MIAMI – John Elway flashed his familiar grin and Jim Harbaugh gave a jubilant shout from the sideline as Andrew Luck sprinted up the field to join a celebration in the end zone.
Nearly a quarter remained in the Orange Bowl, but the Stanford Cardinal were on the way to their first bowl victory in 14 years. And it was a blowout.
Now, the biggest question that remains about the Cardinal is whether their star quarterback and coach are coming back.
Luck, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns Monday night to lead fifth-ranked Stanford past No. 12 Virginia Tech, 40-12.
“It’s a wonderful way to cap off the season,” Luck said.
When the game ended, two Stanford players lifted Harbaugh on their shoulders and he raised an arm in triumph. The Cardinal (12-1) likely will end the season ranked in the top 5 for the first time since the unbeaten 1940 team finished No. 2.
Their success comes only four years after they went 1-11 and hired Harbaugh as coach to lead a turnaround.
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 Virginia 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.
Luck went 18 of 23 and was chosen the game’s most valuable player.
“Andrew Luck is the straw that stirs the drink around here,” Harbaugh said.
“We came out in the second half and established a rhythm,” Luck said. “We were making some uncommon mistakes in the first half. We just went back to blocking, throwing, catching, and it worked out for us.”
The game might have been the last at Stanford for Harbaugh and Luck. Harbaugh is expected to be courted by NFL teams and perhaps alma mater Michigan after leading the Cardinal to a school-record win total. Luck is projected as the likely first pick in the draft if he decides to turn pro this year.
The Hokies’ offense had trouble scoring. Tyrod Taylor threw for 222 yards but was held to 22 yards rushing, and Tech twice came away empty after driving inside the Stanford 35.
Taylor moved the Hokies 60 yards in the final 47 seconds of the first half to set up a 37-yard field goal by Chris Hasley, but they netted only 109 yards in the second half.