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Posted on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 12:36 a.m.

Grade the Wolverines: Rate Michigan's performance in the Sugar Bowl

By Staff

Here's your chance to weigh in on the Michigan football team's 23-20 overtime win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

Grade the Wolverines on offense, defense, special teams, coaching and overall:


It was in no way pretty, as Michigan sputtered to just 184 total yards. Denard Robinson finished with 13 yards on 13 carries, but Junior Hemingway made two touchdown grabs of 45 and 18 yards.


The Michigan defense was gashed on third downs all night, and allowed Virginia Tech to rack up 377 yards of total offense. It bent, but didn't break — allowing just one touchdown.


Brendan Gibbons was 3-for-3, including the game-winner in overtime. Holder Drew Dileo completed a fake-field goal pass to long snapper Jareth Glanda, J.B. Fitzgerald forced a fumble on a kick return and the Wolverines stopped Virginia Tech on a fake punt.


In three years at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez won 15 games. In one season at Michigan, Brady Hoke won 11.


Denard Robinson was 9-for-21 through the air with an interception, the Wolverines were out-gained on the evening and nothing seemed to go smoothly.

But in the end, Michigan won its second BCS bowl in program history, and first since Tom Brady led the Wolverines to an Orange Bowl crown in 2000.



Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

I'll take a win anyway I can get it. Michigan would have lost this game with the teams we had the last three years. Go Blue!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

Yep Yep - Michigan's Offense did not play great, but their D and special teams did! I am proud of both Michigan teams - they gave the state of Michigan a lot of Kudos. I know there are people on both sides that are upset the other side won (I have a MSU brother that said he would rather have nails pounded into his head than watch UofM), but I think most of us are glad that both teams were skilled enough - with enough luck on their sides to pull off wins! Way to go the State of Michigan. We stopped the Big 10 from being totally embarrassed!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:49 a.m.

If you need to borrow a hammer and nails, I'll loan you mine :)


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

It's impossible to rank the defense in this poll because the line defensive line was very good while the defensive backs were not.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

leaguebus, You have a good point!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

How many touch downs did VT score? Only one. Our D backs did what they needed to do, otherwise, VT would have all touch downs, not field goals.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

Picky, picky, picky!!! You people are never satisfied. They won. That's all that counts!!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Go Blue....Coaches have a lot of work ahead to be competitive with Alabama @ Cowboy stadium. Hopefully the coaching staff stays intact.

Danny Boyd

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

"People will say what they will say regardless of what the stats are. At the end of the day, we know, and I'm sure every other team that plays college football knows, " the best team doesn't always win.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

No, but the team that scores the most points always wins. Football lesson 101: The object of the game is to score more points that your opponent.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

Congratulations to the Maize and Blue! Yes, it was a very ugly win...but it's better than an impressive loss. The defense was ok at best, except for the third and long and fourth downs that Va Tech had; then the defense gave way too much cushion and their poor tackling allowed the Hokies to keep advancing. On offense, the team wasn't much better. The line didn't give Robinson enough opportunity to run. Also, the QB coach had better spend a lot of time with Robinson's throwing technique. The team was very fortunate not to have more interceptions given away. Still, like I said, a win is a win, and hopefully this game will give some confidence and experience to build upon for next season.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

I agree with everything you said except that there were few plays that called for Robinson to run.

Ira Strumwasser

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

Go Blue, the Leaders and Best! Congratulations to the seniors, the team and coaches.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

GO BLUE! I thought it was a masterful coaching job. With Heinneger and Brink out they knew they were extrelmely thin on the D-line and it would be really tough against the power running and long drives of VT. Then VanBergen hurts his ankle early in the second quarter and can't even plant off it. They are in dire straights and know that if VT keeps running these long drives, stamina will be a huge issue and by the early 4th quarter, maybe even as early as the late 3rd the D-Line will have absolutely nothing left and the route will be on. It may have been frustrating to watch, but completely closing down the offense and just running the clock for almost 3 quarters to protect the D-Line was a bold and brilliant move. I don't think Martin sat a single play on defense in the second half and he could barely stand at the end.... and the guts VanBeren had to play through a severe ankle injury was amazing. The pundants may call it ugly, but I thought coaching was a key reason Big Blue was able win the game... I don't think the D-Line had many more plays left in them at the end... GO BLUE!

Lorain Steelmen

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

As I watched the game unfold, I was disappointed that UM did not blow Tech away. But I also noticed that UM did NOT back away, at any point in the game. While the UM defense lacks speed, it certainly did play with intensity. Holding the Hokie TB to 82 yards, they forced VT's QB to win the game. He could NOT do that, although he was very effective. The UM offense missed a 'healthy' Molk, and it was clear that they were not at 'season ending form', relative to timing, etc. As a UM student, since 1965, I can tell you, that 'statistics are for losers'. Bo's teams were not 'pretty' but they were 'tough'. Brady's first team(#132), is 'tough'. This is a great victory, against a tough, intense, opponent. The foundation had been re-established in AA. The Wolves ARE back, and the 'negative shots', coming from our 'little brothers' in EL, only confirm what we all know. The road to the big ten championships will run through AA again, (not EL), and it'll be that way, for many years to come.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

You've been a UM student since 1965? Sweet jeebus, what's your major?!?

