Orange Bowl 2011: Andrew Luck Throws Perfect Second Half, Stanford Routs Virginia Tech

We provide previews and news updates in advance of the 2011 Orange Bowl between the Stanford Cardinal and Virginia Tech Hokies. We'll be chatting with the folks at Rule of Tree and Gobbler Country all month long to prepare folks for what should be an exciting matchup.

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Jim Harbaugh, Andrew Luck Orange Bowl Post-Game Press Conference

As anticipated as the Orange Bowl was for Stanford and Virginia Tech fans, it’s possible most sports fans were more intrigued by what would happen in the post-game press conference. Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh has been linked to everything from the 49ers and the University of Michigan to the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins. Andrew Luck has not yet announced whether he will enter the 2011 NFL Draft.

I have to believe some facts actually expected some kind of bombshell breaking news in the press conference. Instead, both Harbaugh and Luck did a masterful job heading off the media early on. Harbaugh was asked initially about whether this was his last game as Stanford head coach and he gave a sort of “Are you serious?” answer. There was an amusing an awkward pause as everybody realized he wasn’t going to talk about it.

Andrew Luck was subsequently asked about his future and he gave a short answer that basically said I need to talk it over with my parents and that’s all I’m going to say about it. Harbaugh responded with a similar response (minus the parents mention) after that.

Underclassmen have to declare for the draft by January 15, which means Andrew Luck has 11 days that will be filled with media speculation. Harbaugh has more time, but most people expect an answer by the end of the week. Either way we’ll have plenty of info on their decisions. You can follow our Luck decision stream (no relation to LeBron’s “The Decision”), our Harbaugh decision stream, and our 49ers GM/Coach search stream, all of which will have plenty on both those individuals.


Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Stanford Defense Rock Virginia Tech 40-12 In 2011 Orange Bowl

Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh couldn't have elevated their stock any higher. It was a masterful performance by the two Stanford Cardinal linchpins, who came out in the second half and flat out curbstomped the Virginia Tech Hokies with 27 unanswered points en route to a 40-12 victory in the 2011 Orange Bowl.

Luck hooked up with Coby Fleener a half dozen times, three times for touchdown grabs against lackluster Hokies pass defense.  Luck also threw to six other Cardinal receivers purposefully (I doubt the Derek Hall safety was intentional), and his second half stats were sheer perfection: 9 for 10, 201 passing yards, three touchdowns, and finished the game 18 for 23 for 284 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. Fleener finished with six catches for 172 yards and three scores. Stepfan Taylor rushed for 115 yards on 13 carries and Jeremy Stewart added 98 yards on 5 carries, as the Cardinal offense racked up 528 total yards.

The unsung hero was the defense though, as they harassed and battered Tyrod Taylor behind defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's pressure defense. Taylor was sacked an impressive EIGHT times: Shayne Skov had 2.5, Delano Howell two, Chase Thomas 1.5, Thomas Keiser and Owen Marecic one apiece. Other than that excellent throw by Taylor, the Cardinal defense shut Virginia Tech out of the end zone and shut down the Hokies run game. Virginia Tech rushed for only 65 yards on 34 carries, and Darren Evans managing a mere 39 yards on 12 carries. Taylor was decent, completing 16 of 34 passes, 223 yards and 1 touchdown, but the Howell interception effectively ended the game.

Now the offseason begins, and change may be coming in leaps and bounds after perhaps the greatest season in Stanford football history.


Orange Bowl 2011: Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener Blow Open Stanford Lead To 33-12 Over Virginia Tech

Andrew Luck delivered with two huge drives by the Stanford Cardinal to start off the second half on the 2011 Orange Bowl against the Virginia Tech Hokies, one long and methodical, the other short and devastating.  After Virginia Tech went three-and-out, Luck began picking apart the Hokies defense, finding Konrad Reuland for 10 yards, Coby Fleener for 17 yards, and Ryan Whalen for 18 yards to set up first-and-goal at the one. Owen Marecic punched it in on third and goal to give the Cardinal a 19-12 lead, although Nate Whitaker missed his second extra point of the game.

When Tyrod Taylor seemed up to the task, he threw one deep ball too many. Taylor found Danny Coale for 42 yards, but then tried to go deep again and safety Delano Howell intercepted it inside his own five. Two plays later, Stanford had taken control with a Stepfan Taylor 56 yard run off the middle off of poor Hokie run contain, and Luck came with play action on the very next throw to find Fleener for a 41 yard score and a 26-12 lead.

After another Virginia Tech punt, Luck found Fleener AGAIN, this time for a 56 yard score. Luck is 17 for 22 for 249 yards, three touchdowns and an interception; Fleener has caught five passes for 135 yards and the aforementioned two scores.

It's 33-12 Stanford, and if all the speculation is true, Jim Harbaugh seems to be leaving Palo Alto on a triumphant note.


Andrew Luck Leads Stanford To Touchdown, Tyrod Taylor Runs Two Minute Drill To Give Virginia Tech Field Goal In 2011 Orange Bowl

Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal led the perfect response for Tyrod Taylor's spectacular touchdown throw by the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2011 Orange Bowl: A methodical 8 play, 79 yard, 3:50 drive to put his team back up on top. Luck started by throwing to his tight end Zach Ertz for fourteen yards to bring the Cardinal from their own 21 to their 35 yard line. On 3rd and 2, Luck found another tight end, this time Konrad Reuland, for a crucial first down pickup. Tailback Jeremy Stewart then made his second big gain of the game (this one for 26 yards), and Luck then found Ertz again for a 25 yard touchdown throw to give Stanford a 13-9 lead. However, the special teams gaffes by the Cardinal continued (already a fake punt fail and a fielded punt close to their own end zone on the resume tonight) when Nate Whitaker had his extra point blocked.

