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Posted on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

Game balls: Brendan Gibbons, Junior Hemingway and others

By Nick Baumgardner

Game balls from the Michigan football team's 23-20 overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

Brendan Gibbons (FOUR): The sophomore kicker went just 1-of-5 last season, and entering this year, had his accuracy and ability questioned. On Tuesday, Gibbons was the hero, going 3-for-3. His 37-yard game-winner in overtime clinched a Sugar Bowl victory (the second BCS win in Michigan history) and an 11-win season for first-year coach Brady Hoke.

Junior Hemingway (FOUR): In his final game at Michigan, the fifth-year senior made two spectacular catches for the Wolverines' lone touchdowns. Hemingway — later named the game's Most Valuable Player — was able to out-wrestle Virginia Tech defenders before sprinting the rest of the way for a 45-yard, second-quarter score. In the third quarter, Hemingway's leaping 18-yard grab in the back of the end zone gave Michigan a 17-6 lead. On a night when nothing seemed to work offensively, "big play" Hemingway found a way to provide a spark. Afterward, an emotional Hemingway fought back tears of joy on the celebration stage while accepting his MVP trophy.

J.B. Fitzgerald and the rest of the special teams(THREE): Another senior playing in his final game, Fitzgerald changed the momentum of the game in the second quarter by popping loose a fumble on a Virginia Tech kick return. Thanks to that play, the Wolverines went into the locker room up 10-6 after being out-played for most of the first half. The rest of the special teams (including Gibbons) was also a consistent difference-maker. From Delonte Hollowell recovering the Fitzgerald forced-fumble, to Jake Ryan and the defensive line dropping Danny Coale for a 7-yard loss on a fake punt in the fourth quarter, Michigan's special teams unit was much more special than Virginia Tech's.

Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen (two): Michigan's defense wasn't perfect Tuesday, but their senior leaders did all they could. Martin and Van Bergen — both game captains Tuesday — combined for 14 tackles and a sack from their respective defensive line positions. The duo provided the heartbeat to Michigan's defense for most of the season, and in their final game together as collegiate athletes, they found ways to make a difference.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

Should have given one to the Zebras and the BCS selection process to.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

Man that defense is going to suck next year without Martin and Van Bergen. I don't know what denard is going to do without hemingway to bail him out.

Bruce Ball

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

I think that amazing interception by F. Clark deserves some mention, too!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

11-2. Incredible...


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:17 a.m.

If there is ever a time to look at the glass half full, it is now. A narrow 23-20 win against a detremined Va tech team. I give the entire Michigan Football team 4 games balls for the 11-2 season, including the coaching staff.