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Posted on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan football team trying to avoid another 'embarrassing' bowl showing; so is Virginia Tech

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan tight end Kevin Koger sits on the bench in the second half of a blowout loss to Mississippi State in last year's Gator Bowl. "We went down to Jacksonville and didn't put on our best performance," he said said this week. "It was embarrassing, to say the least."

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football team celebrated after it landed a spot in the Gator Bowl last season and snapped a two-year postseason drought.

Then it had its heart ripped out, and fired its coach.

Needless to say, the No. 13 Wolverines (10-2) are hoping for a little different bowl experience this year when they face No. 17 Virginia Tech (11-2) on Jan. 3 in the Sugar Bowl.

“I think that that’s exactly what this is," senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said on Monday. "It provides an opportunity for the guys who played last year and fell so short in that bowl game -- it provides us a chance to redeem ourselves and show that we can put forth a championship effort in a championship game.

"That’s why I think everyone’s going to be so well motivated and so excited for it.”

Michigan, which went to 33 consecutive bowls before missing the postseason in former coach Rich Rodriguez's first two seasons, went 7-5 last year and drew a matchup with Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

Only, it wasn't much of a matchup.

The Wolverines took an early 14-10 lead, but didn't score again and were embarrassed in a 52-14 loss in front of a national TV audience. They allowed 42 unanswered points, despite four weeks to get healthy and correct defensive deficiencies.

They didn't, and Rodriguez was out.

"We went down to Jacksonville and didn’t put on our best performance," senior tight end Kevin Koger said this week. "It was embarrassing, to say the least.

"We can learn from our mistakes. We’re definitely going to have a little fun, but our main focus is to go down there and win a football game."

That preparation begins this week, when the Wolverines practice twice. They will take the next week off for finals, then begin bowl preparation in earnest next weekend.

Initial workouts will focus on fundamentals and developing the young players before moving on to implementing the game plan.

"We've done (bowl practice) a couple different ways, but things we want to stress are the fundamentals, getting back into the fundamentals and techniques we want to play with," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said by phone Sunday night.

The Wolverines hope that plan works better than last year's.

The Hokies are hoping the same thing, as they were routed 40-12 by Stanford in last year's Orange Bowl. They have not fared well under coach Frank Beamer in BCS bowl games, winning one of four appearances.

Two of those BCS losses were in the Sugar Bowl, falling 46-29 to Florida State in the 1999 championship game and 16-13 to Auburn in 2004.

The Hokies have one Sugar Bowl win under Beamer, a 28-10 victory against Texas in 1995, but it pre-dated the BCS era.

"The people there at the Sugar Bowl, we've had quite a bit of experience with them and they're just first class," Beamer told reporters via conference call Sunday. "They do things right. It's always been a great experience to cover that bowl and spend a week in the city there, just first class all the way."

This is Michigan's second trip to the Sugar Bowl. Ironically, it also lost to Auburn in its last trip to New Orleans, a 9-7 defeat in 1984.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

A win for Mich. would be a signiture win for the team and coaches and would cap off a nice season for MIchigan. The thing is , this is one of those games where either team could win and just as easily lose. I think that this game in particular could depend on whose got the best coaches. There again is a problem for either team because I believe Virginia Tech has solid coaching and I know Mich. has solid coaches. So, what this means to me is , I can't wait for kickoff cause this should be a darn good game and a BCS game ta boot. The past 3 three years are a distant memory, let the good times roll and Go Blue!


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 10:08 p.m.

I like U-M's chances in this game, I was really impressed with how SDSU was prepared and how they played in their Bowl Game last year. That was shear domination and a great game plan, this is what we will be accustomed to with U-M this year and the future as far as Bowl Games are concerned. As much as I revered Bo's Era, we seemed to press in Bowl Games the 1st decade even though we had some of the most powerful teams around and then we improved greatly in the 2nd decade with Bo. I think this game might be close early and then we will separate from VTech in the 2nd half and win by a couple of TD's or more. Finishing 11-2 and winning the last 4 games of this year would set a wonderful setting going into next season and possibly being a top 5 team going into that Bama game, it's gonna be fun.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

This is going to be a great game, especially if both teams are on their game. I was born and raised right here in Ann Arbor, but my brother is a VT grad, so I'm a winner either way. I'm looking forward to a good fight from both teams!!