After some offensive stalling for the rest of the second quarter--Luck threw an interception in tight coverage to Jayron Hosley intended for Ryan Whalen, and Virginia Tech failed to convert a 4th and short when Matthew Masifilo stuffed Darren Evans--Taylor got Virginia Tech rolling again to garner them some crucial points, driving them 60 yards in under 40 seconds. A ten yard holding penalty by Michael Thomas, a 19 yard scramble by Taylor, and then Jarrett Boykin reining in a Taylor bomb for 32 yards set up a Chris Hazley field goal. Stanford leads 13-12 at halftime.

To discuss the game with Stanford fans, head over to Rule of Tree; to discuss it with Virginia Tech fans, head over to Gobbler Country.


Orange Bowl 2011: Tyrod Taylor Makes Incredible Touchdown Throw To Put Virginia Tech Up 9-7 On Stanford

Tyrod Taylor isn't supposed to be a high draft prospect, but he exhibited his potential to give the Virginia Tech Hokies their first lead in the 2011 Orange Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. He started his drive off by scrambling for 22 yards. He found Marcus Davis for 10 yards. Richard Sherman was called for a pass interference penalty. Taylor then found Danny Coale to set up the Hokies in the red zone.

Then on 3rd down he made one of those throws that harkens back to the Michael Vick era. Taylor scrambled toward the sideline, seemed to be ready to go out of bounds, but at the last minute stopped, evaded the sack by Owen Marecic, then fired a bullet down to the corner of the end zone that was hauled in by running back David Wilson for the go-ahead touchdown.

Those are throws that get you on Heisman tapes. Check out the video here.

Tyrod Taylor BEASTMODE (via azz100p)


2011 Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech Gets Safety Thanks To Gaffe By Stanford Lineman Derek Hall

Virginia Tech finally got some help courtesy of some Stanford Cardinal epic brain-farts. First Drew Terrell decided to field a punt around his own five after a great punt by Brian Saunders and got tackled for no gain. After Stanford made two runs for minimal gain, Andrew Luck dropped back to pass, was getting sacked, then threw it up into the air. It was deflected by a Virginia Tech Hokie defender into the back of the end zone harmlessly for an incompletion.

Inexplicably though, Stanford tackle Derek Hall decided to catch the ball in the end zone. There was no penalty for illegal touching because a Virginia Tech defender tipped it, but if Hall had just batted the ball down it would've been an incomplete pass. Instead it was a safety, and Virginia Tech finally was on the board, down only 7-2. And this is why offensive linemen don't catch passes. They dream too big.

See the play below.

 (via NORDGE1)


Follow the action with fellow Stanford fans at Rule of Tree, or with fellow Virginia Tech fans at Gobbler Country.


Orange Bowl 2011: Stanford Fake Punt Fails; Jeremy Stewart Breaks Through For Cardinal Lead

The Stanford Cardinal are facing a very focused Virginia Tech Hokies defense, and for the second straight drive they were stopped in their tracks. Andrew Luck was forced to run out of bounds for a loss of 1 yard, found his tight end Coby Fleener underneath, but couldn't Jim Harbaugh then decided to do a very quizzical thing: He tried to out-Beamer Frank Beamer's special teams unit by ordering a fake punt. Chike Amajoyi took the snap close to the line of scrimmage, but Virginia Tech snuffed it out and took over at midfield.

But Stanford's defense shut down Virginia Tech again after Tyrod Taylor missed Jarrett Boykin twice (once down the sidelines for what would've been a big gain), and on the subsequent drive, the Stanford offensive line finally wore down the Virginia Tech defense. Luck got all the time in the world on 3rd down to find his secondary read on the sideline in Doug Baldwin for 21 yards. On the subsequent drive, the Cardinal unleashed their power play, sealed the outside, Virginia Tech had poor run contain, and Jeremy Stewart took it 60 yards to the house for a 7-0 Cardinal lead.

(via BazingaAmerica)

Follow the action with fellow Stanford fans at Rule of Tree, or with fellow Virginia Tech fans at Gobbler Country.


Orange Bowl 2011: Virginia Tech Defense Stops Andrew Luck, Stanford Defense Stops Tyrod Taylor

The Stanford Cardinal received the opening kickoff from the Virginia Tech Hokies to start the 2011 Orange Bowl. Andrew Luck rolled out on the opening play and picked up a first down with an 11 yard scramble, then found Stepfan Taylor on a little running back flat pattern. After Taylor was stuffed on the next play, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster dialed up the blitz, and Luck was forced to roll out and throw it short of his intended receiver. It forced an early Cardinal punt to Virginia Tech.

Tyrod Taylor began with a bubble screen to the outside to Danny Coale, but Chase Thomas and Owen Marecic gang-tackled Darren Evans on second down and forced a 3rd and 6. Then Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio duplicated his Virginia Tech counterpart and sent the pressure, forcing Taylor to scramble and circle around, eventually finding Coale, but short of the first down. Brian Saunders punt was then returned for 25 yards by Drew Terrell, so the Cardinal are now set up at midfield.

Also, Jim Harbaugh seems to know something we don't.



Follow the action with fellow Stanford fans at Rule of Tree, or with fellow Virginia Tech fans at Gobbler Country.


