Nebraska wins Gator Bowl, beats Clemson 26-21

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Bo Pelini’s first season as Nebraska coach ended with a victory and optimism about the future, two things the Cornhuskers have lacked in recent years.

Joe Ganz threw for two touchdowns, Alex Henery kicked four field goals and Nebraska beat Clemson 26-21 in the Gator Bowl on Thursday.

Nebraska (9-4) ended the season with a four-game winning streak, including a victory against rival Colorado, won six of its final seven games and had success in a January bowl game for the first time in nine years.

It capped quite a turnaround for the Cornhuskers, who hired Pelini to replace fired coach Bill Callahan after missing the postseason in 2007. The former defensive coordinator at LSU, Oklahoma and Nebraska led the Huskers to just their fourth New Year’s Day bowl in the last 11 seasons.

Clemson (7-6) was hoping to maintain its late-season momentum, too. The Tigers had won four of their last five games after a 3-3 start that prompted longtime coach Tommy Bowden to resign.

New Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who took over Oct. 13, looked like he would get a win in his first bowl game. The Tigers led 14-3 at halftime and were making all sorts of defensive plays, but the Cornhuskers dominated the second half.

Nebraska scored on every possession in the third quarter, but kept Clemson in the game by having to settle for field goals.

Henery’s fourth of the day put Nebraska ahead 26-21 with 5:20 remaining. The Tigers had a final chance to go ahead and moved to the Nebraska 10 with 1:54 remaining. But Eric Hagg batted down a pass on first down, then sacked Cullen Harper for a 16-yard loss on the next play.

Harper nearly hooked up with C.J. Spiller on third down, but the ball fell to the ground in the end zone. Harper misfired on the final play.

The Huskers ran out the clock from there. Players drenched Pelini with an ice-water bath, a little chilling on a cool and windy afternoon in Jacksonville.

Both offenses came out cold. There were nine punts, several seemingly wasted timeouts, a blocked chip-shot field goal, a failed fourth-down conversion and not a single score in the first 25 minutes of the game. It was a wild affair the rest of the way.

It started when Marcus Gilchrist blitzed into the backfield, slapped Ganz’s pitch to Quentin Castille away, picked the ball up on one bounce and ran 28 yards for a touchdown.

Clemson scored all three of its touchdowns off turnovers. The Tigers also scored after an interception and a muffed punt return.

They could have used more help.

Nebraska found its rhythm after the break. Ganz found Nate Swift for a 17-yard touchdown and then connected with Todd Peterson for a 6-yard score. Both of them came on third-and-long plays.

The Cornhuskers finished with 362 yards, but still had to sweat out the closing seconds.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lynnwood teammates mob senior Abbie Orr (4) after her impressive dig led to a point against Jackson during a volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood volleyball team continues rise to prominence

After ending a 20-year state drought last season, the Royals are surging again and have vaulted to No. 3 in Class 3A in the new WSVCA poll.

Jackson High’s Ben Lee lunges to get to the ball against Kamiak on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022, at the Kamiak Tennis Courts in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep boys tennis season preview: Players and teams to watch

A look at the area’s top athletes and teams on the tennis court this fall.

Austin Roest prepares to take a wrist shot during the first day of Silvertips training camp on Thursday, August 31, 2023, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Dad is an NHL bigwig, but Silvertips’ Roest carving his own path

The 19-year-old forward and son of Stanley Cup-winning executive Stacy Roest leads the Silvertips into the 2023-24 season.

Rich Haldi. (County Sports Hall of Fame photo)
County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023 bio: Rich Haldi

The WSU alum and longtime EvCC athletic administrator helped found the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame.

Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for Sept. 11-17

The Athlete of the Week nominees for Sept. 11-17. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Arlington junior quarterback Leyton Martin throws a short pass during the second quarter of the season opener against Kamiak on Friday, Sep. 1, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
3 games to watch in Week 4 of the prep football season

An in-depth look at the best games the area has to offer, plus a full schedule of the local action in Week 4.

Lakewood High School.
Refs blown call means Lakewood football game will restart in 3rd quarter

The Cougars dispute an incorrectly spotted ball by officials on a penalty-riddled play in the 3rd quarter. The game will resume from that point in Week 10.

Longtime Edmonds School District wrestling coach John Casebeer was also a member of the Snohomish County Wrestling Officials Association for 27 years. (County Sports Hall of Fame photo)
County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023 bio: John Casebeer

The 1963 Edmonds graduate spent 30 successful years as a wrestling coach in the Edmonds School District.

Most Read