Terry Star21

Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

Sometimes an old coach can't let go and the only that's worse is when an old newspaper can't let go. MgoBlueForTiM......Michigan Football, giving us the best of everything !


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

In some Posters' attempts to bash RR and last year team's performance in the Bowl, remember, as Hoke said, " he didn't play a down", so it's the young players you guys are indirectly bashing. These kids get frustrated with all the bashing coming from a bunch of older men/women who more than likely, never played a down of organized football. Most of the players on this year's team played last year, and M need them to win this game, BH, GM & AB can't do it by themselves. Instead of criticizing last years' performance, let's encourage this years'.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that the players who were on the team last year agree with what people are saying about this year's performance and the new coaching staff and style. Just watch these kids as they respond to and adore their coaches this year. See much of that last year? If you want to have kids win, you need to coach them well, and with a positive attitude at all times. I understand that many people were "down on" RR when he got here, but the way to put that to rest is to do a great coaching job and show a lot of improvement. When a new coach has an effective offense and a down defense and down special teams, they are not going to leave him alone. Try to remember those three years. I'll leave you to your memories. I think a lot of people had some doubts about Brady Hoke, too, but once he opened his mouth, you could tell that this guy had the attitude that would get things done. If Hoke had had two BIg 10 wins this year, he would have heard about it, too. If he did that for three years, well, excuses don't count for much at that level, and Brady doesn't even know what an excuse is. So I think the players get it. They have great talent. They have developed basics. They have great coaches. They have a lot of confidence. They play a 60 minute game and never give up. They are a winning team. They will play a strong, aggressive, full-out game against VT. They know we don't hold the past against them. Go Blue!


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

That is the point of the article, our Michigan football athletes have been coached up this year. They've won some close games, had a few come from behind wins as well. Since most of them played in a bowl game, last year, they have the experience under their belt. I hope they understand the meaning of the word armchair quarterbacks and are probably used to it. GO BLUE!!!


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

I suppose Dave Brandon was "bashing" RR when he fired him for not living up to expectations and for having a losing record. You are mistaking people bringing up facts for "bashing".

Lorain Steelmen

Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Tally, thanks for putting all this in it's proper persepective. These kids have grown a year older, and have benefitted from great coaching. But at the end of the day, it is the players that have stepped up.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

Thank goodness they didn't get Georgia!!


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.

We would have beaten Georgia as well. This is not a team that is coached by whatshisname.

1st Down

Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 6:26 p.m.

Michigan will not get embarrassed in this bowl. This is not last year under that coaching regime. This team gets stronger in second half of games and does not fold. Fundamentally this team is faarrrr superior than last year's and that is due to coaching.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

This is Michigan's second trip to the Sugar Bowl. Ironically, it also lost to Auburn in its last trip to New Orleans, a 9-7 defeat in 1984. Not irony. Coincidence maybe.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

Oh, nevermind, gotcha. Both played Auburn for a loss in the Sugar Bowl.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

Please explain. Michigan is playing Virginia Tech. I don't see the irony.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

We took care of our "another embarrassing bowl showing" problem when we fired our previous coach. We will win this game. Besides Clemson, Va. Tech really hasn't played a very strong schedule, so there # 11 ranking and 11-2 record is a little deceiving. Coach Of The Year Hoke and staff will have our team ready to play. and we will win by at least 10 points. Geaux Blue !


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

Michigan played a tough schedule....


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

I agree Mission!!The last 10 years heisman winners and prediction for 2011: 2000 Weinke, Chris Florida State Quarterback 1,628 2001 Crouch, Eric Nebraska Quarterback 770 2002 Palmer, Carson USC Quarterback 1,328 2003 White, Jason Oklahoma Quarterback 1,481 2004 Leinart, Matt USC Quarterback 1,325 2005 Bush, Reggie (vacated)[n 1] [n 2][n 3] USC Running back 2,541 2006 Smith, Troy Ohio State Quarterback 2,540 2007 Tebow, Tim Florida Quarterback 1,957 2008 Bradford, Sam Oklahoma Quarterback 1,726 2009 Ingram, Jr., Mark Alabama Running back 1,304 2010 Newton, Cam Auburn Quarterback 2011 Hoke, Brady Michigan Coach


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

I love that Rimington trophy Meangoblue!! I can picture it now.......Molk thrusting the trophy into the air!! The crowd in New Orleans goes nuts!! Then...... Koger and Van Bergen both accept the heisman and simutaneously strike the heisman pose at midfield!! You a genius meanie!!!!


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

Well kids......a year later and my how things change. MEANgo predicts a total reversal: MEEEEEEANchigan 52 VA Tech 14 Post game ceremony: Koger and Van Bergen are awarded the first ever Co-heisman!!!! David Molk is given the RIMington Trophy!! THEO212, Mission, the ghost and Dusty reconcile at mid field and sing a Josh Groban tune together!! MEEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football is on a tear!! As Van bergen, Molk and Koger bring home the hardware!!!


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

"THEO212, Mission, the ghost and Dusty reconcile at mid field and sing a Josh Groban tune together!!" Nice finishing touch... but I think theo will be in Arizona.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

The full story behind last year's bowl game embarrassment is that game was simply a repetition of the entire season and the season before: good starts which were quickly snuffed and a team having such a fragile spirit that it gave up immediately. And behind that is the story of a coach who was never welcomed or helped in any way - from the very hour he arrived at U of M. This is a disgrace: so I'm sure many will not want it mentioned. But honor is not gained by denial or evasions. The past is past, so I just hope the Wolverines players who "experienced" the last two seasons will be fully vindicated in the Sugar Bowl. Everyone involved in Michigan's football program must know beyond doubt that all Michigan People fully support them and appreciate their efforts. The Team: you guys are wonderful. Go Blue and Thanks for all you do!


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 4 p.m.

In Hoke we trust will be the montra for this BCS Bowl game. Michigan should have one advantage of playing a tougher schedule. The B1G is tougher than the ACC. I have no doubt Brady Hoke and staff will have this prepared to play a solid game against Va Tech...Go Blue!

Lorain Steelmen

Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 3:44 p.m.

I look for a close contest here. Statistically, these teams are evenly matched and the spread is only 1-2 points. From what little I know about Beamer, the Hokies will come in as a 'blue collar, no nonsense team', that will not beat themselves. I think Hoke is right on the money, to stress basics and fundamentals here. This a has been a fun team to watch this year. The kids have made progress all season long, and have stayed focused, on the task at hand, even after tough loses. The program is headed in the right direction, although I agree with the coaches, that there is much more work to be done. I look for Mattison to stop the run first, and commit safties to support that. I doubt that the Hokie QB is a moblie as Miller, so we may see more blitzes, than we did versus ohio, to protect the corners. I'll be interested in Roh's play, and whether Beyer is able to play. Good luck to the 2011 team, Let's FINISH the job! Don't bother about the whinning and the distracsions, from outside the program. None of that has any bearing in the game to be played. I recall the '84 Sugar Bowl, and a hard fought 9-7 struggle versus Auburn. This one could well be physical, as well. Go Blue!


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

I find it funny, New Orleans has what 40 bowl games. What the... anyHoo, I think big blue is studing every down VT has played. Last season UM was road kill. That team didn't believe in themselves. Nearly the same team. What a year makes. Make no mistake about it...caoch Beamer is doing the same thing. The only difference, VT was destroyed in their last game...that lingers

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

Wouldn't it be fun if Michigan had to play an extra game against MSU?


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 3:21 p.m.

Let's see, one embarrassing game this season, about 20 or so over the past 3 years. One thing Hoke does is instill confidence in the fanbase that he will have these kids as ready as they can be. Perhaps more ready than we expect them to be. And focusing on fundamentals is where it starts. Never had that with the old staff.

Wally the Wolverine

Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 10:13 p.m.

I think it's because of the tons of yardage that state gave up in penalties that gave us tons of yardage and we still couldn't capaitalize. What conerns me is we only had 1 game against a quality opponent outside the friendly confines of the state of Michigan (Iowa). Wins against mediocre Illinois and Purdue aren't really good measuring sticks for how good we can be on the road. I'm sure Hoke will keep the boys focused and from being overconfident. If not, I don't want to think about what might happen.


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

What game this year was embarrassing? I know UM didn't play well against state, but they had two chances to tie in the 4th and I wouldn't call it embarrassing. Not trying to be a jerk or anything. Just wondering. I love Hoke. I personally have taken a few of his coaching points for my freshman basketball team. He instills accountability, doesn't ignore fundamentals and is a straight from the hip guy with his players and recruits.