NEW ORLEANS - Of course, the Sugar Bowl came down to the game's final seconds. After the Rose and Fiesta were decided in their final moments, the Sugar Bowl followed suit on Tuesday night.
In overtime after a 20-yard catch in the left corner of the end zone by Virginia Tech's Danny Coale was ruled incomplete, the Hokies' MVP in the previous 60 minutes, third-string kicker Justin Myer missed a 37-yard field goal.
Next it was Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons' turn to secure the win with a 37-yard field goal. So what was he thinking about during such a pressure-filled moment?
BOX SCORE: Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT)
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"Brunette girls," he said. "Every tune we were like struggling in kicking, Coach tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls. So that's what we did. Made the kick."
Hey, whatever works. Gibbons intense focus on his dating prospects gave the Wolverines a 23-20 win.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer stared with his hands on his hips as the kick sailed through the uprights. The resignation on his face summed up the Hokies' star-crossed Bowl Championship Series fate.
The No. 11 Hokies (11-3) have lost five of their six BCS appearances, including three times in the Sugar Bowl. The Atlantic Coast Conference is 2-12 in BCS play.
"We need wins," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said when asked about those records. "We wanted to get a win for the ACC and wanted to get a win for Virginia Tech. We haven't done as well as we want to in these BCS games. But give Michigan credit. They gave effort throughout and hung on and got a win."
Virginia Tech's biggest concern entering the Sugar Bowl was its kicking game. Myer, who handles kick-offs, was called into duty after Tyler Weiss was sent home this week for a curfew violation. The Hokies were also without top kicker Cody Journell following his an arrest in an alleged home invasion.
Myer made the first field goal of his college career, a 37-yarder midway through the first quarter. His second came in the second quarter, a 43-yarder, the team's longest field goal this season. He followed with his third in the third quarter, a 36-yarder then clinched the tie with a 25-yarder with two seconds remaining in the game. As bad luck would have it, Myer missed his only kick when it mattered the most.
Still it was hard to blame Myer for the result. "He kicked a good game," said Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson. "He's the one who kept us in the running." Even though Virginia Tech had more than double Michigan's total yards, 377-184, and had 22 first downs to Michigan's 12, only four field goals resulted.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson can dazzle and disappoint in equal measure. Tuesday night was no different. Robinson ran for his lowest career total (13 yards) before he finally found his footing in the Wolverines final drive in regulation. Virginia Tech defenders were left grasping for Robinson's shoelaces as he scooted 11 yards to Virginia Tech's 24-yard line.
No. 12 Michigan (11-2) took a 20-17 lead on Gibbons' 39-yard field goal with 4:00 remaining. Virginia Tech answered Myer's 25-yard field goal.
"We talked about playing 60 minutes of Michigan football," said coach Brady Hoke. "We played about 63 and a half."
Robinson also threw for two touchdowns to 6-1 senior Junior Hemingway, who was named the game's outstanding player. The first TD came in a final minute of frenzy just before the half. Hemingway, sandwiched by two Hokies, grabbed a 45-yard touchdown pass as the defenders collided.
In the third quarter, Hemingway snuck behind a safety and then, instead of thinking about brunettes, channeled his quarterback with mental telepathy "I was thinking in my head, 'Please, Denard, throw this up, please, I want you to so bad. And he threw it up And I made a play on it." An 18-yard score.
In the game's aftermath, there were plenty of questions about whether Michigan "was back."
"Michigan never left," said Hoke, who took over this year after the Wolverines struggled under former coach Rich Rodriguez. "This team is the fifth team in the history of Michigan football to win 11 games. So that's pretty significant."
The Sugar Bowl was widely criticized after it bypassed BCS No. 7 Boise State and No. 8 Kansas State in favor of No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 13 Michigan. The Hokies, the most baffling pick, were routed by Clemson in the ACC title game the day before BCS selections were made. In justifying the selection, Sugar Bowl chief executive officer Paul Hoolahan said Tech's history of bringing fans to New Orleans was "extremely important."
However, the huge sections of empty seats in the upper deck on Tuesday night proved otherwise. The announced crowd of 64,512 fell well short of the Superdome's 72,000 plus capacity.
As Hokie fans left the stadium, their blank looks captured a different sort of emptiness.