Orange Bowl 2011: Stanford Band Banned From Performing During Halftime Show

In a move that is sure to disappoint many people, the Stanford Cardinal marching band has been banned from performing in the halftime show of the 2011 Orange Bowl featuring Stanford and Virginia Tech. I suppose the move isn’t surprising given some of their past antics. Wikipedia provides a rundown of some of their more “amusing” antics over the years.

I’d have to argue my favorite would be driving the white Ford Bronco during the 1994 game USC-Stanford game at Palo Alto, the same year OJ was on trial. Arguably their most notorious “performance” resulted in a lifetime ban from the Notre Dame campus. Wikipedia describes it better than I can.

It sounds like the band will at least get some pre-game action with a six minute routine, although I’m guessing ESPN won’t be televising that. If anybody at the game checks out this thread, let us know what the band is up to. In the meantime, you can check out some video of their past performances at the official Stanford band YouTube page.


Orange Bowl 2011: Virginia Tech Hokies NFL Draft Prospects

Although a lot of tonight's "will he stay or will he go" 2011 NFL Draft speculation will center around Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, Virginia Tech Hokies tailback Ryan Williams isn't too far behind. Williams has generated some buzz that he might himself turn pro as a sophomore himself, although he's not likely to touch the first round.

We already took a look at Stanford's NFL Draft Prospects for tonight's Orange Bowl contest. In this post we look at Virginia Tech's best talents.

Ryan Williams, tailback: At 5'10", 205 lb, Williams has the prototypical NFL frame, and is definitely in a position to crack the first three rounds in a weak year for tailbacks. Will that be enough to persuade Williams to come out early and test the pro waters?

Draft projection: 3rd round

Rashad Carmichael, cornerback: The senior leader of a stalwart Hokies defense that went undefeated in conference play, Carmichael can go a long way toward upping his draft stock by shutting down Luck's pass attack in tonight's contest. Check out this good read on Carmichael from Kyle Tucker of the Virginian Pilot. He also helped turn Virginia Tech around after their horrid 0-2 start with fiery words to the team, as they enter their bowl game on an eleven game win streak. Sounds like the type of guy who'd thrive in NFL locker rooms.

Draft projection: 4th round

Andre Smith, tight end: According to Gobbler Country, a lot of the offensive revival of Virginia Tech this season came courtesy of the contributions of Smith, who did everything a tight end should do. Watch for him to be a favorite target in the pass attack tonight, in addition to unleashing big blocks to power the rush attack of the Hokies.

Draft projection: 4th-6th round

Tyrod Taylor, quarterback: Taylor should provide a stark contrast in his quarterback style to Luck. Luck is mobile, but he primarily beats teams with his arm. Taylor is a scrambler in the mold of Randall Cunningham, and he'll throw on defenses once they respect his ability to run. Teams probably won't take a chance on him in later rounds, but don't sleep on him in developing into a legitimate NFL starter down the road.

Draft projection: 5th round-undrafted

Steven Friday, defensive end: Stanford had Doug Baldwin. Virginia Tech has Friday. Both didn't do much for their respective teams until exploding for remarkable senior campaigns. Friday is fifth on the team in tackles, first in sacks, and second in tackles for loss--if he can get pressure on Luck behind that immovable offensive line, he will boost his draft stock immensely.

Draft projection: 6th-7th round

John Graves, defensive tackle: Graves was the anchor inside to help power the generally solid Virginia Tech front seven. Graves also graduated in three years, so he's a model student as well.

Draft projection: 6th round-undrafted

Someone to keep an eye on for the future

Blake DeChristopher, offensive tackle: DeChristopher would probably be in the top twenty of offensive linemen to be chosen this year, but he's only a junior. With the promise of moving up to the first round and a top 10 pick, it's likely he'll return and be a force to be reckoned with next year.


Orange Bowl 2011: Stanford Cardinal NFL Draft Prospects

You've heard of Andrew Luck by this point, but there are plenty of very talented Stanford Cardinal and Virginia Tech Hokies in tonight's Orange Bowl who will probably hear their name called in April during the 2011 NFL Draft.  Let's face it; the reason a lot of football fans pay attention to these bowl games is because of the chance to scout players who might end up on their teams next fall. It's a semi-all-star game, to say the least.

Let's take a look at the most prominent names. All projections are courtesy of Mocking The Draft, the SB Nation NFL draft site.

Andrew Luck, quarterback.

Pro comparison: Peyton Manning.

You've heard plenty about Luck. He's operated out of a pro-style offense all season tailored to his talents, and has produced perhaps the best single season in Stanford quarterbacking history (and that's a list that includes John Elway and Jim Plunkett!). He makes all the right throws. He can audible at the line of scrimmage. He's mobile and strong, as shown by his Heisman-worthy moments this year. What is most striking is his mental acuity and sharpness, which is clearly a cut ahead of most other college quarterbacks ... and he's only a sophomore! 

If he declares, he will certainly go #1. The question is, if he does, will the Carolina Panthers keep their pick, or will they trade it away because they've committed themselves to Jimmy Clausen?

Follow our SB Nation Bay Area stream dedicated solely to Luck's decision.

Draft projection: 1st round, 1st pick.

Sione Fua, nose tackle

The Cardinal defense was much improved from last season, and much of that stemmed from the 6'2, 306 pound Fua plugging up the middle in the 3-4 scheme that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio implemented. Although not as big as a typical 3-4 NT, his low center of gravity and ability to hold his ground against formidable Pac-10 offensive lines is a good sign for his professional future. The Cardinal moved up from 55th to 24th in rushing yards allowed per game. In a league that loves the 3-4 and loves nose tackles, Fua is definitely underrated and someone to look for up the middle.

