(This story is part of The Kansas City Star's Football 2015 special section that publishes Sunday, Aug. 30. Pick one up and check out more here.)
Aqib Talib’s Orange Bowl pick-six
“I felt like Deion!” That’s how Aqib Talib described his interception return for a touchdown, which set the tone for perhaps the biggest victory in program history: Kansas’ 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl. Talib, an All-American cornerback, intercepted a pass and sprinted 60 yards for a touchdown with 5:15 left in the first quarter. The Jayhawks never trailed again. After a loss to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium, and a somewhat controversial Orange Bowl selection, Kansas proved it belonged on the national stage. “I guess they gotta say we played somebody now!” Talib screamed during a joyous postgame interview.
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Reesing to Meier in the snow
One year after losing “Armageddon at Arrowhead,” Kansas exacted revenge against rival Missouri in a 40-37 victory over the Tigers in 2008 in Kansas City. The Jayhawks improved to 7-5 and set the stage for a convincing victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. But the iconic moment came in the final minute. As snow fell, quarterback Todd Reesing stepped up in the pocket and hit receiver Kerry Meier for a 26-yard touchdown with 27 seconds left. Reesing would go down as the most prolific quarterback in school history, while Meier was one of its most productive receivers. The victory was also one of the last great moments of the Mark Mangino era.
A Bluebonnet breakthrough
On Dec. 17, 1961, Kansas faced Rice in the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. On KU’s first drive of the second half, running back Curtis McClinton capped an eight-play, 50-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown jaunt. That pushed Kansas’ lead to 19-7 and the floodgates opened. Kansas, led by Jayhawks legend John Hadl, defeated Rice 33-7 and finished 7-3-1. It was the Jayhawks’ first bowl victory.
The Streak is over
Before Nov. 5, 2005, Kansas had lost 36 straight games against Nebraska and its vaunted Blackshirts defense. That changed on a Saturday at Memorial Stadium, thanks in large part to a linebacker from Rockhurst High School. Late in the fourth quarter, Kevin Kane returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown, cementing the historic victory. Earlier in the second half, running back Jon Cornish had rushed 72 yards for a touchdown, and the final score was Kansas perfection: KU 40, Nebraska 15.
The 12th Man
It was set to be a watershed. Kansas was facing Penn State in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1969, and the game was over. At least, the Jayhawks thought it was. Leading 14-13, the Nittany Lions tried for a two-point conversion — and failed. But referee Foster Grose noticed 12 men on the field, and Penn State had another chance. This time, Bob Campbell rushed in for the score — and the victory.