It worked out that our bracket pitted Taylor Martinez and Tommy Armstrong against each other in one semifinal matchup—a baller and his successor—and Zac Taylor and Joe Ganz against each other in the other semifinal matchup—a baller and his sort of successor.
As we did with the 1-5 matchup on Wednesday, here’s the case for why either guy in the 2-3 matchup can win this whole thing.
The Case for No. 2 Zac Taylor
I asked for some guidance from Husker historian and Hail Varsity editor Mike Babcock on these two particular quarterbacks. What made them special? On Taylor in particular, Babcock said he was brought in as a JUCO guy to push the quarterback already on the team, not to take his job.
Bill Callahan, Babcock posited, didn’t think Taylor would be the guy.
But he was.
Nebraska went 8-4 his first year, as Taylor threw for 2,653 yards and 19 touchdowns against 12 picks. NU won its first four games, then hit a slide in conference play, but closed with three straight wins—a 27-25 victory over Kansas State; a 30-3 thrashing of Colorado during which Taylor threw for 392 yards, two scores and no picks; and a 32-28 Alamo Bowl win over a ranked Michigan squad.
Then in 2006, Taylor took Nebraska to the Big 12 title game. Nebraska lost only twice in conference play that season as Taylor earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.
He completed 59.6% of his passes for 3,197 yards and 26 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He still holds the single-season record for touchdowns thrown, and his yardage total that season ranks second in program history.
The case for Taylor is simple: he was the unheralded guy who came in, worked hard, tried to be a good teammate, tried to be a good leader, and balled out. He didn’t just put up numbers, he produced wins. Nebraska was 17-9 with Taylor as a starter and made a conference title game.
You don’t get to be a head coach in the NFL—which Taylor currently is—without a pretty firm grasp of the game. Taylor was just really good.
The Case for No. 3 Joe Ganz
Ganz was everything a coach wants in a quarterback.
He redshirted in 2004, added in Bill Callahan’s first recruiting class, flying largely under the radar. He sat behind Zac Taylor as a second-year freshman in 2005 but never saw a snap. He backed up Taylor again in 2006, played in five games, but only threw 13 passes. He then lost the starting job to Sam Keller—a guy brought in via transfer the year prior—ahead of the 2007 season and sat on the bench for the first eight games, appearing only twice.
Ganz has told people he felt like he did enough to win that battle, but it just didn’t go his way. We’ve seen plenty of quarterbacks in that situation make a different choice than the one Ganz made. He sat again, and waited some more.
When Keller went down with an injury against Texas, Ganz grabbed the job, ran away, and hid.
Against Kansas the following week, he threw 50 times for 405 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran in for a score in the first quarter. That game is a little tainted in the memory banks, though.
The following week, he went 30-for-40 throwing it against Kansas State and piled up 510 yards and seven touchdowns. It still stands as the most productive single game by a Nebraska quarterback of all time.
A week later against Colorado, he went 31-for-58 for 484 yards, four scores, and two rushing touchdowns in a 65-51 loss to Colorado.
The job was his in 2008, and Nebraska went 9-4 with Ganz at the helm. He hit the 300-yard mark five times that season, en route to a record-setting campaign.
His 2008 single-season record for completion percentage (67.86%) stood until this past season. His single-season records of 3,568 yards and yards per game still stand. He also owns the program record for career completion percentage (65.1%), yards per attempt (8.76), and passer rating (157.38).
We’re talking about a guy who, for his career, doesn’t have the sheer number of starts as others, but has just piles and piles of production from when he was finally able to get his shot. Coaches talk about staying ready for your moment; Ganz did exactly that.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.