NCF Nation: Wolverines-Hokies-120103

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.

ACC sinks deeper into BCS hole

January, 4, 2012
James GayleAP Photo/Bill HaberJames Gayle and the Hokies just couldn't get it done as Virginia Tech lost again on the BCS stage.
NEW ORLEANS -- This wasn’t the ACC’s only chance to make a statement.

This was the ACC’s 14th chance, to be exact.

Following Virginia Tech’s 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan on Tuesday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the ACC dropped to 2-12 in its BCS games. That’s 14 years of developing a reputation, over a decade of results that won’t be erased with one Discover Orange Bowl win, or any other statement nonconference game for that matter. Clemson is up next on the BCS stage, but no matter what the Tigers do on Wednesday night against West Virginia, it won’t change the perception of the ACC overnight, nor will it ease the frustration of Virginia Tech’s narrow loss to an unimpressive Michigan team.

For those within Virginia Tech’s locker room following the loss, this was obviously a heartbreaker. It wasn’t a lack of effort; it was a lack of execution. You could see the devastation on receiver Danny Coale’s face when his would-be touchdown reception in overtime was reviewed and called an incomplete pass. You could hear the frustration when running back David Wilson unabashedly singled-out the officiating as the difference in the game. Twice. And you could tell by the look on coach Frank Beamer’s face as he made the long walk to the interview podium after the game that he knew they didn’t get it done and he was going to have to answer for it. Again.

Beamer dropped to 1-5 in BCS games. The ACC dropped another notch with him.

Beamer’s program has been the one tasked with representing the ACC the most often, and while getting to a BCS bowl is an accomplishment in itself, it’s no longer enough to satisfy fans or quiet critics.

“I think everybody in Virginia Tech football put a lot into this ballgame, I can tell you,” Beamer said. “And we wanted to get a win for the ACC and wanted to get a win for Virginia Tech. We haven’t done as well as we want to in these BCS games.”

This one might sting even more than last year’s embarrassing loss to Stanford in the Orange Bowl because it was oh-so-painfully close. Buried in the big picture was a great story about a third-string kicker, Justin Myer, who made the first four field goals of his career and sent the game into overtime before his fifth and most important attempt went wide right, his lone miss of the game. No shame in that performance. There was no shame in the terrific job Bud Foster’s defense did on quarterback Denard Robinson, who had a forgettable performance and was bailed out by receiver Junior Hemingway and the Wolverine's defense. Michigan was held to 184 total yards and just 56 rushing yards.

For a majority of the game, Virginia Tech looked like the better team. It had the better quarterback. It had the better defense. But it didn’t have an answer for the nation’s No. 5 red zone defense.

While there were some calls that could be questioned by the officials (aren’t there always?) it wouldn’t have come down to that had Virginia Tech scored more than one touchdown in six trips.

The Hokies’ performance against Michigan was a microcosm of the ACC’s story in BCS bowls: missed opportunities. It all started in the first quarter, on Virginia Tech’s first offensive possession, and you could almost hear the exasperation throughout ACC country on Twitter.

On first and goal from Michigan’s 4-yard line, Wilson ran for a loss of 22 yards. Uh oh

On fourth-and-1 from Michigan’s 4-yard line, Logan Thomas was held for no gain. Here we go again

Michigan recovered a fumble on a kickoff that led to a field goal and a 10-6 lead. Not again

Thomas intercepted in the third quarter, a play that led to a Michigan touchdown. Again?!

After making the first four field goals of his career, Myer missed what could have been the game-winning 37-yard attempt. Sigh, typical ACC.

It took longer than four quarters for Virginia Tech and the ACC to fall into this hole, and even with two teams in BCS bowls for the first time in league history, it’s going to take more than that to dig out of it.

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: Virginia Tech WR Danny Coale

January, 4, 2012

Heather Dinich talks to Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale after the Hokies' 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Video: Virginia Tech DE James Gayle

January, 4, 2012

Heather Dinich talks to Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle following the Hokies' 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan 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.
NEW ORLEANS -- Virginia Tech running back David Wilson said after the Allstate Sugar Bowl that he is still undecided about whether he is leaving school early for the NFL draft, and that he hasn't yet heard back from the NFL advisory board.

Wilson said he will make an announcement next week regarding his decision.

He also said that his performance in the 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan or the team's performance will not factor into his decision. Wilson finished with 82 yards on 24 carries.

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.