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Michigan defense, special teams save the day to score sweet Sugar Bowl win

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It was a sweet Sugar Bowl win for the University of Michigan defense and special teams Tuesday night in New Orleans.

The Wolverines end the season at 11-2 with a 23-20 overtime victory over No. 11-ranked Virginia Tech. The Wolverines came into the game ranked No. 13 and should finish the season rated in the top 10.

Michigan won the game despite an awful night on offense. The Wolverines had only 184 yards of total offense, just 12 first downs and only 56 yards and the ground. It was the worst offensive showing for Michigan since 2007. Tech had more than twice as many yards on offense.

So how did Michigan win? Two huge touchdown catches by Junior Hemingway – from 45 and 18 yards from Denard Robinson paved the way for the Wolverines along with a strong defensive effort.

Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons, who made only 1 of 5 field goals last season as a freshman, was 3-for-3 on field goals on Tuesday, including a game-winning 37-yarder in overtime.

“He had a lot of adversity that he came back from and I couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Michigan first-year head coach Brady Hoke.

Gibbons appeared to studder-step on the game-winner but his kick was true.

“My timing was off,” said Gibbons. “It was one of those things.”

Michigan trailed 6-0 but took the lead late in the first half when the Wolverines sustained its only long drive of the game – 11 plays in 96 yards – and it ended with Hemingway’s first touchdown catch. The drive remained alive after Virginia Tech was whistled for a roughing the punter on a fourth-down play.

After the score, Michigan recovered a fumble on the following kickoff. The Wolverines had a 24-yard field goal by Gibbons on the final play of the half.

Michigan’s defense, ranked only 110th best in the nation last year, was a top 10 defense (in points allowed) this season and against Virginia Tech the Wolverines made a number of big stops. Jake Ryan, Jordan Kovacs and Ryan Van Bergen all made big third-down stops that prevented Hokie touchdowns.

Frank Clark, a true freshman playing only because of injuries to Michigan’s defensive line, set up Michigan’s second touchdown with an interception midway through the third quarter.

With under 10 minutes to play in regulation, Virginia Tech tried a fake punt on a 4th-and-1 from near midfield and Ryan tackled the Hokie punter for a loss. Michigan went on to drive for a field goal to give the Wolverines a 20-17 lead.

Virginia Tech tied the game with two seconds left in regulation on a 25-yard field goal by Justin Myer. Myer, who was third-string until last month, was 5-for-5 on field goals in regulation.

But in overtime, Myer missed a 37-yarder and four plays later, Gibbons made a 37-yard game-winner.

Virginia Tech’s first-string kicker missed the game because he was arrested for a breaking and entering felony and the No. 2 kicker was suspended for violating team rules.

Virginia Tech ends the season at 11-3.

It was Michigan’s first BCS bowl in five seasons and Hoke became only the third first-year coach to win a BCS bowl , joining Boise State’s Chris Peterson and Miami’s Larry Coker. Michigan’s last BCS win came in 2000.

It was the fourth Big Ten bowl victory this season,as Michigan joins Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue in the postseason win column.

For more info: mgoblue, annarbor.com, espn

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