I’ll have a mailbag Friday, some miscellaneous things over the weekend and then begin to look ahead to 2012 starting early next week. But first one more day of looking back at the Sugar Bowl.
Lost amid the talk of dubious special teams calls, offensive red zone stalls and Danny Coale‘s catch/non-catch was the fact that Bud Foster‘s defense played its game-plan to near perfection against the Wolverines.
Here are the numbers:
* Michigan finished with 184 yards of offense after averaging 423.1 yards per game during the regular season.
* The Wolverines ran for only 56 yards after averaging 235.7 yards per game during the regular season. They averaged 1.9 yards per rush in the Sugar Bowl, down from 5.3 all year.
* Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson completed only 9 of 21 passes for 117 yards. Two went for touchdowns, although one — a 45-yarder by Junior Hemingway – came on a broken play when safety Eddie Whitley had a chance to knock the ball away and missed.
* Robinson ran for 13 yards on 13 carries. His previous low as a starter was 30 against Illinois earlier this season, although even then he scored two touchdowns. He failed to get into the end zone in the Sugar Bowl.
* Robinson’s rushing average was 1.0 yard per carry. No team had held him below 2.3 in the last two years.
* The Wolverines were 4-for-13 on third downs and possessed the ball for only a little over 23 minutes.
Those are some pretty impressive numbers, ones that make you wonder how Virginia Tech lost this game. When opponents fail to gain 200 yards against Frank Beamer and Foster-coached teams, that doesn’t happen often.
Since Beamer took over in Blacksburg in 1987, the Hokies have held an opponent to less than 200 yards on 45 occasions. They have won all but two of those games.
Prior to the 23-20 overtime Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan, the last was in 1991, when Virginia Tech fell to N.C. State 7-0 despite giving up just 180 yards.
Considering the level of opposition, the defensive performance in the Sugar Bowl was one of the more impressive of those 45 games. I went back to look up each game in which the Hokies held their opponent to less than 200 yards in the last 25 years. I won’t bore you with the entire list. Duke and UAB pop up plenty of times, but those offenses weren’t good to begin with. A few stood out, though (archived national NCAA stats are only available back to 1999, so that will have to do).
I took a team’s season average in yardage and subtracted what Virginia Tech held it to to see the biggest difference. These are only of games in which the Hokies held an opponent to less than 200 yards. Here are the biggest differentials of teams with offenses in the top half of the Football Bowl Subdivision (national offensive rank in parentheses):
- 2011: at East Carolina, (50th) 112 yards — 283.2 yards below season average — won 17-10
- 2006: Clemson, (15th) 166 yards — 244.9 yards below season average — won 24-7
- 2002: at Texas A&M, (47th) 156 yards — 230.2 yards below season average — won 13-3
- 2011: vs. Michigan, (42nd) 184 yards — 220.7 yards below season average — lost 23-20, OT
- 2005: Boston College, (51st) 183 yards — 204.8 yards below season average — won 30-10
The game that most stands out there is the Clemson one in 2006. Looking back at the AP game story, the Tigers, who featured running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller, were the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense coming into that game, averaging 42.3 points per game. Tech won 24-7.
That was at Lane Stadium, though. The Sugar Bowl was in a neutral environment at the Superdome in New Orleans. It was played in ideal conditions on a fast track. And it was against one of the premier offensive players in the country.
All in all, it was probably one of the best defensive performances in Foster’s tenure, albeit one overshadowed by the final score.
Quick recruiting note: HokieHaven.com reports that kicker Andrew Murray of Tazewell High has verbally committed as a walk-on for next year. He had interest from Marshall and West Virginia. He was 5-for-9 this year with a long of 53 yards and averaged over 40 yards per punt.
On another front, 4-star defensive end/linebacker Ken Ekanem of Centreville has narrowed his choices to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, according to the Washington Post. Ekanem plans to visit Virginia Tech on Jan. 20 and Notre Dame on Jan. 27.