NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Brendan Gibbons drilled a 37-yard field goal down the middle in overtime to lift No. 13 Michigan to a 23-20 victory over 17th-ranked Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
The victory capped an impressive debut season for head coach Brady Hoke, who has led the Wolverines (11-2) back to prominence with a BCS bowl victory. Denard Robinson highlighted an otherwise unspectacular night with touchdown passes of 45 and 18 yards to game MVP Junior Hemingway.
“It shows our hard work,” Hemingway said, his voice cracking with emotion. “It shows everything we put in from Day One, all the long days, long nights. Man, I’m telling you, it feels too good, man. Too good.”
Virginia Tech (11-3) had more than double Michigan’s total yards, 377-184, and had 22 first downs to Michigan’s 12 but settled for four field goals in regulation by third-string kicker Justin Myer.
However, Myer was unable to connect on his fifth try from 37 yards away in the opening possession of overtime.
Robinson finished 9 for 21 for 117 yards passing and threw an interception. He rushed 13 times for a season-low 13 yards.
Virginia Tech first-year start Logan Thomas was 19 of 28 of 214 yards with one interception.
Thomas scored Tech’s only touchdown on a 1-yard keeper that tied the game at 17 – after a 2-point conversion – early in the fourth quarter.
Virginia Tech senior receiver Danny Coale, who ranks second all-time for the Hokies in catches and yards receiving, had eight catches for 117 yards, and nearly made a spectacular diving catch for a touchdown in overtime. Coale held on to the ball for what was initially ruled a score, but the play was overturned on video review, which showed the receiver narrowly landed on the sideline.
The result of that third-down play forced Tech to try for Myer’s failed field goal.
Michigan then used three conservative runs to set up Gibbons in the middle of the field. As his kick sailed through, Gibbons sprinted toward the Michigan sidelined and was mobbed by teammates while the Michigan band belted out the school’s famous fight song, “The Victors,” while Michigan fans, in rhythm, thrust a sea of maize pom-poms in the air.
Virginia Tech fell behind late in regulation after gambling on a fake punt. Michigan’s Jake Ryan stopped it at the Tech 45, leading to a short drive that set up Gibbons’ go-ahead 39-yard field goal with 4 minutes left.
That was just enough time for the Hokies to tie it once more, even though they had to start at their own 9 after a holding penalty on the kickoff.
Thomas marched the Hokies 83 yards in 3:58, setting up Myer’s game-tying 25-yarder.
It was the fourth field goal of the game for Myer, who until a couple weeks ago was the third-string place kicker.
Primary place kicker Cody Journell didn’t make the trip after his arrest in an alleged home invasion, then backup Tyler Weiss was sent home from New Orleans because of a curfew violation.
So place kicking duties fell to Myer, who had missed his only two attempts during the regular season but was perfect in the Sugar Bowl.
Hemingway staked Michigan to a 17-6 lead in the third quarter when he skied over Tech’s Antone Exum for an 18-yard catch from Robinson in the back of the end zone. The scoring drive was set up by an even more difficult grab by reserve Michigan linebacker Frank Clark, who leaped and reached high over his head to snag Thomas’ hard-thrown pass at close range, returning the interception to the Tech 35-yard line.
Tech cut it 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 2-point conversion to even the score at 17 early in the fourth quarter.
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 Thomas on a quarterback keeper on fourth-and-1 on the Wolverines 4.
Michigan managed only one first down before stalling again at its own 26, but the Hokies’ James Hopper was flagged for roughing punter Matt Wile on a failed block attempt, giving the Wolverines a first down on their 41.
Robinson, yanked his leg from a defender’s grasp and unleashed a long throw off of his back foot while scrambling to his right. Virgnia Tech free safety Eddie Whitley tried to undercut intended receiver Hemingway and snag the interception, but mistimed his leap by a split second. That allowed Hemingway to make the grab with no one between him and the end zone, and the play went for a 45-yard score.
Having been shut out most of the first half, Michigan suddenly had a 7-6 lead, then got the ball right back on the ensuing kickoff when Tech’s Tony Gregory fumble the return when he was hit by J.B. Fitzgerald and Michigan’s Delonte Hollowell recovered at the Hokies 26.
Michigan failed to get a first down the conventional way and set up for what would have been a 36-yard field goal if it hadn’t turned into one of the wackier plays of the bowl season instead.
Unable to get a clean snap and hold, Drew Dileo threw just a moment before being slammed flat on his back by Tech’s Jack Tyler. The ball thrown to no one in particular looked like it was about to be intercepted by the Hokies’ Kyle Fuller when he was bumped by a teammate. Fuller wound up tipping the ball in the air and it was caught by long snapper Jareth Glanda for a first down on the Tech 8.
Michigan didn’t have time to convert that stroke of luck into six, but was able to line up a chip shot field goal as time ran out for a 10-6 halftime lead.