Draft projection: 4th-6th round.

Owen Marecic, fullback

Probably the most underrated player on the entire board, this fullback has been critical in taking out opposing linebackers and freeing up his running backs for additional yardage. He can also catch and played inside linebacker last season as well for a much improved Cardinal defense. For any team that wants more power in the short-yardage game and wants a throwback to the power-I formation, Marecic's your guy. The only thing that stops him from going too high is that Stanley Havili is also coming out, and he's a more complete H-back than Marecic.

Note: If Jim Harbaugh does take a pro job in the next few days, look for him to take Marecic. As much as Harbaugh loves Gerhart and Luck, his bromance with his fullback is second to none.

Draft projection: 4th round

Ryan Whalen, wide receiver

Whalen's injuries will probably knock him down a round or two from where he was slated last season. Nevertheless, he has great hands and is a very strong possession receiver, and could be very useful in the slot for a team in need of improving their pass game.

Draft projection: 5th round

Andrew Phillips, offensive guard

At 6'5, 302 pounds, Phillips has the measurables to be a very good NFL guard. He pulls quick and strong and has helped unleash Toby Gerhart and Stepfan Taylor in the potent Stanford run attack. There's also a touching story involving him and his late father in Sports Illustrated that you should all take some time to read up on.

Draft projection: 6th round-undrafted free agent

Chase Beeler, center

At 6'3, 285 pounds, Beeler is probably a little too small to warrant serious consideration for an upper-level draft pick. He will get his looks though as part of a bruising Cardinal offensive line that allowed only five sacks all season, tops in the nation.

The Cardinal offensive linemen were well-equipped to dominate the college ranks with their grinding power style, but as the game gets faster in the pros, it'll be interesting to see how well guys like Philips and Beeler adjust.

Draft projection: 7th round-undrafted

Doug Baldwin, wide receiver

After a fairly nondescript first few seasons, Baldwin stepped up to become Luck's favorite target in 2010, making a host of strong catches as both Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu struggled to stay healthy. He'll be a late round pick at best, but it's been a strong season for the senior wideout who should land somewhere in the lower rounds. A good Orange Bowl performance can go a long way.

Draft projection: 7th round-undrafted


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech: Final Blogger Predictions

Kickoff time for the 2011 Orange Bowl featuring Stanford and Virginia Tech is a little under five hours away. Stanford enters the game on the verge of completing arguably the most successful season in program history. For Virginia Tech, while this might not match their Michael Vick national title game appearance, the Hokies made a strong rebound from their awful start. After losing to Boise State and James Madison University, the Hokies have run off 11 straight wins including the ACC title game.

I spoke with our Stanford and Virginia Tech bloggers to get some final predictions heading into tonight’s game. They both see Stanford winning this game, although maybe Gobbler Country is thinking more in terms of the reverse jinx. Both are expecting an offensive shootout.

Gobbler Country: Stanford 35, Virginia Tech 31. The Hokies have to put pressure on Andrew Luck, but I’m not sure they’re going to be able to do that. Tech will have its own success on offense, but I don’t think they’ll be able to out-score the Cardinal.

Rule of Tree: Stanford 38, Virginia Tech 24. Offensively, I’m fairly confident Stanford will be able to do what it’s done all season and establish the run early to set up the pass against a good, but not great, Virginia Tech defense. I think Stepfan Taylor will have a big night and Andrew Luck will have an efficient and interception-free game. The game will hinge on the Stanford defense’s ability to contain Tyrod Taylor. With a month to prepare for the Hokies’ scary-good quarterback, I predict Vic Fangio will have his much-improved defense ready. If Stanford can’t get off the field on third down and Taylor is able to continually make things happen outside the pocket with his arm and legs, the game will turn into a shootout like the Cardinal’s win against USC. If that happens, Stanford just has to hope it has the ball last.


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech: Previewing the Coaching Staffs

The 2011 Orange Bowl kicks off tonight between the Stanford Cardinal and the Virginia Tech Hokies. As we prepare for the game I was curious what our Tech and Stanford bloggers thought about their respective coaching staffs heading into the game. Thanks again to Gobbler Country and Rule of Tree for their contributions as we prepare for what should be a fun Orange Bowl contest.

Virginia Tech
What Frank Beamer brings to the Hokies is stability and an even keel. Beamer doesn’t get too up or too down based on how the team is performing. There wasn’t any panic after the 0-2 start and there was never a feeling that the team was satisfied how it was playing throughout the winning streak. He is also loyal almost to a fault, which is why there isn’t a lot of turnover on the staff. While that has helped in recruiting through the years, it’s also led to some criticism that the staff has become stale and could use an influx of new ideas.

Much of this criticism is directed at offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who is enjoying one of his best seasons after years of ridicule. There are still moments where the play calling can be suspect, but Stinespring has the Hokies rolling on offense this year, averaging 6.3 yards per play, good enough for 19th in the country. One of the reasons I tend to give Stinespring more of a break than most fans is he’s running the kind of offense Frank Beamer wants. He wants a ball-control offense that keeps the defense rested. As long as Beamer is in town, that’s the kind of offense we’re going to run and years like this are probably going to be the ceiling for a Virginia Tech offense.

