Defense Leads Eighth-Ranked Jayhawks to 24-21 Orange Bowl Victory

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Sophomore quarterback Todd Reesing threw a touchdown pass and ran for another, while Orange Bowl Most Valuable Player Aqib Talib returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown as the eighth-ranked Jayhawks earned a 24-21 FedEx Orange Bowl triumph over No. 3 Virginia Tech Thursday at Dolphin Stadium.

It marked KU’s second bowl victory in the last three seasons, and its first Bowl Championship Series win. The Jayhawks (12-1) finished perhaps their greatest season with a school record 12 victories.

In a game that was billed to be a clash between KU’s offense and Virginia Tech’s defense, it was the Jayhawk defense and special teams that led the way.

KU matched a bowl game record with three interceptions, while five different Jayhawks collected quarterback sacks. Of the three interceptions, none was bigger than Talib’s first quarter pick that he returned 60 yards to give Kansas a 7-0 advantage. It was KU’s first defensive touchdown since Talib returned an interception 100 yards against Florida International earlier this season.

Senior place kicker Scott Webb stretched KU’s lead to 10-0 with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. After Chris Harris picked off Tech’s Sean Glennon, the Jayhawks capitalized with a 32-yard field goal from the left hash mark.

KU took a 17-0 advantage when Reesing led the Jayhawks on a 10-play, 59-yard drive that culminated with a 13-yard strike to Marcus Henry on a slant across the middle. It marked Reesing’s 36th career touchdown pass, giving him the top total in team history.

Virginia Tech answered the Reesing touchdown with a 13-play, 52-yard drive that ended with a one-yard plunge by Brandon Ore. It made the score 17-7 going into halftime.

The Hokies cut the lead to 17-14 on an 86-yard punt return by Justin Harper early in the second half. Harper received a pitch from the original punt receiver Eddie Royal on a reverse, and scampered 86 yards down the near sideline for a touchdown.

Tech threatened again in the third quarter, but KU held onto its lead when junior Joe Mortensen blocked a 25-yard field goal. It was the Jayhawks’ first field goal block of the season.

The Jayhawks took advantage of another Hokie turnover early in the fourth quarter. Following a Justin Thornton interception deep in Tech territory, Reesing stretched the KU lead to 24-14 with a two-yard run on a bootleg to the near side. It was the quarterback’s third rushing touchdown of the season.

Tech again fought back to within one score on a 21-yard pass from Glennon to Harper with three minutes remaining. The Hokies held Kansas on a fourth down try from the Tech 23 and marched the ball 77 yards on 14 plays.

After the score, the Hokies tried an onside kick, but were negated possession when Raimond Pendleton recovered the ball at Tech’s 43-yardline. From there, the Jayhawks moved the ball down to the Hokie one-yard line to run out the final two minutes, 59 seconds of the contest.

Reesing finished the game with 227 yards on 20-of-37 passing. He had one touchdown and one interception. Eight different Jayhawks hauled in passes, including junior Dexton Fields who finished with seven catches for 101 yards. Henry had two catches for 20 yards.

Senior Brandon McAnderson carried the ball 15 times for 75 yards, including a handful of big runs to keep the clock moving late in the fourth quarter. He also completed a pass attempt on a fake punt late in the third stanza.

Junior Mike Rivera led KU’s defense with seven solo tackles and five assisted tackles as well as a tackle for a loss.

Postgame Notes
Kansas’ Win Over Virginia Tech…
…Gave KU a 5-6 all-time bowl record.
…Gave KU four wins in its last five bowl trips.
…Gave KU 12 wins for the first time in school history (KU already has 11 wins for the first time in school history).
…Was KU’s 15th win in its last 17 games.

