It was a day of redemption for Nebraska.The Cornhuskers' 45-35 victory over Kansas on Saturday came a week after a humiliating 62-28 loss at Oklahoma and a year after a 76-39 defeat to the Jayhawks.
"It feels so good to come back and redeem ourselves after what happened last year," Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz said. "We played so well today. But we didn't play as well as we could. We probably left 14-17 points out there."
The Huskers also turned over the ball four times. But this was no time for nitpicking.
"We needed this," coach Bo Pelini said. "They were so broken up after what happened last weekend. We're not done yet."
The Huskers (6-4, 3-3 Big 12) became bowl eligible with their 20th straight win over the Jayhawks in Lincoln. Kansas (6-4, 3-3) hasn't won on the road against Nebraska since 1968.
The Jayhawks came into the game tied with Missouri for the Big 12 North lead. With Texas and Missouri remaining on their schedule, this was considered a crucial game.
"As a team we're disappointed. Because it was a Big 12 North loss, it makes it that much more disappointing," said KU receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who caught six balls for 176 yards and a touchdown. "We came into the game knowing that it was this type of game you play to win championships, and we fell short of it."
Ganz, playing on a gimpy right ankle on a windy, 35-degree afternoon, threw for three touchdowns and 324 yards, his fourth 300-yard passing game in five weeks. Roy Helu Jr. ran for 115 yards and two key second-half touchdowns and caught eight passes for 61 yards.
Then there was Ndamukong Suh, the 300-pound nose tackle who found glory on the offensive side of the ball, catching a 2-yard TD pass from Ganz to put Nebraska up by 10 points in the fourth quarter.
There was more offensive hijinks. In the first quarter, I-back Marlon Lucky took a direct snap and threw a TD pass for the fourth time in his career.
Defensively, the Huskers harassed quarterback Todd Reesing all game. Reesing threw for 304 yards and three TDs and became Kansas' all-time passing leader. But he couldn't come through the Jayhawks needed him most.
Zach Potter intercepted him with just under 6 minutes left, as the Jayhawks tried to rally from a 10-point deficit. After Kansas recovered an onside kick with 2:15 left, Pierre Allen recorded the Huskers' fifth sack of the game to all but finish off the Jayhawks.
"This was a very meaningful game for those guys after what happened last year," defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. "They wanted a little payback, and they got it."
Kansas coach Mark Mangino said Nebraska's front four knocked his offense out of rhythm.
"The fact Todd had pressure on him for the better part of the day took us off some routes we like to run," he said. "We have a quarterback who is capable of throwing the ball very well. When you have a trigger man like that, you have to be able to protect him."
Ganz, who completed 28-of-37 passes, went over 300 yards passing for the eighth time in 12 career starts. He did it on a sore right foot that caused him to limp noticeably the second half.
"You would have to scrape him off the field to get him out of there," Bo Pelini said.
Helu, who had a career-high 157 yards rushing against Oklahoma, split carries with Lucky and Quentin Castille in the first half. But the Huskers called on Helu almost exclusively after they fell behind 21-17.
Helu dived for the pylon to finish a 10-yard run and put Nebraska ahead to stay late in the third quarter. After Kansas went three plays and out, he took an inside handoff and ran off right tackle for a 52-yard touchdown and a 31-21 lead.
Pelini said Helu saw more playing time late in the game because Lucky got banged up.
"Roy got hot," Pelini said. "But it's not about any one guy. A guy gets his number called, he needs to step up."
Suh added to a career-best 12-tackle game by lining up at fullback and catching the fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Ganz.
"We put a little package in for him," Ganz said. "We've been doing it since last week. Not a lot of people want to take him on as a lead blocker. We thought we would show him love by throwing to him out on the flat."
Suh, who scored his first career touchdown on a 49-yard interception return against San Jose State in September, said he didn't expect Ganz to throw to him.
"I looked back to Joey and we made eye contact, and he took a little heat off it so I could guide it into my hands," Suh said.
The teams matched touchdowns in the first half. Lucky took a direct snap, ran three steps and flipped a jump pass over the line to tight end Mike McNeill for a 4-yard touchdown. Ganz later hit Chris Brooks with a 25-yard pass for Brooks' first career touchdown.
Reesing stayed on his feet after taking a direct hit from cornerback Eric Hagg, then unloaded a short sideline pass to Kerry Meier, who ran the rest of the way for a 28-yard TD. Reesing broke Frank Seurer's career passing yardage record on the play and now has 6,632 in three seasons, the past two as the starter.
Reesing's second touchdown pass, a 53-yarder to Briscoe, put the Jayhawks up 14-7. Briscoe became Kansas' all-time leader in TD receptions with 18.
"You could see Nebraska getting better every week," Mangino said. "Defensively they were getting more comfortable. Kids were playing more confident. They're always good at home, I knew it would be a battle and we could not afford to make any mistakes. They made a couple but were able to overcome that."
Joe Ganz passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns, Roy Helu Jr. ran for 115 yards and two scores, and Nebraska bounced back from a humiliating defeat at Oklahoma to beat Kansas 45-35.
The Cornhuskers (6-4, 3-3 Big 12) became bowl eligible with their 20th straight win over the Jayhawks in Lincoln. Kansas (6-4, 3-3), which throttled the Huskers 76-39 in Lawrence last year, hasn't won on the road against Nebraska since 1968.
Kansas's Todd Reesing threw three touchdown passes and became Kansas' career passing leader, but he was sacked five times. He finished 15-of-30 for 304 yards.
Ganz, who completed 28-of-37 passes, went over 300 yards passing for the fourth time in five games and eighth time in 12 career starts.