Wally the Wolverine

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Lorain, I tend to agree with your assessment of VaTech (i.e. we should've blown them off the field). Call me off base, but if VaTech were in the B1G, I couldn't see them finishing any higher than 4th or 5th in the conference.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

it was very obvious that Michigan was fortunate to win this game. The whole offensive performance came down to two jump ball passes. The D played well. The VT overturned touchdown was a blown call.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 5:15 p.m. jump ball. The near interception that was caught and run for a TD was an ill advised pass, and yes, quite lucky. The pass in the back of the endzone was an NFL caliber pass and catch. Quite amazing.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

I agree with JimB's judgment of the offensive and defensive play. The overturned touchdown, however, was the correct call at least according to the rulebook. The ball was visibly moving around in his arms when he (and the ball) hit the ground. Not much, though, and you gotta give that kid credit for an unbelievable effort! I feel bad for him, but the rules are the rules.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

I don't think that last VT touchdown was a blown call. Based on how they usually call that type of catch I was convinced that the TD would be overturned, and it was. If they would have called it a TD, Michigan would have played differently -- so who knows who would have won.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

I don't see how anyone could call this win "lucky" or denigrate this win in any way. VT started almost every drive in great field position. They took more snaps from within Michigan territory than out. They put the ball into the end zone 5 times yet scored only one touchdown. None of those things happened by themselves. The Wolverines stopped those drives. And then when they needed a score they found a way to do it. That's called winning football people and it don't happen by accident or luck.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

Is it not luck any more when through out the year Denard continues to throw the ball up to receivers who are double and triple covered and Michigan guys come down with it? Do we now consider that accurate passing? It was purely luck and nothing but LUCK that Michigan scored their first touchdown. It should have been a pick. It was not and Michigan's defense needed to play very well at times because it played horrendously at times! In all it was a great win and I think Michigan wins that game 99 out of a 100 times. I think the actual story should be how lucky Vtech was that 3-4 starters for michigan were hurt. Go Blue!!!

David Paris

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

As you point out, the Defense did their job quite nicely, however the Offense did not show the Authority on the field that they did in some of their regular season wins. I don't think they have any excuse for such poor play (look at the stats) overall, but with Coach Hoke at the helm, I have no doubt we'll come out strong next year. If anything, this game was an indicator of where to improve for next season, and I know that this coach will learn from the tapes. It was a win, but it wasn't a Great Michigan win.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

This game is proof in the pudding, if you will, of how great a job Hoke has done and is doing with the guys he has and the guys he is recruiting! The issues that popped up last night were glarring! I could go on ripping those that should be ripped like Roh and Demens and Borges and Denard but I dont think it is necessary. That was a great win for the seniors, Michigan, and the Big 10! Especially after the big10 bashing at the beginning of every ESPN episode and football game! Go Blue!!! Congrats!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

"Especially after the big10 bashing at the beginning of every ESPN episode and football game!" Indeed! The media kept stating that the B1G needed to step up and win some bowl games. Problem is, by my calculations, Every ranked B1G team was pitted against a higher BCS ranked opponent, and many of our conference teams weren't even ranked that played in bowls. Yet they take 10 teams from the conference...why? because we "travel well". Once the sports media understands that the bowl season is all about money and little about competition, they'll finally get it. Until then, they need to stop raggin' on the B1G.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

Why didn't Robinson run? Michigan's biggest threat was non-existent. Hoke provided the players with the spirit and confidence the team needed. Great coach!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Good god, man! Didn't you see VT's defense blowing up the line of scrimmage? There was no place to run! You can't run when there's no holes to run through. You can't pass effectively when you have about 2-3 seconds to get it off. I totally agree with the second part of your comment. The coaching staff definitely has these players over achieving. Brendan Gibbons is the best example of how a coaching staff can instill confidence in a player. He's night and day different from last year.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

UM and MSU's bowl opponents comparison chart: Defense: Georgia=VT Offense: GeorgiaGeorgia.....VT>MSU Denard isn't a good passer but he has heart. GEAUX BLUE!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Lack of imagination in offensive play calling got to be alarming--we just gave away 1st down on series after series when any kind of play action pass down the middle would have gone for miles. This put Denard behind the 8 ball on series after series. Still, he found a way to get it into Hemingway's hands twice and the defense kept VT out of the end zone for almost 3 quarters. What a difference from a year ago! Congratulations on a happy ending to a remarkable season.