On the other side is Bud Foster, whose midas touch on defense was tested this year. The defense was very young coming into the year and it obviously showed early. But one of Foster’s greatest strengths is his ability to adapt to the personnel he has. This year, Tech went away from it’s usual hybrid 4-3 defense and starting playing primarily nickel, forsaking its whip linebacker for a fifth defensive back, usually Antone Exum or Kyle Fuller. Both played well and the Hokies’ defense was able to get back on track as the year went on. Even the rush defense, which was abysmal for most of the season, has shown a lot of improvement the last two games.


The importance of the coaching staff to Stanford’s success is undeniable. In four years, Jim Harbaugh has taken a team that went 1-11 to 11-1 and a BCS bowl berth. Harbaugh’s personality is reflected in his team’s smash-mouth style and his success has made him one of the hottest candidates for a handful of NFL coaching vacancies and at his alma mater should Michigan fire Rich Rodriguez. Harbaugh has refused to comment on his coaching future during the Cardinal’s preparations for the Orange Bowl.

More than half of Harbaugh’s assistants have NFL coaching backgrounds. Associate head coach Greg Roman, who interviewed for the Vanderbilt position that was ultimately filled by Maryland assistant Ron Franklin, oversees Stanford’s offense. Roman was formerly an assistant offensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens. First-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who previously served as a linebackers coach for the Ravens, switched to a 3-4 base defense when he arrived on the Farm and has transformed what was a weakness for Stanford into one of its many strengths. Assistant coach Tim Drevno deserves a lot of credit for the Cardinal’s success as well. His offensive line is one of the most dominant in the country and has allowed five sacks all season.


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech Preview: Strengths And Weaknesses

We continue our series of previews of the 2011 Orange Bowl with a discussion of the primary strengths and weaknesses of the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Stanford Cardinal. We’ll get into more specific scouting reports next week, but for now we’ll continue with a broader look at each team. Thanks again to Gobbler Country and Rule of Tree for their contributions as we prepare for what should be a fun Orange Bowl contest.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s biggest strength is its quarterback, Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is the unquestioned leader of the team has the intangibles you want in addition to what he brings on the field. His ability to make good things happen when plays break down, either with his arm or legs, is what makes him so dangerous.

On defense, the Hokies’ secondary has led the way. The Hokies were second in the country in interceptions with 22 and had an opponents’ passer rating of 105.7, which was seventh. Tech came into the year with three experienced players in the secondary and it was the sophomore who wound up tying for the national lead with eight picks.

Tech’s weakness throughout the season was coming out flat. Many of the games the Hokies played served as a microcosm for their season. They trailed or were tied after the first quarter in nine of their 13 games so far, but were 8-1 in those games. It seemed like until the FSU game it always took the Hokies a quarter to hit their stride. They can’t afford to do that against Stanford.

The Hokies’ rush defense wasn’t what we’re used to this year. Tech was ninth in the ACC in yards per carry allowed in conference play at 4.7. However, it saved its best game against the run for last when it gave up 1.9 yards per carry against an injury-depleted FSU backfield. FSU only had 53 rushing yards in that game, but had three rushing touchdown. The run defense has taken a hit this year because Tech has played a lot of nickel this year, leaving only two linebackers to help against the rush.

Stanford Cardinal

Biggest Strengths
Stanford’s biggest strengths stem from its dominant offensive line, which has paved the way for one of the most balanced attacks in the nation and the most prolific offense in Stanford history. All-America center Chase Beeler’s unit has helped running backs Stepfan Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson combine for Toby Gerhart-like totals and kept opposing defenses from so much as laying a finger on quarterback Andrew Luck. The Heisman runner-up would probably put up decent numbers behind the Houston Texans’ 2002 offensive line, but his record-breaking numbers this season are, at least in part, a product of an offensive line that allowed only five sacks. Stanford’s ability and experience up front allows it to dominate the opposition with the pass or the run, and most often both.

Biggest Weaknesses
The Cardinal’s biggest weakness is probably its ability to defend a speedy offense. While the much-improved defense registered three shutouts during the regular season, it struggled to slow Oregon’s LaMichael James and Darron Thomas—who didn’t?—in the Cardinal’s only loss. The Cardinal was also burned repeatedly by USC quarterback Matt Barkley and speedy wide receiver Robert Woods, who had 224 yards and three touchdowns in Stanford’s 37-35 win. With the exception of the Oregon game, Stanford’s run defense has been solid, if a bit untested. With the way the Cardinal has put up points, opposing teams have regularly been forced to abandon the running game by halftime.


Orange Bowl 2011 Tickets: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech Across StubHub And Craigslist

The 2011 Orange Bowl takes place Monday, Jan. 3 in Miami at Sun Life Stadium, putting Stanford versus Virginia Tech. While it should be an exciting game, there remains some question as to whether a sufficient number of Stanford fans will make the trip to South Florida to enjoy their Cardinal in a BCS bowl.

For those that do plan on making the trip, tickets are readily available across the Internet. Your most basic options are going through the respective universities. You can go to or Stanford’s website. According to this article, there may be a host of Virginia Tech tickets available for purchase if you can’t find any through Stanford. This year is a slightly better matchup than in year’s past so we’ll see how that goes as the month rolls along.

Additionally, a lot of schools require hefty donations to get access to certain tickets. However, you can also get tickets without going through the particular university, and often times you’ll save money on the face value of the ticket. Some of the more frequently used sites include StubHub and Craigslist. StubHub is much more trustworthy, but both provide numerous opportunities to get access to game tickets.

The link above will take you to a search for the Orange Bowl at StubHub. Tickets range in price from $36 to $1,762. The inexpensive options will put you up high in the end zone or corner seats. To get towards the middle of the field but stay relatively inexpensive you want to look for Upper Prime. Tickets there are starting at $55 on StubHub.

