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Orange Bowl: Luck's skill drives Stanford

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Orange Bowl: Luck's skill drives Stanford

Jan 3, 2011NO. 5 STANFORD (11-1) vs.NO. 12 VIRGINIA TECH (11-2)
RATTO: HARBAUGH BLESSED WITH LEVERAGE

2010-11 BOWL SCHEDULERESULTS

MIAMI (AP) -- Andrew Luck threw seven interceptions and 97 incompletions during the regular season. His knowledge of the NFL is less than encyclopedic -- more on that shortly -- and he settled for a B in the most difficult class he has taken at Stanford, a course on mechanics called Engineering 14.

Yet coach Jim Harbaugh is disinclined to find fault.

"Andrew is the real deal," Harbaugh says. "He is the best player I've ever been around, and he's even a finer young man. There's nothing about him where I say I wish he could do this, or I wish he didn't do this. He is just like my wife: He is perfect. You wouldn't change a thing about him."

ROSTERS: Stanford Virginia Tech

Stanford's passing paragon will take the national stage Monday night in the Orange Bowl, when No. 5 Stanford (11-1) faces No. 12 Virginia Tech (11-2). It could be Luck's final college game -- although only a sophomore, he's touted as the likely No. 1 overall draft pick in April if he turns pro.

The BCS game matches two teams climbing in the polls since early in the season. Virginia Tech opened with losses to Boise State and lower-tier James Madison, then regrouped and went undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Stanford lost in October to Oregon, then swept its final seven regular-season games, the latest surge in a remarkable turnaround under Harbaugh after going 1-11 in 2006.

Luck was a high school junior in Houston when Stanford hired Harbaugh, who spent 15 seasons as an NFL quarterback.

"I did not really know his name, to be honest," Luck says with a sheepish laugh. "Don't tell him I said that."

Soon enough, Luck accepted a scholarship offer from Harbaugh, and now the coach and quarterback have led the Cardinal to their first January bowl since 2000. Like Luck, Harbaugh might be bound for the NFL this year.

PREVIEW: Stanford, VaTech on historic runs

"He's got to do what's best for him," Luck says, "and I've got to do what's best for me."

First there's the matter of beating Virginia Tech, which happens to have a pretty good QB, too. Senior Tyrod Taylor was chosen ACC player of the year, and he's often compared with one of his predecessors at Tech, Michael Vick.

Taylor seeks his third bowl win in his final college game.

"He's a stud," Luck says. "When the play breaks down, he's making guys miss and making things happen. You hate to go against guys like that, because you've always got to be on your toes. You never know when they're going to score."

While Taylor's mobility makes him dangerous, he needs to prove himself as a pocket passer to succeed in the NFL, and he's confident he can do it.

"I believe I can play in any offense," Taylor says. "Early in my career I was more of a runner. As I got older, I think I proved I can be a dropback passer. I can also use my feet, but I always keep my eyes downfield looking for a receiver."

RELATED: Harbaugh, Beamer differ on playoff

Taylor will leave Blacksburg as the school's career leader in passing yards, rushing yards by a quarterback and total offense. He's 34-7 as a starter, and like Luck, he wins raves for his leadership.

When the Hokies were 0-2, Taylor led a seniors-only meeting that stabilized the situation.

"His legacy is that we'll always be talking about Tyrod Taylor," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. "That's probably the best compliment I can give somebody."

Luck reaps similar praise, although it's possible he won't leave in 2011. The son of former West Virginia and Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck says he's trying not to think a lot about his future until after the Orange Bowl, but no one seems to doubt he's ready for the NFL.

"It's a tough decision for Andrew, I'm sure," says Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who coached in the NFL for 24 years. "But when he does come out, I'll be shocked if he's not a very good NFL quarterback."

STATS: Andrew Luck Tyrod Taylor

Luck will face a Tech defense ranked second in the nation with 22 interceptions. But in two years as a starter, Luck has been intercepted only 11 times while throwing 41 touchdown passes. He threw for 3,051 yards this year, completing 70 percent of his passes, and finished second to Auburn's Cam Newton in the Heisman Trophy race.

