Keegan: Jayhawks prove they're best ever

Friday, January 4, 2008


2008 Orange Bowl

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Video stories on KU's trip to the Orange Bowl.


2008 Orange Bowl

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Miami, here we come

Journal-World KU reporter Jonathan Kealing is covering the fans in and on their way to Miami for the Jayhawks' first ever BCS bowl game. Check out some pitstops and potholes on the way to Miami and keep up with Journal-World Orange Bowl coverage from Miami on our interactive road trip map.

— The 21st century is young, but it already has clinched the title as the best in the history of a Kansas University football program born in 1890.

Orange Bowl champions.

A 12-1 record.

The last of lingering doubts perished Thursday night in Dolphin Stadium.

The final remaining question that needed to be settled to establish this team as unquestionably deserving to be mentioned as KU's best ever and one of the top handful in the nation this season was answered emphatically: What is the best school Kansas has defeated?

Answer: Virginia Tech, ranked third in the BCS standings. The game didn't feel nearly as close as the final score of Kansas 24, Virginia Tech 21.

In talking about KU's lack of football tradition, coach Mark Mangino last month said, "Anyone can have a bad century."

That would be the 20th century, filled with great individuals, names like Gale Sayers and John Riggins, John Hadl and Nolan Cromwell, Ray Evans and Willie Pless.

Big football names for a basketball school.

As for the basketball-only label :

"Those days are over," Mangino said to the crowd of the basketball-only label.

Cornerback Aqib Talib was awarded the game's MVP, largely for his interception return for a touchdown. It was the right call, even if he did get flagged 15 yards for high-stepping into the end zone.

"I was feelin' it," Talib said during the postgame, on-field interview heard by the crowd. "I was feelin' it like Deion."

As in Sanders. One hot dog feeling another.

As always, the less flashy players played huge roles.

Joe Mortensen (blocked field goal, early sack, hard hits all night), Dexton Fields (101 receiving yards), Justin Thornton, Chris Harris and Russell Brorsen starred.

Quarterback Todd Reesing was picked up off the ground and slammed back onto it by 293-pound Carlton Powell on one play. On another, Reesing played the crash-test vehicle, Hokies linebacker Cody Grimm the brick wall. Reesing kept getting back up to attack a defense every bit as good as advertised, though not as good as KU's.

"Well, I got pads on, so it didn't hurt too bad," said Reesing, who was wearing a floppy fishing hat one of his Austin buddies tossed to him on the field after the game.

The cerebral yet blue-collar Mangino, who so had the right feel for this team he was college football's consensus Coach of the Year, made the right call again when he surprised the players by having red jerseys hung in their lockers before the game.

What is it about red that so juices the Jayhawks?

Mortensen smiled beneath his mohawk and answered: "It brings out the devil in us."

And so did the frequent underdog role.

"We constantly, year-round, communicate with our players in a way to try to develop a good, emotional strength about them," Mangino said. "Our kids have it. All the stuff they read, and all the pundits banging on their desks on the TV shows talking about we haven't played anybody, we have no chance against Virginia Tech, it didn't hurt their feelings. It motivated them. I want to thank everybody who did that. It made my job easier."

You're welcome. And congratulations.