To get down into the lower level of the stadium, ticket prices are starting around $80 in lower corner. The upside to the StubHub option is that you can view the various options on a seating chart and know approximately where you’d be seating. You don’t get to see what the view looks like, but you can estimate. Additionally, StubHub does offer electronic delivery for some of their tickets. For this particular game there aren’t a lot of electronic options, but that might increase as the game gets closer.

Craigslist ads for tickets include random people looking to unload tickets and ticket agencies looking to sell tickets. I’d recommend StubHub over Craigslist, but sometimes you can find a good deal on tickets. If you’re going to try Craigslist, the three sites you want to check out are SF Bay Area (can look into more detail by region of the Bay Area), Washington, D.C. (the closest major city to Blacksburg, Va.), and/or Miami/South Florida (given the location of the game).

If I had to pick on site it would be StubHub at this point. They are a generally trustworthy site and they’ve worked out affiliation agreements with a lot of sports teams, both at the professional and amateur level. Scalping is usually illegal and Craigslist could lead to plenty of problems in getting your plans finalized. However, I wanted to make sure and list the various options out there.


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech Preview: Hokies Defense vs. Cardinal Offense

We continue our series of previews of the 2011 Orange Bowl with a discussion of the most important players on the Virginia Tech Hokies defense and the most important players on the Stanford Cardinal offense. Thanks again to Gobbler Country and Rule of Tree for their contributions as we prepare for what should be a fun Orange Bowl contest.

SBNBA: Who are the three most important players on defense for you in this game and why (if you feel the need to go longer or discuss a unit as whole such as your corners, OLBs, etc. you can do that as well)?

Gobbler Country: Steven Friday and Chris Drager, our two starting defensive ends, need to get pressure on Andrew Luck when the Hokies rush four. The Cardinal are second in the country in sacks allowed with five, but when you factor in sacks per drop back they probably lead the country by a wide margin. However, two of the eight sacks Boise State has allowed this year came against the Hokies, so they’ve shown they’re able to get to hard-to-get quarterbacks. They’ll find a way if they have to bring five, six or seven guys, but it would really help the Hokies out of Friday and Drager and get pressure on their own. Friday leads the team with 8.5 and while Drager only has two sacks this year, he’s probably been our most consistent pass rusher.

Rashad Carmichael battled an ankle injury late in the season, but returned in the second half against Florida State. His presence was cited by media members as being a calming influence on the rest of the defense despite his actual effect on the game being limited. The Hokie defense was able to lock down the FSU offense, even without two of its starting linebackers. The reason is because Carmichael’s mere presence helps the rest of the team play more in control. He’ll need to have a big game and contribute more than just a calming influence against Stanford’s passing and rushing attack. As the boundary corner, Carmichael will factor in on the Hokies’ rush defense.

Finally, rover Davon Morgan needs to have a big game in the middle of the secondary. He had four interceptions in Tech’s final five games and is really making a mark on his senior season. Like Carmichael, the Hokies need him to be around the ball a lot in both pass coverage and against the run.

SBNBA: Who are the three most important players on offense for you in this game and why (if you feel the need to go longer or discuss a unit as whole such as your o-line, WRs, etc. you can do that as well)?

Rule of Tree: Andrew Luck: This doesn’t require much explanation. In what could be the final game of his collegiate career, Luck will face one of his stiffest tests of the season. The Hokies rank eighth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and have more interceptions (22) than all but one FBS school. Luck will need to be his typical extraordinary self on the big stage.

Stepfan Taylor: Taylor’s workload and production waned in the second half of the season as freshman Anthony Wilkerson took a more prominent role in the Stanford backfield. After stringing together five consecutive 100-yard games in the middle of the season, Taylor closed the year with only one 100-yard effort in the Cardinal’s last four games. He’ll be well rested for the Hokies.

Doug Baldwin: There’s no guarantee that Chris Owusu, who missed the final three games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury, will be ready to go on Jan. 3. That means Doug Baldwin, who caught two touchdown passes in the season opener and emerged as Stanford’s most consistent receiver throughout the season, will need to step up once more.


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech Preview: Hokies Offense vs. Cardinal Defense

As the 2011 Orange Bowl between Stanford and Virginia Tech approaches, we are conducting a variety of preview updates to prepare folks for the game. It should be one of the more entertaining game as both sides bring fun offenses and lively defenses. We will be spending all month speaking with our Va Tech and Stanford blogs, Gobbler Country and Rule of Tree. Today they discussed the three best players on offense and defense. We’ll start with a look at the three best Hokies on offense versus the three best Cardinal on defense. Thanks to both sites for their time.

SBNBA: Who are the three most important players on offense for Virginia Tech in this game and why (if you feel the need to go longer or discuss a unit as whole such as your o-line, WRs, etc. you can do that as well)?

Gobbler Country: First and foremost, Tyrod Taylor has to play well for us to win the game. He probably had the best game of his career against Florida State and we’ll need a repeat performance against Stanford. The key thing with Tyrod is he may not have a lot of rushing yards like you’d expect a running quarterback to do, but when he does run it’s usually to try and pick up a first down. He did that several times against FSU, which was one of the main reasons we were 13-for-18 on third downs.

Next, one of the running backs needs to step up and be a game-changer. We rotate three running backs (Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson) and they all bring something different to the table. Recently we’ve been getting solid, steady production out of all three. Well, one of them needs to do something special in this game like Williams did against Miami or Evans did against North Carolina. Maybe it’s time Wilson had a breakout game.

