LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller is out for the season with a shoulder injury and Joe Ganz will start this week against eighth-ranked Kansas, coach Bill Callahan said Monday.
It’s the second time Keller has had an injury prematurely end a season and another blow for a program that has spiraled downward after reaching the Big 12 championship game last season.
The Cornhuskers (4-5, 1-4 Big 12) have lost four straight for the first time since 1961 and are 17-point underdogs for this Saturday’s game in Lawrence, Kan.
Callahan didn’t specify the type of injury to Keller’s shoulder. Keller was hurt with 2:37 left in Saturday’s 28-25 loss at Texas when he was hit by defensive end Eddie Jones. Keller’s left arm was in a sling as he stood on the sideline near the end of the game.
Callahan also announced that linebacker Lance Brandenburgh suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Longhorns. Brandenburgh was hurt trying to make a tackle in the fourth quarter.
Keller transferred from Arizona State last year, was named Nebraska’s scout team player of the year and then won the starting job over Ganz in preseason practice.
He completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,422 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was intercepted 10 times.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with everything he’s done for us,” Callahan said during a teleconference with reporters. “Just his ability to come in as a transfer student and be a player who earned the respect of his teammates.
“He’s had ups and downs. I’m appreciative of his efforts. He’s a good kid, a classy individual. He was a real leader for us during some troubled times.”
Ganz, a junior, has appeared in three games this season. He completed 2 of 3 passes against Texas, including a 4-yarder for a touchdown to Maurice Purify. Ganz also converted on a 2-point pass to Nate Swift.
Ganz’s other appearances came in wins over Nevada and Iowa State.
Ganz’s running ability gives the Huskers flexibility in their offense. He appeared in five games as Zac Taylor’s backup last season.
“We’ve given our backup quite a few (practice) reps during the season, and he’s well-prepared,” Callahan said. “He’ll give it his all. He’s excited about the opportunity. Our team and staff have the utmost confidence in him. We lose a good player, but we have a good player stepping in.”
Either true freshman Patrick Witt or junior Beau Davis will back up Ganz. Callahan said a decision on the backup would be made later in the week.
Keller had a college career of highs and lows.
He emerged in 2004 at Arizona State, making his first career start against Purdue in the Sun Bowl. He threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game’s most valuable player.
Keller started ASU’s first seven games in 2005, throwing for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns.