Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons drilled a 37-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Wolverines to a 23-20 victory over Virginia Tech in college football’s Sugar Bowl on Tuesday.
The victory capped an impressive debut season for head coach Brady Hoke, who has led the Wolverines (11-2) back to prominence with a bowl victory.
Quarterback Denard Robinson highlighted an otherwise unspectacular night with touchdown passes of 45 and 18 yards to Junior Hemingway, who took out game MVP honors.
Virginia Tech (11-3) had more than double Michigan’s total yards, 377-184, and had 22 first downs to Michigan’s 12 but had to settle for four field goals in regulation by third-string kicker Justin Myer.
Virginia Tech came agonizingly close to snatching victory in overtime. Receiver Danny Coaled nearly made a spectacular diving catch for a touchdown, holding on to the ball for what was initially ruled a score, but the play was overturned on video review, which showed the receiver landed on the sideline.
That play came on third down and on the ensuing fourth down, Myer missed a 37-yard field goal attempt, granting Michigan a chance to snatch victory.
The Wolverines used three conservative runs to set up Gibbons’s field goal from straight in front.
Virginia Tech dominated most of the first half, taking a 6-0 lead on Myer’s field goals of 37 and 43 yards, and could have led by more had the Michigan defensive line not stuffed quarterback Logan Thomas on fourth-and-1 on the Wolverines’ 4-yard line.
The Hokies’ James Hopper was flagged for roughing the punter on a failed block attempt, giving the Wolverines a first down on their 41-yard line.
Robinson managed to yank his leg from a defender’s grasp and unleashed a long throw off of his back foot. Virginia Tech safety Eddie Whitley went for an interception, but mistimed his leap, allowing Hemingway to make the grab and dash into the end zone.
Michigan got the ball right back on the kickoff when Tech’s Tony Gregory fumbled the return in a tackle and Michigan’s Delonte Hollowell recovered at the Hokies 26.
Michigan failed to get a first down and set up for what would have been a 36-yard field goal, if it hadn’t turned into one of the luckiest and wackiest plays of the bowl season.
The holder, Drew Dileo, was unable to get a clean hold and threw the ball in desperation just before being slammed. The throw was set to be intercepted by the Hokies’ Kyle Fuller, until he was bumped by a teammate. Fuller wound up tipping the ball in the air and it was caught by Michigan long snapper, Jareth Glanda, for a first down on the Tech 8.
Michigan didn’t have time to convert that stroke of luck into a touchdown, but was able to line up a chip shot field goal as time ran out for a 10-6 halftime lead.
Hemingway staked Michigan to a 17-6 lead in the third quarter when he jumped over an opponent for an 18-yard reception in the back of the end zone.
Tech cut the lead to 17-9 on Myer’s 36-yard field goal.
Tech then tied the game on a series kept alive by Thomas’ 13-yard scramble on fourth and 11 from the Michigan 35. A few plays later, Thomas powered in from a yard out, then lobbed a short pass to Marcus Davis for a two-point conversion to even the score at 17-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Virginia Tech fell behind late in regulation after gambling on a fake punt.