Finally, in order for those three to be successful, the offensive line needs to be effective. They’ve improved from game to game and have faced some very tough rushing defenses like Boston College, Boise State, NC State and FSU. All four of those ranked in the Top 15 in terms of yards per attempt allowed. Stanford ranks 57th in that category. In order for the Hokies to succeed, they’ll have to have a good rushing attack that keeps Andrew Luck on the sideline.

SBNBA: Who are the three most important players on defense for Stanford in this game and why (if you feel the need to go longer or discuss a unit as whole such as your corners, OLBs, etc. you can do that as well)?

Rule of Tree: Richard Sherman: Forgive senior cornerback Richard Sherman and the rest of Vic Fangio’s defense if they feel a bit slighted by the fact that no Stanford defensive player made the Pac-10 First Team. The Cardinal led the Pac-10 in scoring defense after all, and it was in large part thanks to an improved secondary. Sherman tied for the team lead with four interceptions and has a knack for making big plays in big games, or Big Game as it were. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor has thrown seven touchdowns against zero interceptions in his last four games.

Shayne Skov: Stanford’s linebacking corps, led by the sophomore Skov, is the Cardinal’s strongest unit. Virginia Tech’s rushing attack is nearly as potent as Stanford’s and Taylor is one of the nation’s most efficient passers. When Skov committed to Stanford in 2007, it was no doubt with the thought of one day playing in a game such as this in mind. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s biggest defensive playmaker to seize the moment.

Chase Thomas: Thomas led the Cardinal with 7.5 sacks after switching from defensive end to linebacker in the offseason. He’ll have his hands full trying to contain Taylor, who, much like Luck, isn’t afraid to tuck the ball and run.


Orange Bowl 2011 Gambling Odds: Stanford Opens As Three Point Favorite Over Virginia Tech

Odds have officially been published for all the bowl games this holiday season, and the Stanford Cardinal open as a slim three point favorite over the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2011 Orange Bowl. The over/under on the January 3 BCS Bowl game sits at approximately 58 1/2 points.

It’s no surprise the spread is so close and the over/under is relatively high (at least a little above the median I believe). The over/under is somewhat high because Stanford and Virginia Tech ranked No. 9 and No. 19 respectively in points per game. At the same time, the spread is relatively low because they both also rank fairly high in fewest points allowed per game, ranking No. 11 and No. 16 respectively.

I remain convinced that this will be one of the more entertaining bowl games this holiday season. We’ll keep an eye on the spread in the coming weeks, but barring injury or any eligibility issue, I don’t expect to see much change on this line. Of course, Stanford has a fairly affluent alumni fanbase and if they decide to throw down money on their Cardinal enough of it could potentially increase the point spread. I don’t know enough about the Hokies alumni to say what effect they could possible have on the point spread.


Orange Bowl 2011 Schwag: What Stanford and Virginia Tech Are Getting

One of the always interesting aspects of the bowl season is the list of random prizes the players get for participating in a given bowl. The NCAA generally gets its panties in a twist at the mere appearance of impropriety, but they’ve figured out a way to reward the bowl participants and maintain their often Byzantine rules. This year the 2011 Orange Bowl participants will get some quality schwag from sponsors.

Stanford and Virginia Tech players will receive a New Era Cap, a Tourneau watch, and get to participate in a “gift suite.” A gift suite is where the players get to go into a sponsor tent or facility, view various items, and then place an order on the spot. Bowls are allowed to offer up to $500 worth of gifts to the various participants so these gift suites do have limits on what the athletes can select. Sports Business Journal has an interesting article on the gift suites, featuring Virginia Tech punter Brian Saunders.

In looking over the list of goodies, the best gift package would either be the Champs Sports Bowl ($420 shopping spree at local Best Buy), or the various bowls offering XBox 360s (Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl and Valero Alamo Bowl).

For more on the 2011 Orange Bowl featuring Stanford and Virginia Tech, follow our Orange Bowl Story Stream and check out Rule of Tree and Gobbler Country for great in-depth bowl discussion.


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech: MNF Announcing Crew To Cover The Game

The folks at Gobbler Country have posted that ESPN’s Monday Night Football announcing crew will handle the duties for the 2011 Orange Bowl on January 3. When the Stanford Cardinal and Virginia Tech Hokies meet, the MNF crew of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski will be dissecting every little bit about this game.

This game occurs on the Monday after Sunday’s Week 17 matchups in the NFL. There is no Monday Night Football scheduled because of the playoffs beginning the following week. Thus, the MNF crew will have a normal week of preparation to get ready for the Orange Bowl. Additionally, they’ll have been in Atlanta the week before so it’s a quick trip down. No jet lag or especially long flights means they’ll have maximum preparation time for the game.

One aspect of this coverage that should be intriguing for Cardinal fans is the fact that Jaworski and Gruden will get a week to break down the film of Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Jaworski is a beast when it comes to breaking film, and when you throw a big name QB into the mix it only heightens his awareness. Hokie fans may not enjoy hearing Jaws salivating all over Luck, but for Stanford fans and NFL fans, it will be interesting to hear his take on the young QB.


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech: Rule of Tree Gives Us Some Background

With the 2011 Orange Bowl, featuring Stanford and Virginia Tech, a month away, I find it to be helpful to speak with individual bloggers for each team to get an idea what each side brings to the table. Late yesterday we spoke with SB Nation’s Virginia Tech blog, Gobbler Country. Today we speak with SB Nation’s new Stanford blog, Rule of Tree. In this first Q&A they provide us with some basic background on the season that was for the Stanford Cardinal.

