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Posted on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Two key calls shaped Michigan's Sugar Bowl win against Virginia Tech

By Rich Rezler


Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale hauls in a pass during overtime of the Sugar Bowl. The catch was ruled a touchdown by on-field officials, but overturned in a replay review.

Melanie Maxwell |

NEW ORLEANS -- The city of New Orleans has begun its transition from gracious Sugar Bowl host to focus on the upcoming BCS National Championship game, which will be played at the Superdome on Monday night.

Around town, Michigan’s maize and blue is being replaced by LSU purple and gold; Virginia Tech’s maroon and orange by Alabama crimson.

While Michigan fans rolled out of town thrilled with a perceived return to national relevance after the Wolverines' 11-win season was capped with a 23-20 overtime victory in the BCS bowl game on Tuesday night, Hokies fans were likely focused on two game-changing calls.

One was made by the Pac-12 officiating crew. The other was made by their head coach and special teams guru, Frank Beamer.

Both involved fifth-year senior Danny Coale.

The most dramatic, of course, was the replay official overturning a touchdown call on Coale’s diving reception in overtime on a 3rd-and-5 play. The incomplete pass was followed by a Justin Myer missed field goal, setting up Michigan for a game-winning kick by Brendan Gibbons.

Video and still photographic evidence has fueled a debate around the Internet about whether Coale caught the ball in bounds -- the highlight clip ESPN posted to YouTube is titled “Danny Coale Robbed of Amazing Catch” -- which in itself questions the replay official’s ability to find a conclusive reason to overturn the touchdown call made on the field.

During the review process, Hokie fans cheered every time the replay was shown on the giant Superdome video screens. Virginia Tech players agreed with their assumption that the play would stand.

“He made a great play. From the two angles we saw, I guess we thought it was a touchdown,” said quarterback Logan Thomas. “And we couldn't see any other way, because inconclusive evidence or whatever it was, but I guess the official saw something.

“So, I mean, it's tough. But just to know that we were that close.”

Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, who was trailing Coale into the end zone, also thought the catch was good.

"I mean, I was standing right in front of him. I was probably the closest person to him on the catch and I saw it. I turned around and the referee said touchdown, and threw his hands up,” Wilson said. “They reviewed it and, for some reason, they changed it.

“I don't think there was clear evidence to reverse the call."

In retrospect, Beamer would reverse a different call.

The veteran Virginia Tech coach has used Coale as his full-time punter since the Hokies’ final regular season game against Virginia. In that time, they have experimented in practice with a rugby-style rollout punt-run option that capitalizes on the athleticism of the second-leading receiver in school history.

Beamer called for the play for the first time in game action in the Sugar Bowl, with the score tied 17-17 and seven minutes left to play.

Coale took the snap on the 4th-and-1 play from the Michigan 48-yard-line, rolled to his right and was stopped by Michigan redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Ryan -- his fourth tackle-for-loss, tying a Sugar Bowl record.


Delonte Hollowell prepares to pounce on a fumbled Virginia Tech kickoff. His recovery led to one of three short Michigan scoring drives in its Sugar Bowl win.

Melanie Maxwell |

“It was a yard. If (Michigan) dropped off, had a little seam, we were going to go for the first. If not, we're going to kick it and try and pin them down deep,” Beamer said. “So we had that option going. And their guy (Ryan) did a nice job. He looked like he was going to go outside and all of a sudden jumped back in underneath and got us.”

Coale was stopped for a loss of 7 yards, giving a struggling Michigan offense the ball at the Virginia Tech 45. The Wolverines moved 23 yards in seven plays before Gibbons put Michigan ahead 20-17 with a 39-yard field goal.

“In the big picture, you know, we gave them the ball on our side of the 50 too many times,” said Beamer.

The Wolverines had already turned two Virginia Tech turnovers into short scoring drives. Freshman cornerback Delonte Hollowell recovered a fumble on a kickoff that led to a Gibbons field goal and a 10-6 lead as time expired on the first half. Early in the second half, an interception by freshman defensive end Frank Clark led to a three-play, 35-yard scoring drive capped by game MVP Junior Hemingway’s second touchdown catch.

The failed fake punt gave the Wolverines another short field to work with at a crucial point in the game.

At the time, Michigan had 16 yards of offense in four second-half possessions. The Hokies finished the game with a 377-184 advantage in total yards while keeping Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson - who rushed for a career-low 13 yards - under wraps.

“If you could go back, I'd take a couple of decisions back,” Beamer said. “But that’s knowing how things worked out. They are what they are.”

Rich Rezler is a sports producer for Contact him at or 734-623-2553.



Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

It was a catch by Coale, VT was robbed of the win. So what does michigan do , they give Hoke a bonus of 125 grand. One of the absolute worst coached+played bowl games I have seen in years and some of you say Denard is ready for the NFL, hah ! All he can do is throw "hail marry's" and pray that someone can catch the ball. What a joke hoke ! Go Green Go White

Old Salt

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:21 a.m.

Please give us the stats of the game in your sunday paper or put them on line please


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

imagine that all these wolverine slappies say no touchdown.refs got it right. just the opposite of the Tech slappies i'll bet.

Robert Honeyman

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

then there are the lions slappies who moan about the fact that technology still hasn't advanced to the point where an overhead camera might have been able to pick up the logan non-fumble, allowing the replay guys to show that he was stripped after he was down. but, you know what? the nfl doesn't have the resources for such cutting edge technology so i say, whatever. can't tell from the video evidence, can't complain about the final call. then compare that to the non-td in question here. the sugars are sufficiently advanced that they were able to provide the refs with clear shots showing the ball was trapped before being secured. how's that make me a slappy? i'd be a slappy if i thought for one minute that michigan was better than the hoagies but they're not. the 2011 football team was a team that played above its ability (look: these are richrod recruits. not many from michigan's traditional stomping grounds were overly excited about playing for mr. defense? what's that?) and got stupidly lucky. sort of like the lions. except the lions actually have talent, finally.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

it's to bad they didn't go into 25 overtimes. Tech was robbed by the refs and by their own misplays.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

The ball hit the ground when there was no evidence of clear control by the receiver. Right call all the way.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2 p.m.

All this speculation over the reversed call is pure conjecture. Since that is the path everyone is taking, OK fine. Let's go with the TD being upheld. The score is VT 27 M 20. Now M has the ball on the 25 yard-line and the game takes a totally different path. A path that is even more complicated than this on going conjecture. Let's say M scores. Now it is VT 27 M 27. On to the second OT. What happens then? If both teams score, they go to the third OT. What happens then? They both score, then they go to the fourth OT and they both score. THEN WHAT ? Perhaps it is best to accept that the game ended in the first OT with a ton of speculation over the call, the replay, the coaches decision, etc. Where does the speculation end? Perhaps if the initial conjecture would have been addresses, Boise State would have beaten Kansas State 62 -14 and people would have complained about a boring mis-match in the Sugar Bowl. I like the BCS system. It is just like what we had before, computers and people will never solve the controversy. Just bracket the schols and play the games. It is done at many levels. Why not here?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

After the third OT, each team has to go for two points after the touchdown. Eventually one will fail.

Blue Marker

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

You know how I know it wasn't a catch? Because the video ref said so! Seriously though, you get some calls and you get jobbed on others. It all works out in the end. I didn't think it was a catch but I also didn't think there was enough to over-turn the on-field call from video. I'm showing my age but I still remember Charles White "scoring" for USC in the Rose Bowl even though replay showed he didn't have the ball. I will say this has to be the luckiest team in my memory of Michigan football. When you look at the ND game, the OSU game and the bowl game I think that's some of the most fortunate victories all in one season.

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Thursday morning quarterbacking. Where will it end?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

Saturday morning when we aren't at work wasting time on :)


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

There is only one thing I want to rememeber from that game. THE FINAL SCORE...23-20. Let the rest of it drift off into oblivion and lock up the video!

Aditya Ezhuthachan

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:33 a.m.

The NCAA rule book is kind of vague, but a case can be made for either. Rule 2-4-1 refers to a "firm grasp" and though the receiver had possession inbounds and even as his elbow might have slid out of bounds, the fact that the ball hits the ground and changes position could mean possession had not been established. Rule 7-7 refers to the incompletion due to contact with the ground. Finally rule 2-4-3-f says this "When in question, the catch, recovery or interception is not completed. " You might think the rules don't accurately define what a catch should be and you may disagree that the right call was made according to the rules but you cannot say it was obviously the wrong call. It was at least consistent on the night with the interception call reversed (though there wasn't the out of bounds or end zone considerations).


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

rule 2-4-3-f says this "When in question, the catch, recovery or interception is not completed." Based on this rule alone it is not a catch. In fact, this rule conflicts with the replay rule in some ways. If the video gives you indisputable doubt, that makes it a question to resort to rule 2-4-2-f


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

This was rule 7-7, he did not have a hand underneath the ball when he hit the ground, it was between his forearms and the tip of the ball hit the ground with his arms on either side. The ground helped him secure the ball which is no catch.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:01 a.m.

