Allstate Sugar Bowl Recap: Michigan over Virginia Tech, 23-20 (OT)

Michigan's Junior Hemingway Grabbed Two Touchdowns in Their 23-20 Sugar Bowl Win Over Virginia Tech

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.

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Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Michigan

The 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl Matches Virginia Tech Against Michigan

After suffering an embarrassing loss at the hands of Clemson in the ACC title game, few outside of Blacksburg gave Virginia Tech much of a chance to get to a BCS bowl. Yet, the Allstate Sugar Bowl organizers found the Hokies more appealing than the rest of the at-large field, despite owning zero wins against top-25 competition. They’ll face a resurgent Michigan team in what is arguably their toughest test to date.

Bowl Game: (Allstate) Sugar Bowl

Location: New Orleans, La.

First Year: 1935

2012 Participants: Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2) vs. Michigan Wolverines (10-2)

Last Meeting: None

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Virginia Tech (previous bowl game: 40-12 loss to Stanford in 2011 Orange Bowl)

Virginia Tech ran roughshod over its competition for much of the regular season, with its only loss coming to Clemson back in October. Though the Tigers would get the better of them once again in the ACC Championship Game, the Hokies defense remains one of the premiere units in the country — finishing eighth overall (FBS) in points allowed per game. While always a strong point, this year’s edition of the Tech D was first in the conference in sacks, second in interceptions, first in opponents third down conversion rate and second in turnover margin. On the other hand (as mentioned earlier), Virginia Tech lost their only two games to teams ranked in the final top 25 (both to Clemson) and was tested very little in the non-conference schedule. Also of note, they’ve been shown to struggle against mobile quarterbacks (Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, and for three quarters, Georgia Tech‘s Tevin Washington, in particular).

Michigan (previous bowl game: 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in 2011 Gator Bowl)

First-year coach Brady Hoke has brought the Wolverines back to the national spotlight, with a new, exciting brand of Michigan football that was regularly a must-watch game of the week. Quarterback Denard Robinson, their mobile and exciting captain, has delivered clutch play and an increased sense of maturity in 2011 — with come-from-behind victories and over 3,200 total yards. As frightening as Robinson is, however, he’s not the only piece of the puzzle. Michigan sports their own impressive defensive attack, ranking one spot ahead of Virginia Tech at seventh overall in points allowed. With so many ways to beat you, the Wolverines have scored at least 30 points in nine of their 12 games, and held opponents to 14 points or less in six games. Given time to gameplan for Robinson however, defenses have been prone to containing him (Iowa and Michigan State both did the job this season).

Verdict

In a game that could potentially be about two great defenses, this matchup may actually come down to who executes best on offense. With weapons like Robinson and the Hokies’ Logan Thomas on either side, points may actually hit the 30s for both teams, nullifying both defenses. Ultimately, the teams’ similar rushing attacks also equal off, leaving it up to their respective passing capabilities. In spite of Thomas’s superior numbers, Robinson is truly the better creator when passing the ball. And, since he’s been involved in more lopsided victories, his opportunities for late throws have been fewer. It may seem to be an inexact science, but the nod goes to Michigan and their high-powered attack. Prediction: Michigan 33, Virginia Tech 28