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.


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