MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Stanford scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half to break open a close game and down the Hokies 40-12 in the Orange Bowl played in front of 65,453 fans at Sun Life Stadium.
The loss snapped the Hokies’ 11-game winning streak, leaving Tech with an 11-3 overall record this season. The loss also snapped Tech’s two-game bowl winning streak.
“I think you give Stanford all the credit,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “They played better offensively than we did, they played better defensively than we did and they played better on special teams.
“It was right there and then we had a couple of long plays against our defense and it got away from us a little bit. We had them backed up, and if you feel like you could hold them, then you could get right back in it. But then they got two scores and it got away from us a little bit.”
The Hokies went three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, and then Stanford went to work. The Cardinal drove 59 yards in nine plays, finishing the drive when fullback Owen Marecic scored on a 1-yard run with 8:47 left in the third quarter. Nate Whitaker missed the extra point, but Stanford took a 19-12 lead.
Tech drove to the Stanford 35 on the ensuing possession. But on second-and-5, Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw just his fifth interception of the season. Delano Howell intercepted the pass that was intended for Jarrett Boykin at the Stanford 3, thus killing the Hokies’ drive.
The Cardinal capitalized. On the next play, Stepfan Taylor went up the middle for a 56-yard run to the Tech 42. Following that, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck fired a 41-yard touchdown pass to tight end Coby Fleener with 5:49 left in the third quarter. Whitaker’s extra point made the score 26-12.
“It was frustrating,” Tyrod Taylor said. “We kind of helped them with some of the big plays that happened. The turnover was something that wasn’t needed and wasn’t good for the team.”
Luck hit Fleener for a 58-yard touchdown pass on the Cardinal’s third possession of the second half and then found Fleener again on the Cardinal’s fourth possession for a 38-yard touchdown.
Luck, the possible No. 1 pick in April’s NFL Draft, played great, completing 18-of-23 for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Fleener caught six passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns, and Stepfan Taylor rushed for 114 yards and Jeremy Stewart rushed for 99.
As a team, Stanford finished with 534 yards of total offense.
“They were very physical at the point of attack, and we knew that coming in,” starting mike linebacker Jack Tyler said. “We knew they were going to try to run the ball and we were prepared for that. Stanford just comes right at you and they’re physical.”
Tech’s lone touchdown came early in the second quarter. Trailing 7-2 at the time, the Hokies went 75 yards in 10 plays in a drive that ended with a miraculous play by Taylor. The senior from Hampton, Va., scrambled to his left, avoided Marecic – who also doubles as a linebacker – made a pirouette, and fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to tailback David Wilson, who managed to get a foot down before falling out of bounds.
Taylor – Tech’s all-time winningest quarterback – completed 16-of-31 for 222 yards, with a touchdown and interception. He was sacked eight times. Tech’s offense finished with 288 yards of total offense, but just 66 rushing.
“I’m still proud of the way we played this whole season,” Taylor said. “I’m frustrated that we didn’t win our last game, but we had a heckuva season. We don’t have anything to hold our heads down about.”
“We had some great effort and we had a lot of great plays,” Beamer said. “I really believe we were right in there, but it got away from us in the second half. That’s disappointing, but it’s not a lack of effort. I think it’s a lack of execution on our part.
“But I don’t think you can take away from all the great things that Tyrod and these guys did.”
Tech’s other scores came on a safety and a field goal by Chris Hazley right before halftime.
Stanford closed out its season with a 12-1 record. The Cardinal will be ranked third or fourth at the conclusion of the bowl games.