MIAMI — The Stanford faithful in the stands started the requisite “One more year” chant late in the fourth quarter.
They may have been directing those words at quarterback Andrew Luck.
More than likely, they were hoping Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh heard their cries.
If this was the end, as many expect, for Harbaugh’s tenure as coach at Stanford, then it certainly was a happy farewell. His fifth-ranked Cardinal rolled past Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl on Monday night — almost certainly ensuring Stanford’s first top-5 finish in The Associated Press rankings since 1940.
And now, Harbaugh has no shortage of options.
He could be a candidate at Michigan, if the Wolverines dismiss Rich Rodriguez. The San Francisco 49ers may come calling as well, as could the Denver Broncos — whose incoming football czar, former Stanford standout John Elway, was on the Cardinal sideline as an honorary captain Monday night.
It was Stanford’s first bowl victory in 14 years.
Luck, the Heisman Trophy runner-up who might leave Stanford for the NFL, threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
“I’m extremely excited,” Luck said. “Couldn’t be happier for the Stanford community.”
It was a performance reminiscent of Elway, the former Stanford quarterback who is expected to become the Denver Broncos’ chief football executive this week.
Virginia Tech (11-3), playing in a bowl game for the 18th consecutive year, fell to 1-27 against top-5 teams.
Stanford threw a completion for a bizarre safety and blew two extra points, but overcame those mistakes with six plays gaining more than 30 yards. Two came in succession on a two-play, 97-yard “drive,” and the Cardinal outscored Tech 27-0 in the second half.
“They’re really good, and we helped them be good,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “There were a couple of long plays against our defense, and then the game got away from us. The thing kind of snowballed.”
Tight end Coby Fleener caught scoring passes of 41, 58 and 38 yards from Luck, all in the final 21 minutes. Zach Ertz had a 25-yard TD reception, Jeremy Stewart scored on a 60-yard run and Stepfan Taylor added a 56-yard run. Fullback-linebacker Owen Marecic scored on a 1-yard run and had a sack.