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Kansas Football: Bob Davis recalls the 2007 Orange Bowl team

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Head down memory lane with KU’s radio play-by-play voice, the legendary Bob Davis.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Kansas John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

This is Mike Plank with Rock Chalk Talk and I am here with Bob Davis once again, the iconic play by play voice of the Kansas Jayhawks from 1984-2016. And Bob, we’re here today to reminisce a little bit about the 2007 college football season, and specifically, of course, the 2007 Kansas football squad that ended up in the Orange Bowl. This year is the 10-year anniversary of that team, and let’s just start off with a little word association.

OK.

When I say, “2007” what is the first thing you think of?

Well, probably the Orange Bowl, although that was such a great academic year, 2007-08. But that was a great football team in KU football history with 12 victories and a major bowl win and many fine players, a couple of first-team All-American and a second team All-American, and a little quarterback who really changed the course of KU football at that time.

It was a fun group to be around, and a lot of big wins that year. And when you go 12-1, I think that’s a pretty good story. We haven’t been able to enjoy that since then, it doesn’t seem like it’s been 10 years. But in other respects, it seems like it’s been more than that. But there’s a 10-year anniversary coming up there this fall.

Yeah, no doubt. Well, going into the season, prior to the opener against Central Michigan, did you have any idea that this team was going to be so special?

Well, you never know, I knew it could be a good team because of all the experience, and the quarterback, and things it had going for it: good linemen, they had pretty good offense, they had guys that could throw and catch, and the defense had some guys that could really play, ended up first team All-American in Aqib Talib who really kind of set the tone. But a good group of linebackers.

The schedule, you look at it that year and you thought, well, those were the days where you played half of the teams in the southern division of the Big 12. And that year they played at Texas A&M and they played at Oklahoma State. You looked at that schedule and you thought, well, if they get things going this might be a favorable schedule, they don’t have Oklahoma or Texas, and they made that work. They lost only the tough loss to Missouri in the conditions at Arrowhead that year and that destroyed the unblemished record; they would have been playing for a national title otherwise. A lot of things fell in place and they took advantage of the opportunities they had and it was a big play team.

It definitely was a big play team. They rolled through their first four games, all blowouts over non-conference teams. But then Big 12 play opens up, in Manhattan, at K-State, where KU hadn’t won a game since 1989. Just kind of tell us what you remember about that day, about the atmosphere, and how much fun was it, Bob, to call a win for KU in that stadium?

It was a great win, certainly, and there were some really good matchups. Early in the game, Aqib Talib was covering Jordy Nelson, and Jordy, who of course has gone on to a great career with the Packers, made a catch and got an early touchdown. And I thought, wow, that’s a really big play early in this game in that matchup of those two players. But as it turned out, KU was able to win that game, and it ended with an Aqib Talib interception, if I recall, late in the ballgame. So, I’ll always remember that Aqib Talib-Jordy Nelson matchup, which was a precursor to their fine NFL careers.

But that was a big win and I think getting that one in the victory column, a place where they hadn’t won for a while, on the road, we know now how tough road wins are, that showed them it certainly could be done. That was the one that was maybe a key victory early in the season.

You mentioned Central Michigan, they had a really good team and a good quarterback and a fine coach, Coach Jones, is now the head coach at Tennessee. That was going to be a real tough ballgame, we thought, and it turned out to be a blowout. So that indicated to some of us that maybe this team is really good, to beat a team like that so handily. That was also an early indication in the non-conference schedule that this could be special.

Well and that rolls right into my next question, at what point in the season did you consciously realize that, you know what, these guys are really good, and we’re going to see a special season this year?

To go undefeated in the non-conference schedule was the first indication, and winning in lopsided fashion against some pretty good teams like Central Michigan was that year. And the K-State win, obviously, was one. Every week you play and it was so exciting know that not only do you have a chance to win, but a better chance to win than in past seasons. And that just made the season so much fun from one week to the next. Missouri was having a similar type season, so it was great for college football in this area at that time.

So then after the K-State game, they come home and they plaster Baylor all over the turf at Memorial Stadium. And then they have two tough road games; they have to go to Colorado, and to Texas A&M, and you know Texas A&M, they’ve got the huge stadium and the 12th man and all of the tradition and everything. The Kansas offense, which had been averaging over 50 points a game, scores 19 points against Colorado and 19 points against Texas A&M.

Right.

Was that a product of the road environment, or how were those teams able to slow down the Jayhawks for a couple of weeks there?

That’s a good challenge, to have to go out to Colorado, we don’t do that anymore obviously, but everybody has to talk about the altitude and all of that. But anytime you go on the road, I don’t care what the score is, if you get a win, that’s a pretty good achievement.

Texas A&M, Coach Franchione was the coach at that time, and they had a big fullback they put in the game. They called him “Choo Choo.” Well, he was coming in the game and they were all doing the choo choo cheer, and they were going down close to the goal line. KU knew he would have the ball and they stopped him late in the ballgame, and that was key to that victory. I think Brandon McAnderson, the Lawrence High product, had a 100-yard rushing game at College Station, if I remember.

Yes, he did.

But that was a landmark win to go down there and get a victory in front of whatever it was at that time, probably 70 or 75 thousand in there, and that stadium really rocks. But that was a significant victory. But back to back road wins, I don’t care who you’re playing, any time you get road wins in your conference, that’s pretty good.