To determine whether this was a completion, you need to know the rules. Duh. The commenter with 25 years of officiating experience is correct: This was a completion from what I have seen. When Coale's elbow touches the out-of-bounds, he is in control of the ball. What happens after that doesn't matter. The ground contact cannot cause a fumble nor aid in the catch.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

"When Coale's elbow touches the out-of-bounds, he is in control of the ball. What happens after that doesn't matter." You do not know or understand the rules. If he catches the ball and slides out of bounds and does not control the ball through the ENTIRE catch, it is incomplete. But thanks for showing how much you do not know.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:55 a.m.

Good defense. Great special teams. Below average offense = BCS Sugar Bowl win over an over rated V tech team. If we can get the offense to move the ball and the other two phases of the game continue to get better, we play in the Rose Bowl next year. I don't think we are a National Championship contender yet because we just don't have a good enough QB. I like Denard as an athlete, but he really struggles to throw the ball. The coaches must be pulling their hair every time he lobs one of those water balloons off his back foot. He has to get better , or we will lose a game or two we shouldn't lose next year.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

I think you are right but I would add its not his talent it is how his talent fits this offense. DRob is a spread offense QB and he proved that last year. I was nervous about his passing last year but it worked out fine.

Dayne White Bull The Terrible.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:30 a.m.

You don't catch a football with your forearms. I called it as soon as I saw the replay


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Nice hook with a twist, Rich. I was expecting two referee "calls". There were so many calls that could be disputed. The Va Tech punt call was well played by the Michigan defense and was a definite turning point for the Wolverines.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:32 a.m.

I thought that was a very unneeded "trick" play by Beamer. No question it was going to be a fake, given Beamer's history. And Michigan's D was ready. But on the flip side, that fake FG that Michigan ran was similarly unneeded and potentially gave up needed points. Michigan got fortunate on that one, but why in the world did they just not kick it? (Or better yet, why didn't they execute their plays better so they didn't have to kick a FG)


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:58 a.m.

I think the officials made the right call, the ball bobbled when the player hit the ground. Now,the offensive play calling on our side was terrible.Why run the ball on first down when the other team is stopping you behind the line of scrimage almost every time.I get the fact that Molk was hurt but why not spread them out and get our playmakers in space.O.K. that being said i am glad we won.

Eric Anderson

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:32 a.m.

It is clear from other camera angles that Coale's left forearm hits the ground, out of bounds, before his legs hit the ground, inbounds. Not a catch.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

No question it was a catch. As a 25 year official I will state the rule for you all. AS LONG AS A HAND OR ARM IS UNDERNEATH the football the ball can hit the ground as long as there is no loss of possession or the ball it does not move. Clearly possession was maintained an another officials blunder has occurred


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

It's great to get an opinion by someone in the business, but I have to defer to the college refs at the game. They know what to look for and how to call it and if it were questionable at all they have to stand by the call on the field. Apparently they felt it was obvious enough that it did not qualify as a catch. That said I highly commend the receiver for a fantastic effort.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

What Unclefred said. If his hand would have been underneath the ball, its a catch. But the ball went between his forearms and hit the ground that way.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Our friends at mgoblog have the video broken out. It clearly shows that as he lands the ball is between his elbows and the tip is hanging down. Neither his hand nor is arm is UNDER the ball. Take a look and you may change your mind that it was unquestionably a catch.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:42 a.m.

@MrF: the rule is technically: Incomplete Pass ARTICLE 7. a. Any forward pass is incomplete if the ball is out of bounds by rule or if it touches the ground when not firmly controlled by a player. It also is incomplete when a player leaves his feet and receives the pass but first lands on or outside a boundary line, unless his progress has been stopped in the field of play or end zone (Rule 4-1-3-p) (A.R. 2-4-3-III and A.R. 7-3-7-I). So, the ball hit the ground without firmly being controlled by the player. There are fairly nice replays to show the ball moved. Irrefutable replays. It was a nice grab by the player, but it was an incomplete pass by the rule. Go to MGoBlog and you can watch them yourself.

