2012 Sugar Bowl: Grading Michigan's Win over Virginia Tech
Anyone who knows Bud Foster is well aware that he's produced one fine defense after another.
Foster's been at head coach Frank Beamer's side since the two worked together at Murray State.
Foster followed Beamer to Tech in 1987 and became his defensive coordinator in 1995.
During the past 13 seasons, the Hokies twice lead the nation in scoring defense, and placed second on three other occasions.
If it wasn't for a few fortunate touchdown passes by Denard Robinson, Foster's defense might have pitched a shutout.
But Michigan's few big plays and Tech's own offensive mistakes allowed the Wolverines to escape with a 23-20 overtime Sugar Bowl victory.
Without further ado, let's check the letter grades of Michigan's unlikely triumph.
Junior Hemingway (21)
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Michigan's offensive stats were downright embarrassing.
Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint combined for a paltry 43 yards on the ground. Most of Robinson's 117 passing yards came on touchdown passes to Junior Hemingway of 45 and 18 yards.
Purists will argue that both were thrown into coverage, but Michigan has be successful many times this season at turning 50-50 balls into receptions.
There's no doubt senior center David Molk's foot injury suffered in the pre-game warmup upset the Wolverine's timing, as backup Rocko Khoury botched a pair of snaps in the opening drive.
Molk came back the next series but 100 percent he wasn't.
The story was really told by Robinson gaining just 13 yards in 13 carries and Toussaint gaining just 30 yards in 13 carries.
Robinson's passing numbers weren't exactly Heisman-like. He hit 10 of 21 with one interception and three sacks, along with the two touchdown passes.
Frank Clark (57)
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Probably the brightest spot for the Michigan defense was its ability to contain junior running back David Wilson. Most likely entering the NFL draft this spring, Wilson carried the ball 23 times for 83 yards and no touchdowns.
Logan Thomas ,the Hokies huge dual threat quarterback, mustered only 53 yards rushing but did plenty of damage in the air. Thomas (6'6", 254 lbs) completed 19 of 28 passes for 214 yards.
Another key to Michigan's defensive success was the Hokies inability to score in the red zone. Virginia Tech ventured inside Michigan's 20 six times, but only came away with a touchdown and three field goals.
Individually, Michigan had several playmakers. Frank Clark made a thrilling interception on a screen pass, Jake Ryan blew up a fake Hokie punt and Delonte Hollowell recovered Tech fumble.
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One of the top individual coaching jobs this season had to be with placekicker Brendan Gibbons. A season ago Gibbons battled for the starting job, but simply wasn't able to get the job done. He made just one of five in 2010, and freshman Matt Wile was expected to enroll as a freshman and win the job.
But Gibbons has made an about face, coming into Tuesday's Sugar Bowl with 10 field goals in 14 attempts.
Under the bright lights of the Superdome, Gibbons made all three attempts, including the game winning 37-yarder in overtime.
Wile, on the other hand, took over the punting duties from Will Hagerup, after his first two punts went 26 and 24 yards, respectively. Wile came in and punted three times for a respectable 43.7 average.
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For Michigan, the Sugar Bowl had the makings of a coaching nightmare from the start.
On a team where depth is already a problem, the Wolverines were without starting defensive tackle Will Heininger and backup defensive end Nathan Brink. Ryan Van Bergen was forced to move from end to tackle and Jake Ryan from SAM to end.
On offense, All-American center David Molk injured his foot during the pregame warmup. The Wolverine faithful watched in horror as the Wolverines' initial offensive series was crippled by a pair of ill-timed snaps. Molk was able to return for the second series, but 100 percent he wasn't.
It hasn't exactly been a comfortable season for offensive coordinator Al Borges. Criticism has come from many directions. From the transition to a more pro-style attack— to the use of Denard Robinson— Borges has been under occasional scrutiny.
In fairness, the Wolverines still went 11-2 with wins in their final four games.
Tuesday's offensive performance was still hard to stomach.
Even defensive coordinator Greg Mattison took some heat after the Ohio State game. The Sugar Bowl was more of the same,as the defensive backfield looked silly at times giving up critical third down completions. Tackling hasn't been as issue lately, but it seemed like it took three or four players to bring down Wilson.
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Even in victory, Michigan can see weaknesses on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, the Wolverines are still sub-par in pass coverage, they are inconsistent at pressuring the quarterback, and are just plain young at linebacker. Probably the strongest part of the defense, is stopping the run.
Michigan has an excellent recruiting class coming in, but it's really tough to predict the contributions of true freshmen.
The quality of athlete will definitely approve as Michigan is now battling for 4-star and 5-star players, when during the last few years the Wolverines settled for mostly 3-star athletes.
Offensively, much depends on the development of Denard Robinson as a true passer.
If Michigan is going to contend for the Big Ten championship, both lines of scrimmage will have to be upgraded, and the cornerback and safety positions will need to improve.
Of course, the Wolverines will get an early gauge of it's off-season progress when they travel to Dallas Sept. 1 to meet Alabama in Cowboys Stadium.