SBNBA: What were expectations for your team coming into the 2010 season? Were you expecting a BCS bowl or have you been a bit surprised by your team’s performance this season?

RoT: Expectations following last year’s Sun Bowl appearance were somewhat tempered with the loss of Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart to the NFL. Even with the return of one of the most experienced offensive lines in the Pac-10, it wasn’t clear who would fill Toby’s shoes. The even bigger question mark was the defense, which ranked ninth in the conference in 2009. Stanford fans had an idea that Andrew Luck was special—even Heisman-worthy—before the season, but somehow he’s managed to exceed those lofty expectations. I couldn’t envision Stanford in a BCS bowl at the beginning of the year, and I would’ve considered a 9-3 record with a trip to the Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl a huge success. That seems strange to say now, considering how disappointed Stanford fans would’ve been had the Cardinal fallen out of the top four of the BCS standings and been denied a BCS bid.

SBNBA: What have been your best wins and worst losses? It can be one win and one loss, or more of them depending on how you’ve felt about the season.

RoT: Without a doubt, the most satisfying win of the season was the 48-14 demolition of Cal in Big Game. Stanford returned the Axe to its rightful home with the most lopsided win in the series in 80 years. Luck also provided the signature play of the season when he leveled Cal’s Sean Cattouse on a 58-yard run. It was a good day to be a Stanford fan. There were other great wins, of course. In terms of drama, no game rivaled the 37-35 win against USC, when Luck orchestrated a last-minute drive to set up Nate Whitaker’s game-winning field goal. The Cardinal’s comeback win at Arizona State, where Stanford has traditionally struggled, and the let-there-be-no-doubt shutout of Oregon State in the regular season finale also come to mind. The Cardinal’s worst loss was its only loss, a 52-31 setback at Oregon. Stanford surged to a 21-3 lead, only to watch the Ducks turn the tide with a successful onside kick and pour it on in the second half. I think LaMichael James rushed for 400 yards in that game.

SBNBA: In a more general sense, what has worked well for you this season and what has worked poorly? This isn’t a scouting report at this point but more just your general thoughts on 2010, so no need to get crazy specific at this point.

RoT: With Luck taking a leading role and Stepfan Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson providing steady production at running back, the offense hasn’t skipped a beat in 2010. In fact, it’s better. The real surprise for Stanford, and a huge reason why the Cardinal is in the Orange Bowl, is the improved defense. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio installed a 3-4 scheme and the results have been nothing short of astonishing. Stanford has posted three shutouts in a season for the first time since 1969 and, for the first time in a long time, has a defense that rivals its offense.


Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech: Gobbler Country Gives Us Some Background

Next month, the Stanford Cardinal will take on the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2011 Orange Bowl in Miami. Stanford was able to force themselves into the BCS scene courtesy of a strong finish to the season that netted them the number four spot in the 2010 BCS standings. Virginia Tech bounced back from a tough pair of losses to start the year and finished the season on an 11-game winning streak, capped by a victory over the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC championship game.

As we prepare for the upcoming matchup, I thought it would be useful to use our SB Nation blogs to better scout out this game. I don’t follow Virginia Tech and my knowledge of Stanford football is not the most thorough. Accordingly, I’ve decided to tap into our resident Hokie (Gobbler Country) and Cardinal (Rule of Tree) blogs to get answers to all the pertinent questions. Today we have three questions looking at general background on the 2010 Virginia Tech Hokies football season. We’ll get into more specifics as the month progresses, but consider this laying the groundwork for more detailed information. Thanks to Gobbler Country for taking the time to answer my questions.

SBNBA: What were expectations for your team coming into the 2010 season? Were you expecting a BCS bowl or have you been a bit surprised by your team’s performance this season?

GC: The Hokies actually hit my expectations for the season right on the money. I expected a 10-2 regular season and an ACC title with a loss to Boise State. Obviously, no one could have predicted the loss to James Madison in week two, but we season pretty much went how I thought it would go. I thought our other loss would come at Miami.

A lot of our fans expected the moon, that we’d be competing for a national title this year because we had some much talent coming back on offense. However, we were so young on defense I figured we’d drop a couple of games, including the opener against Boise State because the Broncos returned almost everyone.

SBNBA: What have been your best wins and worst losses? It can be one win and one loss, or more of them depending on how you’ve felt about the season.

GC: The worst loss would also be the worst loss in our history: James Madison. At Home. Week 2. Just and inexplicable loss that came at a point and under conditions where in hindsight I don’t think we could have beaten anybody. You can point to only having four days to prepare coming off a heart-breaking last-second loss and playing in a driving rain storm but, at the end of the day, we lost because we had a poor game plan and executed it poorly and JMU had a great game play and executed it flawlessly.

The best win of the season would probably be our game in the ACC Championship Game against Florida State. It’s the first time all season that we’ve played 60 minutes of solid football. Week after week we came out flat and had to dig ourselves out of a hole. Against the Seminoles we played well from the start and never took our foot off the gas.

SBNBA: In a more general sense, what has worked well for you this season and what has worked poorly? This isn’t a scouting report at this point but more just your general thoughts on 2010, so no need to get crazy specific at this point.

GC: I really just like the way our offense is clicking at this point. We’ve been effective in the passing game despite some key injuries to receivers and all three of our running backs are playing well. One of them will step up and have a big game every week. However, our run defense hasn’t performed well this year. We were able to stop FSU’s ground game, but the Noles were missing Jermaine Thomas.

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