Big Ten: Wolverines-Hokies-120103

WolverineNation: Defense rises in red zone

January, 4, 2012
Defense delivers: It wasn’t Michigan’s best defensive effort or really even close, but somehow Greg Mattison’s unit kept Virginia Tech out of the end zone most of the night.

Gibbons completes zero to hero journey: Sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons struggled in 2010 but became a key player this season, so much so that his teammates and coaches were sure he’d deliver the game-winner in overtime.

Big Ten, ACC still trail SEC

January, 4, 2012
NEW ORLEANS -- A speck of LSU purple and another of Alabama crimson stood out in the sea of Michigan blue in the east stands of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The two fans looked out of place in the front row, but they didn't seem to mind. The LSU backer, sitting alongside her companion in crimson, took every chance she could to hold up a made-for-TV sign.

It read: "Oops! We're a week too early Alabama LSU"

The two SEC fans came to the Allstate Sugar Bowl for a starter course before the southern-style entrée is served Monday night. From the looks of it, they didn't come away with a good taste.

The countdown is under way for the BCS title game, and the SEC will take over the Big Easy as it prepares to crown its sixth consecutive national champion Monday night. The next six days mark an unparalleled celebration for a conference that has plenty of them in recent years, a love fest for a league that has become king of college football -- and wants everyone to know about it.

No one doubts the SEC's dominance, but there's a curiosity about which league has the best chance to catch up. If nothing else, the bowls leading up to the national title game provide showcase opportunities for teams from also-ran conferences to prove they're getting closer.
Virginia Tech and Michigan both had chances to help themselves and their much-maligned conferences Tuesday night. While the matchup itself drew groans from most corners of the country, the Wolverines and Hokies had the stage to themselves before the big show comes to town.

At the end of the night, it became clear the Big Ten and the ACC still have a long way to go, although the Big Ten has one of its big dogs back in the chase.

For more of Adam Rittenberg's story, click here.

Video: Michigan center David Molk

January, 4, 2012

Adam Rittenberg talks to Michigan center David Molk about the Wolverines' 23-20 overtime win over Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Video: Michigan RB Fitzgerald Toussaint

January, 4, 2012

Adam Rittenberg talks to Fitzgerald Toussaint following the Wolverines' 23-20 overtime win over Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Video: Wrapping up the Sugar Bowl

January, 4, 2012

Wrapping up Michigan's hard-fought win and Virginia Tech's heartbreak in the Sugar Bowl.

Video: Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons

January, 4, 2012

Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons talks about his game-winning field goal in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Video: Brady Hoke on Sugar Bowl win

January, 4, 2012

Brady Hoke talks after Michigan defeats Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

NEW ORLEANS -- Both Virginia Tech and Michigan faced doubts coming into this game, and both teams had their share of blunders, but in the end the Allstate Sugar Bowl delivered a thriller that went into overtime thanks to a third-string kicker who converted on all but the one field goal that mattered the most. Here's a look back at the highlights of the game as Michigan beat Virginia Tech 23-20:

How the game was won: Michigan's kicker made the field goal in overtime, and Virginia Tech's did not. Brendan Gibbons nailed his 37-yard attempt, while Justin Myer's 37-yard attempt sailed wide right. The Hokies weren't able to capitalize on their opportunities in the red zone during regulation and it was too little, too late. The Hokies had three turnovers and seven penalties. Myer tied the game at 20 and sent it into overtime and had made the first four field goals of his career -- 37 yards, 43, 36 and 25 -- but he missed the last and most important.

Stat of the game: Virginia Tech was in the red zone five times in regulation and came away with just one touchdown. The Hokies were on the four-yard line twice in the first half.

Stat of the game II: Michigan had just 56 rushing yards.

Player of the game: Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway. He had two highlight-worthy touchdown catches, both in traffic, and finished with 63 yards and two touchdowns on just two receptions. His 45-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter gave the Wolverines a 7-6 lead and the momentum heading into halftime. He then out jumped Antone Exum for an 18-yard touchdown catch to give Michigan the 17-6 lead in the third.

Second guessing: With 7:21 left in the game, Virginia Tech opted for a fake punt, a questionable move at best. The Hokies' defense was dominating, and it probably would have been best to either punt the ball or just go for it. Michigan didn't bite and Virginia Tech punter Danny Coale didn't stand a chance.

What Virginia Tech learned: The Hokies' defense can't do it all. Bud Foster's group did a great job, but Virginia Tech's dependence on field goals was the difference. The good news? They learned they have a kicker. They also learned that quarterback Logan Thomas is good enough to be in the Heisman conversation next year, but he'll need more from the players around him and a rebuilt offensive line to get there.

What Michigan learned: Denard Robinson doesn't have to do it all. With a much-improved defense, the Wolverines found they can win without a spectacular performance by Robinson.

What it means: The Big Ten got some validation, while the ACC sunk another rung deeper on the respect level.

