Joe Ganz accounted for 365 total yards and four touchdowns as Nebraska manhandled Kansas State 56-28 Saturday afternoon in Manhattan.
Nebraska (7-4, 4-3 Big 12) routed Kansas State 73-31 last season, setting school records with 519 yards and seven touchdowns passing. The Huskers did it with a balanced attack this time, punishing the Wildcats (4-7, 1-6) at the line of scrimmage for 340 yards and four touchdowns rushing. They complemented it with Ganz's arm to finish with 610 total yards.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "I thought Joe managed it really well and the backs ran hard and tough. Joe was able to hurt them with his feet and that helped open up our running backs, too."
NU established the running game early. Roy Helu Jr. scored on runs of one and 24 yards and Quentin Castille had a 37-yarder on a fourth-and-one late in the first quarter.
That set up Ganz, who had 270 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-25 passing after his first attempt of the game was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He also had 95 yards rushing on 11 carries, scoring on runs of 25 and 14 yards in the fourth quarter.
"Whatever it takes to get this team a win, I'm going to do it," said Ganz. "If that means throwing for 300 yards or if I have to run it for 100, I'll do whatever they ask of me."
Nebraska's defense wasn't bad, either. The Cornhuskers finally earned the coveted Blackshirts in practice this week and responded by harassing Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman from the opening snap and completely squashing the Wildcats' running game.
Freeman, the nation's 13th-ranked passer at 292 yards per game, faced constant pressure and was sacked five times. He had to hurry or throw off his back foot on several other throws, going 7-for-18 for 114 yards before being replaced by Carson Coffman midway through the third quarter.
Kansas State's running game certainly didn't help, managing a dismal 59 yards on 32 carries. "Josh wasn't his normal self," said Kansas State coach Ron Prince. "He wasn't doing some of the things that he has to be able to do, for whatever reason."
The result was another disappointing finish for the Wildcats, who had hoped for a little revenge after Nebraska piled it on last year in Lincoln and to maybe pull out two wins to send Prince to a bowl in his final season.
Kansas State is now out of bowl contention, headed toward another disappointing finish. The Wildcats have lost their last eight games against the Big 12 North and five straight games overall after ending last season with four straight losses.
"It's not fun to lose," said Kansas State defensive end Ian Campbell. "It's not fun for us and it's not fun for the fans and I apologize for that."
K-State at least seemed to have a chance early. Courtney Herndon intercepted Ganz's first pass of the afternoon and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown, then Freeman answered two Nebraska TDs by hitting Ernie Pierce on a 63-yard scoring pass to tie it at 14-all.
The momentum carried over to the defense, which held Nebraska to three plays and a punt. Then Deon Murphy fumbled the punt at his own 30.
Helu scored two plays later on a 24-yard run. Ganz hit Todd Peterson for a five-yard touchdown pass on the next possession, then found Mike McNeill for an 18-yard score to put Nebraska up 35-14.
Kansas State had a chance to pull closer in the closing seconds of the first half, but Nebraska pressured Freeman into an incompletion after Prince decided to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal.
"At some point in every game you're going to face some adversity and it happened early for us today," Pelini said. "Our kids came back and our offense responded quickly, which helped us."