Nice in A2

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

I think coaching/preparation won us this game. Michigan was playing to minimize costly mistakes. VT was making mistakes all over the place. Denard's INT was one of those "it's just a long punt if they pick it" plays. All of Michigan first half points came from DB's going for picks instead of easy tip-aways I kept hoping that Michigan would open up the offense but it was clear that we were not going to unless we fell behind by more than a score.

David Paris

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

I'd have to disagree, I think that coaching and preparation were severely lacking in Team 132. With a brand new practice facility that was built specifically for bowl preparation, I'd say that this team failed. According to Coach Hoke, Danny Coale's called back reception looked like a touchdown to him. I'm a Wolverine Fan, but no doubt, we got lucky on this one!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

Big Blue wins a BS bowl...and voters give them a poor....shoot....I could care LESS who had more total yards. How many keystone Cop moments their were... Michigan 23 - Virginny Tech 20.....In my book that is EXCELLENT


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Considering where this team was coming from after the last three seasons...the fact that we were even hanging around in a BCS bowl game against VA Tech is amazing. Then to stay tough and win? On Brendan Gibbons FG, no less? AMAZING! 11-2 in year one for coach Hoke and his staff is absolutely incredible. This team will only get better over the years with top notch recruiting and coaching. Nice to know that even at 11-2 with a BCS bowl win, this team will get even better. Go Blue!!!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

Absolutely correct, isn't it great to have upperclassmen with experience on the team?


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

COACHING In three years at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez won 15 games. In one season at Michigan, Brady Hoke won 11. I thought we were asking about the Sugar Bowl, not some fit all referrendum on the year? What does RRs record have to do with this game any more than Bump Elliots? Coaching for this game might include questions on play calling and what defense was called on 3rd and 20-something? I don't think RR played or coached in this game.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

And just think, a lot of people said RR's recruits were too small to win.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

All you Sparty trolls seem to think you dominated your bowl game, you didnt. You only won because of the same thing, a missed fg in overtime. Go back to your own blogs little brother.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

As a neutral party (in AA), I'm proud of both teams. However, looking at time of possession, first downs, and yardage, I'd say that MSU played the better game. Should be an interesting match-up next year!

David Paris

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

What are you talking about????


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

A W. enough said. Great team spirt. No die attitude. Not like the Rich Rod years. Great win Brady and all the UM team. Remember Bo. If you stay ........ Well Champions the Wolverines are in 2011-2012!!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

We'll take the win even though VT won statistically in all categories except the one that matters. I hope we greatly improve the offensive line soon, and hats off to the D for stopping them in the red zone.

Ed Kimball

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

"except the one that matters" -- you mean turnovers? ;-) Actually, it was an ugly game for both teams. Congrats to the Wolverines for taking advantage of the breaks the got to get a W.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

This game was a perfect example of why I don't place much stock in bowl games. Because of the extended period of time since the last game, these bowls more often resemble the opening games of the season. Despite the best effort of the coaching staffs, it's extremely difficult to maintain team focus through finals, the holidays, bowl game festivities, etc. Michigan was definitely not prepared to play in prime time last night. Not a game to be proud of, but I'll take the W. Kudos to Brendan Gibbons for a clutch performance to cap a remarkable turn-around year for him. (Will Hagerup, please take note.)


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:13 a.m.

Va tech did have something to prove but Michigan did beat a team that was 11 and 2 going into the game. A good team makse luck fall on their side more often than not. Glad the Maizie and Blue horseshoe was working. It wasn't the greatest offensive performance but I factor in 5 weeks in between games as one reason for the lackluster performance. A great win, none the less for a team that never gives up.

average joe

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

I wouldn't throw in that excuse of being off 5 weeks. I've seen several team's offenses play like they never had a week off and were continuing their season in several of the recent bowl games.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 8:29 a.m.

Ugly win. Pro: Michigan stayed in the game, if only to give VT the chance to make enough mistakes for Michigan to win. Con: Michigan's offensive team is too small. Michigan's defensive team is too small. GROW BLUE!


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 6:45 a.m.

After backing in through the back door they did just enough to win.lucky,lucky,lucky

Jojo B

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

Guys -- this is a silly argument thread. UM had a great team this year. But don't be blind to the fact that we won by luck and by bad VT special teams blunders. Look at the stats comparing the two teams. It's okay, a win is a win, but... winning by good performance vs. winning by luck plays into the psyche of next year's team and the confidence of the athletes. I'd choose good performance over luck any day, but that's just me. So let's celebrate, but not get all cocky-headed about how invincible we are.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Well, fjord, this supposedly lucky team went 11-2 and just won a BCS bowl game. Not far, eh? How did your "sky's the limit" team fare?


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

That might make for a nice saying, but in the end a team that relies on luck won't go very far. A team that's actually good ... sky's the limit.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 7 a.m.

As a sports coach, you take luck over good any day.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 6:48 a.m.

Wins a win last I checked.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 6:37 a.m.

A very average performance but a great, great victory! I'll take it, Go Blue!!!