What happened: “Beamer ball” fell short in a BCS bowl again tonight, as the Virginia Tech Hokies lost the Allstate Sugar Bowl 23-20 in overtime to the Michigan Wolverines. In a game of closely-matched teams, what most folks will end up remembering are the Hokies monumental mistakes on special teams, as well as two questionable calls late in the contest. Even more puzzling, Tech held the high-powered Michigan attack to just 184 total yards, and 23 minutes of possession time — yet still, due to their own inefficiencies in the opposing zone, could not capitalize. Among their biggest gaffes, Virginia Tech’s James Hopper roughed the kicker on a late punt which led to a touchdown, followed immediately by a fumble on the ensuing kickoff (leading to a UM field goal, aided in field position by a misplayed defense of a fake field goal). Biggest of all was the missed field goal in overtime, handing the Wolverines an easy shot at the winning points soon after. Interestingly, overtime could have been averted completely, had WR Danny Coale‘s spectacular touchdown grab stood (this viewer thought it looked like a catch). Later, on the game-winning field goal in OT, Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons also appeared to have a false start — but was not flagged.
Who’s to Blame: While ESPN’s main crew tried to avoid the apparent controversy that could result from the issues laid out above, ESPNU’s Jason Sehorn seemed awfully skeptical of the outcome, though he avoided the obligatory conversation on “fairness” one would expect. Putting these issues aside, the finger points to Virginia Tech’s atrocious special teams play, specifically by the aforementioned Hopper and placekicker Justin Myer, whose first miss on five attempts couldn’t have come at a worse moment.
It Was Over When: Gibbons’ 37-yard field goal sailed directly through the uprights in the first overtime. Once Myer missed his shot for the Hokies, it was just a simple three plays by Michigan to advance the ball a few yards for the winning try.
Game Ball Goes To: Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway, for his two touchdown grabs, and for being the only UM offensive player that appeared to have a pulse tonight. If not for the late touchdown that was called back, this honor would be going to Coale, who still managed eight catches for 117 yards. Given the Michigan triumph, however, credit’s also due to first-year head coach Brady Hoke, who got this team believing in his system quickly, resulting in a Sugar Bowl victory and an 11-win season.
Predictions Update: Though I’m 4-3 in the seven ACC bowl games thus far, the conference is not doing nearly as well. As the shame train continues, the league drops to 2-5 in postseason play, with two games remaining. This will not quiet the critics, no matter how close most of these contests were.