Postgame Notes
– KU seniors that played in their final game as a Jayhawk included DL Marcus Anderson, OLRameses Arceo, TE Derek Fine, WR Jeff Foster, WR Marcus Henry, TE Marc Jones, RBBrandon McAnderson, DT James McClinton, S Sadiq Muhammed, OT Cesar Rodriguez, SBrian Seymour, P Kyle Tucker, PK Scott Webb.
– Head coach Mark Mangino moved into sole possession of fourth place with his 37th victory at KU. He surpassed Don Fambrough’s 36 wins from 1971-74 and 79-82.
– Kansas took the field at Dolphin Stadium sporting their red jerseys for the second time this season after Atlantic Coast Conference Champion and home team Virginia Tech chose to wear their white uniforms. KU also donned red this season in its 55-3 win over Florida International. All-time, KU is 6-0 in its red uniforms, wearing them in 2006 against South Florida and Colorado, then Louisiana Tech and Missouri in 2005.
– Junior CB Aqib Talib’s 60-yard interception for a touchdown at the 5:15 mark of the first quarter was his 13th career INT and his second interception return for touchdown this season. Talib also had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown earlier this season against Florida International.
– The Jayhawks scored first for the 10th time of the season. KU is 10-0 this season when scoring first.
– Talib’s score was Kansas’ first defensive touchdown scored since his 100-yard interception return against Florida International on Sept. 28, 2007.
– Freshman CB Chris Harris’ second interception of the season came at the 13:53 mark of the second quarter. It marked the seventh multiple-interception game of the season for the Jayhawks (last vs. Nebraska on Nov. 3, 2007).
– Senior PK Scott Webb tied two players for second on the KU season field goals made list (Bruce Kallmeyer holds the record with 24 in 1983) with his 32-yard field goal make at the 12:04 mark of the second quarter. The kick was the 18th of his career.
– Senior WR Marcus Henry tied for fifth on the KU season receptions list (Isaac Byrd had 53 in 1996 and teammate Dexton Fields is currently fourth with 57 this season) with his 58th catch of the season with a seven yard reception in the second quarter. The catch also made Henry the third player in KU history with 1,000 receiving yards in a season (Bob Johnson, 1,144 in 1983 and Richard Estell, 1,109 in 1985).
– Kansas became the fourth school in the country to feature a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver this season. Sophomore QB Todd Reesing has thrown for 3,486 yards, RB Brandon McAnderson has rushed for 1,125 yards andMarcus Henry now has 1,014 yards receiving. Other schools which have reached this accomplishment in the 2007 season include Boise State, Kansas State and Tulsa.
– Reesing’s TD pass in the second quarter to Henry was the 36th of his career. With the toss, he became the all-time leader in TD passes in Kansas football history.
– Reesing’s 227 yards passing gave him sole possession of the most 200 yard passing games in a single season (nine).
– Kansas’ 17 first half points are the second-most scored on Virginia Tech in the first half this season. (LSU had 24 in their second game of the season).
– Honorary captains selected for the FedEx Orange Bowl were Gale Sayers for Kansas and Bruce Smith for Virginia Tech. Sayers, known as the “Kansas Comet” was a two-time All American in 1963 and 1964. Smith was an All-American for the Holies in 1983 and 1984.
– WR Dexton Fields moved into second on the KU season receptions list with a third quarter catch. He now has 63 catches on the season, moving him in front of Bob Johnson (58). Richard Estell is first with 70 receptions in 1985.
– Fields has now caught at least two passes in 24 of the last 25 games.
– Virginia Tech’s Justin Harper returned a Kyle Tucker punt 84-yards for a TD in the third quarter. It was just the second punt return that the Jayhawks have allowed longer than 14 yards this season. (Jeremy Maclin of Missouri had a 32-yard return on Nov. 24).
– Tech’s punt return for a TD was only the second non-offensive TD given up by KU this season.
– Sophomore QB/WR Kerry Meier has caught at least two passes in eight straight games.
– P Kyle Tucker’s 62-yard punt in the third quarter was his longest of the season as well as his longest since 2005 (66-yard punt vs. Kansas State on Oct. 8, 2005).
– At the 6:31 mark of the third quarter, Tech’s field goal attempt was blocked by LB Joe Mortensen and recovered by DT Todd Haselhorst. It was KU’s first blocked FG of the season and also the first of Mortensen’s career. (Last blocked FG by the Jayhawks was by Wayne Wilder vs. Texas A&M on Oct. 7, 2006).
– Kansas’ senior class finished their careers with 29 wins (29-19). It is the best four-year stretch by the Jayhawks since 1992-95, when KU’s senior class went 28-18.
– Fields hauled in a 37-yard pass in the third quarter, a career-long reception (previous long was a 35-yarder vs. Florida International earlier this season).
– McAnderson’s 22-yard pass to WR Micah Brown on a faked punt in the third quarter was his first career toss as well as Brown’s first catch of the season.
– Kansas was penalized 10 times for 140 yards during the game, a season-high in yards penalized. The Jayhawks entered the game averaging only 36.5 yards penalized per game.
– The 140 yards KU was penalized marked the first time since the 2005 Fort Worth Bowl that the team has been assessed over 100 yards in penalties in a single game.
– S Justin Thornton now has five interceptions on the season with a fourth-quarter interception. His five interceptions on the season tie him with seven other players for the ninth-most in a single season by a Jayhawk. The INT is the sixth of his career.
– In 12 games this season, KU has trailed for only 72:44 minutes of action while playing 780 minutes total. Therefore, the Jayhawks led or were tied with their opponents for 707:16. In the Missouri game, Kansas trailed for 45:29.
– KU had five sacks on Virginia Tech’s quarterbacks, which set a new season-high mark (four in the first quarter, one in the fourth). Kansas surpassed its previous season-high in sacks when four sacks were made against Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8, 2007.
– The five sacks collected by Kansas’ defense is the most in a game by KU since the team recorded five against Texas Tech on Oct. 1, 2005.
– Kansas tied a bowl game record for most passes intercepted with three (2005 Fort Worth Bowl).
– RET Marcus Herford’s three kickoff returns broke his own school record for most kickoffs returned in a single season (31). He had 29 last season.
– DT James McClinton started a team-best 33 consecutive games in his career at KU. Other KU players with at least 20 consecutive starts include OT Cesar Rodriguez (28), LB Joe Mortensen (25), LB Mike Rivera (25), WR Marcus Henry (23), CB Aqib Talib (23), DERussell Brorsen (21).
– Rodriguez made his team-best 43rd career start.