Luck is 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds but mobile enough to run for 438 yards this season. And he's tough: Scrambling against California, he threw a forearm into the chin of a safety and knocked him head over heels.

"Andrew looked at him for a second and then kept running," associate head coach Greg Roman says. "It's one of the best moments I've ever had as a coach, to witness that."

How often do Luck's coaches get mad at him? Roman pauses for 10 seconds, trying to recall the last time it happened.

REWIND: Stanford results Virginia Tech season recap

"Hmm. Mad at him? Hmm," Roman says. "It doesn't happen very often."

That's partly because Luck rarely makes mental mistakes. A B-plus student majoring in architecture, Luck is interested in building stadiums when he's done playing in them. He has mastered Stanford's complicated offense -- his wristband supposedly lists 350 plays -- and Harbaugh has talked of letting him call plays next season.

Like Harbaugh, his players make Luck sound too good to be true.

"If there is any pick higher than the first pick, he would go there," cornerback Richard Sherman says. "When he gets to the next level, it will be amazing. I don't think people realize how good he is."

That may be partly Luck's fault; he's hardly one for self-promotion.

Luck's a big reason Stanford has a shot at its first top-five finish since 1940, but teammates say when his image comes on TV, he turns it off or changes the channel.

"He's so humble, sometimes it's really painful to hear him talk," senior Owen Marecic says with a laugh. "It's absolutely genuine. But that's what makes him so great. He has all this talent, but it doesn't satisfy him in the least. He's always trying to get better."

So while Luck's not really perfect, he is a perfectionist, hoping for a win Monday night to complete Stanford's near-perfect season.

Thornton leaves game vs Jets in final minute with apparent knee injury

Thornton leaves game vs Jets in final minute with apparent knee injury

The San Jose Sharks not only lost in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, but also lost their second-leading scorer to injury. 

Joe Thornton left the final minute of the game with an apparent injury to his right knee. With Jets forward Andrew Copp backchecking, Mikkel Boedker collided into Thornton's knee in front of the Sharks bench. 

Thornton took a stride on each leg as he skated gingerly to the bench, and did not return to the game. 

The 38-year-old underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee this summer. He missed the final three games of the regular season last year, but returned to play in San Jose's final four postseason games in a first round, six-game loss to the Edmonton Oilers. 

Thornton is second on the Sharks with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists), and has scored nine points in his last seven games. He is second among forwards in average ice time, and is playing 18:20 per night in his 20th NHL season. 

Durant rips referee after ejection against Knicks: 'He was searching for me'

Durant rips referee after ejection against Knicks: 'He was searching for me'

With 2:50 left in Tuesday's game against the Knicks, Kevin Durant was ejected.

It's the fourth time this season that he's been thrown out of a game.

After the Warriors' 123-112 win, Durant didn't bite his tongue when asked about what happened between him and referee James Williams.

"In the first half, I was dribbling up the right side, I made a left to right cross. He said I carried, ah, you kinda let that go. I asked him 'Where'd you get the carry from?' He said 'You froze the defender.' I said 'That's what a crossover is for.' And that's why I do it, to freeze my defender. And he tried to make a bunch of excuses and I told him he was wrong," Durant said. "He went to halftime probably with an attitude and the second half, his whole thing was, he's trying to get me. So, look at my first tech. I got the rebound, dribbled the ball hard and he teched me up. He was searching for me, he lookin' to try to tech me up to get me back because he's still in his feelings from the first half. That's what been going on around the league the whole year, a bunch of that. I gotta keep my head a little bit, but I was upset."

Draymond Green attempted to hold Durant back prior to the ejection. Durant was asked about that after the game and was able to laugh about it.

"The irony," Durant said to much laughter from reporters at Oracle.

"I was not trying to hear it. He was right in doing so. I didn't want to get teched up or thrown out,  but I did want him to hear what I had to say," Durant said.

Durant can expect to hear from the league office regarding his comments.