Brian Metzger

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

but he gained possession of the ball out bounds, or at least his that was his arm was when he touched the turf. I don't deny he had possession, he was just possessing the ball outside of the field of play.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

That ball hit the ground without possession first. And besides that, his upper body was out of bounds when the ball was actually secured. I think it should never have been called a TD, then let them reverse it on replay. I watched it on replay a lot today, and it was the correct call IMO. He never looked like he had possession of the ball until it hit off the ground into his body.Athletic move, yes. Real catch in bounds? Not in my eyes.

jeff blue

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

I am very glad that we won. Even if it was ruled catch, we still could have won that game in a different way. I am an old Blue and a real traditionalist. I believe that football should be played on the field - and NOT a TV screen. The call on the field must always stand, unless it is 99.9% clear that it was wrong/bad call. "Close calls" made on the field should normally stand. The game should stay on the field. GO BLUE!!!!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

If you are as old Blue as I am you should remember Charles White's fumble on the three yard line, recovered by Jerry Meter on the one yard line but ruled a TD for USC in the 1979 Rose Bowl. Still regarded as one of the worst blown calls in sports history: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Personally I do not want to win or lose a game by a bad call. In regard to calls like this Sugar Bowl catch, they have to make a decision and try to stick with it. To have it go one way or the other every game is worse.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:39 a.m.

There is no question. Definitely not a catch. And I was at the game, and definitely dispute the fact that the vt fans were cheering the catch. Mostly it was um fans yelling that the ball hit the ground.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

I was in sec 122 and that's my impression as well, but no matter.

Charles Hubbard

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

The ball was in Coale's hands but had not been secured when the ball hit the ground and the ball continued to slide up into his &quot;gut&quot; where the showed. The slide of the ball showed that it was not secured and in the mean time he slid out of bounds. He was 1. out of bounds before he secured the ball and 2. The ball touched the ground before it was secured. The comment on TV was that by rule, &quot;The ground can not assist in securing the ball&quot;. Strange and a bit obtuse but by the rules-incomplete.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

One big difference between last night's play and Junior's in the Iowa game ... Junior's knee hit the ground well in bounds, BEFORE his hand and the ball touched the ground, and he had control of the ball when his knee hit the ground. That is why that should have been a TD. In Coale's case the first thing to touch the ground was the ball and then his elbow and the rest of his body, all as he was sliding out of bounds. The replay officials got it right.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

This may have been the ugliest football game I have ever seen.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

I agree with Dennis. What I have been thinking since the first quarter. VT had great defense or our offense is not all that good. VT's offense was bad too, they moved the ball well, but had to settle for four field goals. I've been watching Michigan in bowl games for over 30 years now and I have always felt that the four to five weeks off is the reason. I do not think players can remain sharp with a delay that long. Also I have always felt that since Bo, one of the best qualities of Michigan coaching was the ability to make proper adjustments at half time to offset problems confronted in the first half. Adapt, overcome, and improvise to quote gunny Sgt Highway. Not convinced we have that skill any more. It was ugly, but I think it would have been a better game right after the season ended.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

Chad Michigan &quot;wants&quot; a superior offense and defense. At this point in the program is capable of a good offense and a good defense. If Hoke continues to recruit with the success he has demonstrated we'll have excellence on both sides of the ball in a couple of years. For the record, I have been very impressed by the team's play on both sides of the ball. You have to wonder if we'd have dropped two games if Hoke, Borges and Mattison had arrived a year earlier.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

&quot;I love that team. Scrappy, overachieving, compelling.&quot; Absolutely LW ... it was a tough, hard fought game, and we made enough plays to win the game.

Larry Weisenthal

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

What was ugly? A great V Tech defense? An overachieving M defense, trying to keep up? Did you watch the Alabama-LSU game? People called that &quot;ugly,&quot; too, but that's how defensive battles go. I watched the Baylor-Washington game and thought it looked like arena football. Or an intramural flag football game. In contrast, the Sugar Bowl last night was a tense nail biter -- every single play, we So Cal alumni, congregated a hundred strong at a local sports bar, were glued, focused, and transfixed. One great play could win the game, unlike those abominable shootouts. In the end, we didn't blink. W Va probably had the superior players, but our kids willed themselves to the win, led by the coach who's going to win more than his share of non-&quot;ugly&quot; games. I love that team. Scrappy, overachieving, compelling. - Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Chad Williams

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:29 a.m.

Its the football michigan wants. They want to win with average offense good defense. Me personally I just want Ws whether its like oregon winning in shootouts or lsu vs bama slugfest.

Ed daggett

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

why on earth did we have to see LC at game. Not sure if age or angle but sure looked like his nose had grown.

Chad Williams

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:11 p.m.

That catch reminds me of the iowa game. That looked exactly like the no touchdown for us then no touchdown for v tech. The ball hit the ground part of his body landed out of.bounds just like juniors vs iowa. Great effort from the.coale kid but it wasnt a catch. Rules are rules opinions are just that.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

No doubt. As soon as the tip of the ball hit the ground the no catch call was automatic. But give the Hokies credit for a game well played.