How far has Michigan come? Coach Brady Hoke played for OT field goal all along
The kicking situation became so unseemly last year, former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez held midseason open student-body tryouts.
A year later, coach Brady Hoke intentionally avoided scoring a touchdown just so he could set up a game-winning field goal try in overtime.
Of a BCS game.
"To be honest with you, I didn’t want to go for the end zone," Hoke said Thursday at his season wrap-up news conference. "We hadn’t really got in there, besides the ... two catches Junior (Hemingway) makes. Didn’t want to lose yardage taking a sack."
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Georgia and Stanford used similar conservative strategies in their bowl games, and lost.
The Wolverines did not, as kicker Brendan Gibbons converted a 37-yard attempt to give Michigan a 23-20 win against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. He also hit from 39 yards with 4 minutes left in regulation to help extend the game for Michigan.
Gibbons was just 1-of-5 on field goals last year and missed his only attempt in the Gator Bowl. He went 3-for-3 in the bowl game this year and finished 13-of-17 on the season.
A year after finishing last in the country in field-goal accuracy at 28.6 percent, Michigan was 36th this season at 76.5 percent. That helped to give Hoke confidence in the kicking game once Virginia Tech went scoreless in its half of overtime.
He handed the ball twice to Toussaint, picking up 5 yards.
"There was a thought of kicking on third down, but on the second down, we ended up on the right hash," Hoke said. "So, on the third down, we wanted to get back to the middle of the field and just called the power play, put (Gibbons) in the middle and let him kick it.
"If we had gotten to the 15 (for the first down), we probably would have kicked it then."
Gibbons said after the game he knew it was good as soon as it left his foot.
He really hit the big time after the game, though, when the sophomore divulged he thinks about brunette girls before kicks to settle his nerves. The comment went viral online and landed on "SportsCenter."
"Every time we were struggling in kicking, Coach tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls," Gibbons said after the game. "So, that's what we did, and I made the kick."
Hoke said that strategy dates to an early practice last year.
"We kick a field goal at the end of every 2-minute (drill) on Thursday, and I always call a couple timeouts trying to ice the kicker," Hoke said. "And I asked him, 'You’re from Florida, aren’t ya?'
"I said, 'What makes you happy? The beach? You like the beach?' He said yes. I said, 'What makes you happy?' He said the sand, the water and pretty girls. I said, 'Pretty blondes?'
"He said brunettes, and that’s the end of the story.
After Tuesday, it's a story that has the nation's attention.
And a happy ending.
Brendan Gibbons opened up to AnnArbor.com earlier this year about his struggles and how he overcame them. That story can be found here.