|Troy Woolfolk's helmet is thrust in the air under a downpour of confetti|
(image via BTN)
Wow, that was an exciting game. And not in a good way . . . except for the fact that Michigan won. That was Michigan's ugliest win of the season and it took some lucky calls to go the Wolverines' way.
The offense disappeared. Yikes. Denard Robinson had 13 carries for 13 yards. Fitzgerald Toussaint had 13 carries for 30 yards. Altogether, Michigan ran the ball 30 times for 56 yards, or 1.9 yards per attempt. Robinson completed 9/21 passes for 117 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 pick. It was a bad night. As I was laying out the Virginia Tech position previews over the past couple weeks, people kept commenting on how I was overrating the Hokies. They are pretty good. Maybe Michigan fans will understand that now.
Michigan got lucky. The guys in the winged helmets played hard-nosed football at times last night, but ultimately, they got very lucky on numerous occasions. Two Jayron Hosley interceptions were negated, one because the ball hit the ground and one because he yanked on Jeremy Gallon's jersey and got called for pass interference; he almost had another pick when he jumped a Junior Hemingway hitch route. Free safety Eddie Whitley let two interceptions go right through his hands, including Hemingway's 45-yard touchdown catch. On top of Robinson's one interception, he almost threw four more . . . and on only 21 attempts. Aside from the near-interceptions, Hokies wide receiver Danny Coales caught what might have been the game-winning touchdown pass, only to have it overturned because the nose of the ball hit the ground; it was probably the right call, but it could have very easily remained a touchdown after the replay booth took a look at it.
We're going to miss Junior Hemingway. That guy doesn't get the ball very often, but he makes huge plays. He only had 2 catches on the night, but they went for 63 total yards . . . and 2 touchdowns. Nobody else even sniffed the endzone. Roy Roundtree makes some big catches once in awhile, but he hasn't been nearly the receiver that he was in 2010. Michigan needs a youngster to step up next year, whether it will be a redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson or a freshman Jehu Chesson. Hemingway was the obvious pick for Sugar Bowl MVP, at least on Michigan's side.
That's what true athletes look like in the secondary. Michigan lined up in Cover 0 and got torched. Virginia lined up in Cover 0 and got sacks. The Wolverines' cornerbacks and safeties just aren't fast enough and athletic enough to lock up with decent receivers on a regular basis. It's frustrating to watch, but J.T. Floyd, Blake Countess, Troy Woolfolk, Jordan Kovacs, Courtney Avery, and Thomas Gordon aren't the same caliber of athletes that the Hokies put out there. Countess is going to be good, I believe, but he's hit a rough patch here at the end of the season. Watching Hosley, Whitley, Antoine Exum, and Kyle Fuller fly around the field was a bit of a wake-up call and shows how far Michigan has to go. Hosley alone had 4 pass breakups.
Everyone's expectations for Frank Clark just doubled. The freshman defensive end made a highlight-reel interception when he leaped to knock down a Logan Thomas pass and came down with the pick. I mentioned in the preview that I thought he would play quite a bit with defensive tackle Will Heininger out, and that came to fruition. He seemed like a man without a position when he came out of high school, but it looks like he'll be a good one for the next few years.
Tackling was an issue. Michigan's tackling has been so good this year that I'm going to assume this game was a bit of a fluke, but Michigan missed numerous tackles. And some of the guys who were whiffing are normally very good tacklers, like Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens. It's understandable to whiff on David Wilson or get run over by the 6'5", 254 lb. Logan Thomas, but Michigan was missing tackles on Danny Coales, Josh Oglesby, etc. It was a bad time to have a poor night of tackling, but luckily it didn't hurt the Wolverines in the win column.
Red zone defense was huge. For whatever reason, Michigan really buckles down in the red zone. As the announcers mentioned last night, Michigan was #2 in the Big Ten and #4 in the country at stopping opponents in the red zone. Virginia Tech had long drive after long drive and ended the game with 377 yards (Michigan had 184), 22 first downs (Michigan had 12), and 76 offensive snaps (Michigan had 52) . . . but it doesn't matter so much when you have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.
Brendan Gibbons to the rescue. I don't think anyone - including me - expected Gibbons to be so reliable this year. But in the Sugar Bowl he went 3/3 on field goals (from 24, 37, and 39 yards out), including the game-winning 37-yarder, and 2/2 on extra points. And for the entire year, he went 13/17 on field goal attempts and 54/55 on extra points. Bravo to him.