Record performance: Virginia Tech running back David Wilson surpassed former teammate Ryan Williams to set the school record for rushing yards.
NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has looked both subpar and spectacular in this game. He's made poor throws and bad decisions, but his two remarkable touchdown passes have been the difference. For Robinson to have minus-one yard rushing on 10 carries and still be winning is just one of the many baffling facets of this game so far.

It's also looking like a typical ACC implosion.

Virginia Tech somehow snuck into this BCS bowl as the ACC's first at-large team, but it can't seem to find its way into the end zone here at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kicker Justin Myer has been the only offense for the Hokies. If Virginia Tech is going to get back into this game, its best hope might be another big play or turnover from the defense.
NEW ORLEANS -- This game changed in less than a minute. Virginia Tech lost control and Michigan gained all of the momentum, thanks to a big passing play and a fumble on a kickoff return. It took until the waning minutes of the second half for the Wolverines' offense to wake up, but because of Virginia Tech's inability to capitalize in the red zone, it only took a few plays to change the game. Here's a quick look back at the first half:

Turning point: On third-and-17 from the 45-yard line, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to receiver Junior Hemingway. Free safety Eddie Whitley was in position to make the interception, but he missed it and Michigan took the lead and the momentum for the first time all game.

Stat of the half: Michigan had 116 of its 145 total yards in the second quarter. The Wolverines' offense was stifled in the first quarter, and didn't score until the final 49 seconds of the first half.

Best player in the half: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. Despite the scoreboard, he's been sharp and accurate with the passing game, and his size and strength continue to be an asset in the running game. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 117 yards, and also led the Hokies in rushing with eight carries for 26 yards.

Michigan fortunate

January, 3, 2012
NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan is fortunate it's only trailing Virginia Tech 6-0 in the second quarter. Anyone paying attention to this game probably feels like it should be 21-0 Virginia Tech. The Hokies are controlling every aspect of this game except the scoreboard.

On their first possession they were as close as the 4-yard line when David Wilson lost 22 yards. Twice they settled for a field goal, and on the last drive, Michigan came up with a big stop on fourth-and-one -- again from the 4-yard line.

If Virginia Tech winds up losing this game, those opportunities are going to come back to haunt them. If Virginia Tech and Michigan both continue to play the way they have this half, though, there's no reason to continue to doubt the Hokies. They've been solid on third downs, Mike O'Cain's playcalling has been an edge, and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has been less than spectacular.
NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke spent much of Sugar Bowl week raving about Virginia Tech running back David Wilson.

It seemed pretty clear Hoke and his staff would gear the defense toward stopping Wilson, the Hokies outstanding junior running back who entered the game ranked sixth nationally in rushing. And so far, Michigan is bottling up Wilson, who has seven carries for minus-8 yards, including a 22-yard loss that negated a great touchdown opportunity.

The problem for Michigan is Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who has been brilliant so far. Thomas has completed 7 of 10 pass attempts for 101 yards, converting three third-and-long situations. The mammoth sophomore also has 22 rush yards.

It's pick your poison with the Virginia Tech offense, but Michigan needs to slow down Thomas' passing ability.

Virginia Tech leads 6-0 early in the second quarter.

Myer coming through for Hokies

January, 3, 2012
NEW ORLEANS -- Virginia Tech kicker Justin Myer, the third option on the depth chart at one point, has accounted for all of the Hokies' points so far tonight.

Raise your hand if you saw THAT one coming.

With Virginia Tech's top two kickers suspended for this game, Myer was one of the biggest question marks heading into the match, but so far, he's 2-for-2 and the Hokies are up 6-0 on Michigan because of it. He was 0-for-2 entering this game.
NEW ORLEANS -- This looks like a game Virginia Tech can win -- if it cuts down on its mistakes. It was an odd start to the game for both teams, as standout Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson began with four carries, two fumbles, a loss of a yard and a pick.

Yes, that Denard Robinson.

And Virginia Tech standout running back David Wilson let his ego run the offense for a play and went backwards for a baffling loss of 22 yards.

Yes, that David Wilson.

Wilson's run plus an untimely penalty forced Virginia Tech to settle for a field goal, but the good news for the Hokies was that reserve kicker Justin Myer made it -- a 37-yarder for his first made field goal of the season. That should get some jitters out, not only for Myer, but for Virginia Tech fans as well.

Michigan center David Molk missed the first series with a foot injury he re-aggravated from earlier in the season, but it wasn't enough to keep him out for more than a series. Still, Virginia Tech's defense has had the edge early. Kyle Fuller came up with an interception just when Michigan's offense seemed to finally get going. Michigan's defense has given up too many big plays, and the Hokies' passing game is looking much better than it did in the ACC title game against Clemson. Logan Thomas has been the better quarterback so far. Michigan had 29 yards of total offense while the Hokies had 110. The Hokies have controlled the clock, and so far, the game.
NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan center David Molk, the Rimington Trophy winner this season, did not start the Allstate Sugar Bowl due to a foot injury, but he entered the game for the Wolverines' second series.

Molk injured the foot in warmups.

It clearly affected Michigan early. Rocko Khoury started in Molk's place. The Wolverines had two shotgun snaps fumbled by quarterback Denard Robinson on the first drive.



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