Kansas win no upset over storied Hokies
By: By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — It may be time for the Kansas Jayhawks to give up the underdog role they love.
The surprising Jayhawks exceeded expectations again Thursday night, racing to an early lead and hanging on to beat Virginia Tech 24-21 in the Orange Bowl.
No. 8 Kansas (12-1) won in its first Bowl Championship Series game to set a team record for victories. A year ago the Jayhawks went 6-6.
“People kept telling us we couldn’t win against this team, that we couldn’t win the big game, that we had no chance,” quarterback Todd Reesing said. “We took that to heart. We like being underdogs.”
Perhaps this season’s biggest surprise, the high-scoring Jayhawks employed their usual assortment of tricks. They split their tackles wide alongside the receivers. They threw wrong-handed shovel passes. They pulled off a fake punt.
The biggest shocker: They won with defense.
While the offense was stymied most of the night, Kansas came up with three interceptions that led to 17 points, including All-American cornerback Aqib Talib’s 60-yard return for the game’s first score. He was chosen the game’s most valuable player.
The victory answered critics who said the Jayhawks benefited from an easy schedule and were exposed by a loss to Missouri in the regular-season finale.
“I guess they got to say we played somebody now!” Talib said.
The No. 5 Hokies (11-3) lost their fourth consecutive ECS game. It was a bittersweet finish for the Hokies, who revived campus spirits this season following the April 16 massacre that left 33 students and professors dead.
“It hurts right now,” quarterback Sean Glennon said. “But when we look at it tomorrow or next week, I don’t think anyone at Virginia Tech is going to be disappointed with this season.”
The Jayhawks played in their first major bowl since the 1969 Orange Bowl, and they made a big splash at the start, racing to a 17-0 lead after 23 minutes.
Virginia Tech closed the deficit to 17-14 before Glennon was intercepted by Thornton, whose 30-yard return gave Kansas the ball at the 2 with 11 minutes left. Reesing scored on the next play.
Chris Harris also had an interception to set up a field goal, and the Jayhawks totaled five sacks.
“Our kids were determined to play well,” coach Mark Mangino said. “A lot of folks counted us out of this one. We heard that for a month. But that’s OK. We always play better when we’re an underdog.”
Virginia Tech drove 78 yards to score with three minutes left on Glennon’s 20-yard pass to Justin Harper. The Jayhawks’ Raimond Pendleton fielded the ensuing onside kick, and they ran out the clock.
“It feels really great,” Kansas tackle Anthony Collins said. “Now I feel like USC and Florida and them feel every day. They don’t get any better than this. I know it ain’t the national championship, but it doesn’t get any better. We won the Orange Bowl.”
Virginia Tech’s biggest gain came on special teams. Harper scored on an 84-yard punt return after taking a lateral on a reverse from Eddie Royal, who fielded the kick.
The Jayhawks were the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season at 44 points per game, but they mounted only one scoring drive of more than 17 yards and left most of the big plays to their defense.
The biggest was by Talib, who stepped in front of the intended receiver to intercept freshman Tyrod Taylor and ran along the Virginia Tech sideline for a touchdown.
“Coach had us in a call where I was able to jump any route,” Talib said. “The quarterback was late with the throw, and he threw me the ball.”
Talib was mobbed in the end zone. Later, as the final seconds ticked off, he found himself in another celebration.
“I think I started hyperventilating,” he said. “We won the Orange Bowl. That’s what I used to watch as a kid. Who would have thought that I could win the Orange Bowl and win the MVP? It’s awesome.”