Alright, so we’re coming up to November now. It’s November 3, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are coming to town in a much anticipated matchup – at least, KU fans were anticipating it. In your time at KU, the Jayhawks had only beaten the Huskers once, two years prior, in 2005.

Right.

But on this day, just about everything goes right for Kansas. Again, if you could just talk about the day, the game, anything you remember from interviews or players or coaches or whatever comes to mind.

Oh, the crowd was so into the ballgame. Beating Nebraska had not been a habit that they had formed, but a couple years ago they proved they could do it, but this time I think KU clearly had the better team, and it showed on the field. They got it rolling, there were some spectacular turnovers in the game, and it was just a raucous victory, one that a lot of KU fans had waited years for, not only to win the game, but to run up a point total like that over the Big Red, that was a very significant win. But they all were during that season, but you win 12 games, there’s gonna be more than one significant victory, and that was right on that list.

Yeah, for sure! So, after the Nebraska game, Kansas rolls to 11-0, they’re on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and they’re staring down Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium. How confident were you in the Jayhawks going into that Missouri game?

I don’t think we were overly confident. They certainly had a chance. But Missouri was very, very good. They had speed at the receiver spot, a fast attack, a great quarterback like Kansas, a guy who played in the NFL and has for a while. That was a great team too. KU was a little late getting to Arrowhead, there were so many problems with traffic, and I think maybe that upset the team a little bit and they got off to a slow start in the ballgame.

But they rallied, and I always felt like… you know, they lost, you look at the scoreboard, they lost the game. But had it gone just a little bit farther, had a little more time, they might have been able to come back and win that. Because they got it going pretty well late in the game. But give a lot of credit to Missouri. Kansas and Missouri were both very, very good, and Missouri had to play Oklahoma then for the overall conference championship the next game out.

But that’s still a great memory, and the next year they got a great win over Missouri at Arrowhead. They couldn’t quite get it done that game, but they regrouped and maybe surprised a few people by earning a bid to go to the Orange Bowl, and they did go and beat a good Virginia Tech team.

Definitely, and again, you lead right into my next question! Despite the loss to Missouri, Kansas gets picked to go to the Orange Bowl as a BCS at-large team. Now you had done a few bowl games for Kansas in the past, but how is the Orange Bowl different?

It was just special. Our buddy Bill Hancock was there to run the event, and Bill is such a great guy. Kansas had been in two Orange Bowls historically, one in the late ‘40s, and then one in ’68, and had lost both although competed well in both. Had the fumble against Georgia Tech, and then of course the famous 12th man on the field against Penn State. Here was only the third trip ever to the Orange Bowl. It used to be the Big Eight champion went to the Orange Bowl. But KU making their third appearance, and to win that game, it was just so significant.

Kind of like the Nebraska win, KU fans had waited years and years and years to have another chance in the Orange Bowl, and they got there and won the game. It was almost a surreal experience to beat a quality program like Virginia Tech. That put lots of nice, thick icing on the cake for that season, to go 12-1.

Right, and Virginia Tech was the #3 ranked BCS team going into that game, they were just shy of the national title game. That was a tough squad for Kansas to go in there and face.

I don’t remember the number, but they had several of their players go and play in the NFL, including a quarterback, so that was a quality team with a great coach and a great coaching staff, and that made it even better. It was just amazing. And, a perennial major bowl team like that made it an even more special victory.

So when the Jayhawks took a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter of the Orange Bowl, you had to just be losing your mind, right?

Ha! Like I said, the feeling “surreal” came about. They key in the ballgame play I remember was the interception pick-6 by Aqib Talib, to not only get a turnover but take it down and get some points on the board, that really set a tone. And this veteran team, and it was a veteran team at that point, they had gone through a pretty tough schedule even though everybody had pointed out they didn’t play Oklahoma or Texas that year, but they still played a quality schedule, had a great year, and then really put it together in the national spotlight in Miami.

Do you have any funny stories or especially vivid memories of something that happened in or around any of your broadcasts during that season that you can share with us?

Heading down to Miami, we were really thinking this was gonna be great, get some warm weather, but it rained almost the entire time we were there, it seemed like! It even rained, as I recall, a little bit during the ballgame. David Lawrence, who had played at Kansas, and had seen the highs and the lows of the program, to see him react to that Orange Bowl victory was one of the big thrills for me. And seeing other people you know that had been around the program.

KU football has had some good moments over the years, but unfortunately more recently, more down moments. But that was certainly one that was spectacular. And the school year itself, to win a BCS bowl like that and then have run the basketball team had in early April made that an unbelievable athletic year at KU.

No doubt. Coach Beaty is tasked with trying to do something similar to what Coach Mangino accomplished while in Lawrence. Do you see any similarities between the two coaches?

Well, David Beaty worked for Mangino, I’m sure he’s taken some things from that. But about their personalities, Beaty is such an energy guy, Mangino is an excellent coach and detail guy, very intense. I’d say their personalities are somewhat different, but it’s a business where you steal things from other guys, and I’m sure considering the time Beaty spent on Mangino’s staff, he’s picked up some things that he applies now.

Well, Bob, that all I had for ya today, we’ll try to get together with you again next month to help preview the 2017 Jayhawks, but in the meantime, thank you again so much for your time, we really appreciate it.

Ok Mike!

Thanks Bob!