Kansas took a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, and Virginia Tech couldn’t do enough to come from behind as they lost the Orange Bowl 24-21 on Thursday night. The Hokies finished an otherwise great season on a sour note. They finished 11-3 overall, and were one game away from having the most wins in the history of the program. Kansas improved to 12-1 overall with their victory over Virginia Tech.
The Virginia Tech defense played well, holding a dominant Kansas offense to just 344 yards. Kansas scored one touchdown on an interception return, and another touchdown drive covered just two yards following an interception. This was a poor game by Virginia Tech’s offense, while the defense played well for the most part.
Branden Ore played a good game for Virginia Tech. He rushed for 116 yards and one touchdown, despite missing the entire first quarter due to a suspension for a violation of team rules.
Tech’s passing game was not as successful. Tyrod Taylor threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by All-American cornerback Aqib Talib. That play put Kansas up 7-0 in the first quarter. Sean Glennon also threw two interceptions. He was just 13-of-28 for 160 yards.
It’s not fair to pin the offensive struggles solely on the quarterbacks. Kansas had registered just 21 quarterback sacks coming into the game, but they sacked the Hokies five times. The Hokies also dropped some passes, including a wide open deep ball from Glennon to Josh Morgan in the first quarter.
Virginia Tech trailed 17-0 but made a game of it. Branden Ore scored a touchdown late in the second quarter to make the score 17-7, and Justin Harper returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to cut the Kansas lead to 17-14. The long punt return was on a handoff by Eddie Royal.
In the end, three turnovers cost the Hokies in a big way. The Jayhawks also blocked a field goal, which helped stop the momentum Tech had built up in the third quarter. The favored Hokies never led.
Virginia Tech began the game on a strong note. Eddie Royal returned the opening kickoff 59 yards to the Kansas 41, and the Hokies’ offense started the game with great field position. Tech picked up a first down, but the drive stalled when Tyrod Taylor entered the game and was sacked on back-to-back plays.
After Kansas missed a 44 yard field goal on their opening drive, Virginia Tech took over and began to move the ball. Two runs by Kenny Lewis, Jr. gained a total of 12 yards, and then Taylor completed an 11 yard out to Eddie Royal that gave the Hokies a first down on the 50.
Two plays later, Taylor dropped back to pass again and looked to the right, where Justin Harper was running an out pattern. Taylor released the ball, and Kansas All-American cornerback Aqib Talib cut in front of it at the sideline, intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Jayhawks a 7-0 lead with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
Talib was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for high stepping in the end zone, forcing Kansas to kickoff from their own 20. As a result, Virginia Tech got excellent field position again, this time beginning their drive at their own 45 yard line. The Hokies moved the ball to the Kansas 26, but a sack on Sean Glennon made it third and 14 from the 31.
Tech couldn’t convert on third down, and Jud Dunlevy’s 48 yard field goal was short. Aqib Talib actually fielded the short kick in the back of the end zone, and returned it to the Kansas 39.
The start of the second quarter was another bad moment for the Hokies. Sean Glennon was intercepted by Chris Harris on the first play of the quarter, and Kansas took the ball over on Tech’s 31 yard line. VT’s defense held, stopping the Jayhawks at the 14. However Kansas did manage a field goal from placekicker Scott Webb to make the score 10-0 with 12 minutes remaining before halftime.
The Hokies went three-and-out on their next possession, and Kansas took over on their own 41 yard line. This time they were able to score on their own merit, rather than the Hokies tossing them the football. Facing a third and 19 from the Kansas 43, quarterback Todd Reesing hit tailback Jake Sharp for an 18 yard gain to the Tech 39. Although it didn’t pick up a first down, that was a huge play in the game.
Kansas elected to go for it on fourth down, and Reesing hit Marcus Henry for a seven yard gain and a first down to the Tech 32. The Jayhawks continued their drive, and Reesing later fround Henry again for a 13 yard touchdown. That made the score 17-0 Kansas with 7:03 left in the second quarter.
Virginia Tech finally got on the scoreboard on their next drive, thanks to the legs of Branden Ore. Ore had just one carry up to that point, mostly because he was suspended for the first quarter. During Tech’s scoring drive he had 11 carries for 49 yards, and capped it with a one yard touchdown run with 1:24 left in the second quarter. That made the score 17-7, and that margin held up until halftime.
Kansas was forced to punt from their own 35 in their first drive of the third quarter. Royal fielded the punt, then handed it off to Justin Harper on a reverse. Harper followed his blocks perfectly and took it 84 yards for a touchdown. Dunlevy’s extra point made the score 17-14 with 11:35 left in the third quarter. Virginia Tech was quickly back in the game.
Kansas went three-and-out on their next drive, and the Hokies took over at their 18, and they promptly advanced all the way to the Kansas 8. The drive was aided by a pass interference call, but Tech had to settle for a field goal attempt that would have tied the game. However Kansas linebacker Joe Mortensen came through the middle cleanly and blocked the attempt, denying the Hokies their chance to tie the game.
Just like that, Tech’s momentum was gone. Their offense was stymied for the rest of the quarter. Although Kansas’ only threatening drive of the quarter ended with a D.J. Parker interception, they still led 17-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Sean Glennon was intercepted by Kansas safety Justin Thornton. Thornton returned the interception to the Tech 2 yard line, and from there quarterback Todd Reesing took it into the endzone on a quarterback rollout. Kansas led 24-14 with 10:57 left in the game.
The Tech offense tried to get back in the game late. Glennon led the team on a 78 yard touchdown drive that was capped with a 20 yard touchdown pass to Justin Harper with exactly three minutes left in the game. The Hokies trailed 24-21, and they still had an outside chance.
Frank Beamer chose to go for the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but Kansas recovered it. The Hokies had two timeouts left, but the Jayhawks were able to pick up three first downs and run out the clock.