later hooked up with Grand Island Central Catholic graduate Todd Peterson for 47 yards on his only attempt of NU's third scoring drive and completed all three of his passes on its fifth.

He finished the day 10 of 13 through the air for 195 yards and said he was pleased with his first effort in front of the Nebraska fans.

"I think I graded out pretty well as far as what we were trying to do," he said. "We were trying to just be efficient, manage the team down the field. I graded out probably an A- or B+, somewhere in that range. Coaches will have the final grade, but I feel good."

Keller said he's come "miles" in Callahan's intricate West Coast offense this spring. And although the Huskers ran only basic plays Saturday, he's confident that he's got the system down.

"Anything we dial up, I know exactly what I'm doing," he said.

Unlike his counterpart, Ganz has had plenty of time to absorb the NU playbook during his three years in Lincoln. He was Nebraska's scout team MVP as a freshman before backing up Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year Zac Taylor a year ago.

Ganz entered the spring with limited on-field experience. However, he did complete 7 of 13 passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns while playing in five games last season.

The 6-1, 200-pound junior acknowledged that he may be the underdog in the QB race, but he held his own on the field Saturday. He was 11 of 18 through the air for 157 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 10-yard score.

Ganz said he felt needed to match Keller's outing, especially after the opening possession.

"Just being competitive, that's my nature, if he does well, I want to do well," he said. "It kind of just went back and forth. He led one, I led one, he led one, I led one. We fed each other pretty much.

"Obviously, it's a pretty heated competition. It's a pretty significant spot we're fighting for. Overall, this spring, it's been a pretty big competition."

When asked if he saw any separation between the two, Ganz responded, "Not that I can tell. It looked pretty even to me."

Ultimately, the decision will be Callahan's. And if he's leaning one way, he's not tipping his hand.

"I'm going to continue to evaluate our quarterback situation," he said. "We're going to remain consistent about where we're at in terms of their status. And, again, we won't name any starter until we get into the end of training camp prior to the season."

The coach and both quarterbacks praised the play of Nebraska's receivers Saturday. Peterson had four catches for 105 yards for the Red. Maurice Purify also made four grabs for 75 yards, including a 36-yarder that took the Red to the one-yard line in the second quarter. And Nate Swift had three catches for 70 yards and a score.

"Any time you look back and your first read on the play is wide open or makes a play, it's like 'Wow, this game's pretty easy,'" Keller said. "Those guys do make it easy."

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2007 Husker Schedule
09/01 Nevada @ Lincoln
09/08 Wake Forest @ Winston-Salem
09/15 Southern Cal @ Lincoln
09/22 Ball Sate @ Lincoln
09/29 #Iowa State @ Lincoln
10/06 #Missouri @ Columbia
10/13 #Oklahoma State @ Lincoln
10/20 #Texas A&M @ Lincoln
10/27 #Texas @ Austin
11/03 #Kansas @ Lawrence
11/10 #Kansas State @ Lincoln
11/23* #Colorado @ Boulder
*or the 24th

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