NCF Nation: 2011 Orange Bowl analysis

MIAMI -- Here's a quick recap of Stanford's 40-12 win in the Discover Orange Bowl:

How the game was won: Stanford controlled the line of scrimmage, and quarterback Andrew Luck took control of the game in the second half. Virginia Tech's defense had no answer for the Cardinal offensive line, got beat up front, and the Hokies couldn't run the ball. Virginia Tech scored just one touchdown in this game and was shut out in the second half. Luck's 58-yard touchdown pass to Coby Fleener in the fourth quarter all but closed the door on the Hokies.

Turning point: In the third quarter, Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor's interception landed Stanford on the Hokies' 3-yard line, but it took only two plays to move the ball the length of the field. Stepfan Taylor rushed 56 yards on the ensuing play, followed by Luck's 41-yard touchdown pass to Fleener for the 26-12 lead. That was the first time there was any true separation in the game, and the turnover and following scoring drive gave Stanford all of the momentum.

Stat of the game: Virginia Tech's defense allowed three plays for more than 50 yards, including Jeremy Stewart's 60-yard touchdown run, Fleener's 58-yard touchdown reception and a 56-yard run by Taylor.

Player of the game: Stanford quarterback Luck. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 287 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Unsung hero of the game: Fleener. He finished with six catches for 173 yards, three touchdowns and 28.8 yards per catch.

What it means: The ACC dropped to 2-11 in its BCS bowls, and Virginia Tech dropped to 1-27 against teams ranked in the top five of The Associated Press. It was another missed opportunity for Frank Beamer and the ACC.

MIAMI -- Stanford beat Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Discover Orange Bowl on Monday night. Here is a quick instant analysis:

How the game was won: Andrew Luck came to play in the second half. After being held to 86 yards passing in the first half, Luck had about as good a third quarter as you can get to put Stanford in control of the game. The Heisman finalist went 6-for-7 for 103 yards and a touchdown pass, helping the Cardinal turn a 13-12 lead into a 26-12 lead -- one it would not relinquish.

Turning point: See above, third quarter. The two-touchdown swing was simply too much for the Hokies to overcome. It didn't get much better in the fourth quarter, either. Stanford got one big play after another and Virginia Tech was helpless to stop the Cardinal. Luck ended up going 9-of-10 for 201 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.

Stat of the game: 40. Stanford hit its scoring average. In fact, the Cardinal have scored 30 or more points in all but one game this season. They added to the school-record 484 points they scored during the regular season.

Player of the game: Luck. Is there any question about this? Luck threw four touchdown passes and had the type of completions some NFL quarterbacks can't even make. There is a reason he is considering leaving school early for the NFL draft, and everyone saw that on full display Monday night. Luck finished the game 18-of-23 with 287 yards. He had zip on his passes in the second half, and put many of them where only his receivers could catch them. Truly outstanding.

Unsung hero of the game: Coby Fleener. He came into the game with 22 catches for 261 yards but ended up having the best game of his career. Fleener had three touchdown catches and 173 yards as Virginia Tech left him wide open for most of the night. The Hokies did a good job covering leading receiver Doug Baldwin, but they completely forgot about Fleener.

What it means: Stanford definitively had the best season in school history, an incredible turnaround when you consider where this program was when Jim Harbaugh took over. The Cardinal won a school-record 12 games and will finish ranked in the Top 5 for the first time since 1940. Now the only question that remains is whether Harbaugh and Luck return to the Farm.

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