Sugar Bowl Reflections

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Big-game losses are hard to take, but some are harder to take than others.
Sometimes, the what-ifs will drive you crazy: the questionable coaching
decisions, the failure to make plays, the luck that went against you, and the
referees who made the calls that went against you. When you lose by three points
in overtime, the what-ifs are legion, and they are what torture us well into the
offseason.

From the what-if standpoint, this game reminds me of the 2004 Sugar Bowl, a
game that was also very winnable, but filled with what-ifs. In 2004, the Hokies
missed a 23-yard field goal, dropped a pass on 4th and 1 at the Auburn goal
line, and despite playing well defensively, gave up two 3rd and 16 conversions
that contributed to the 16-13 loss. Contemplating the what-ifs from that game
was torture.

Just like this game. If you thought the 2004 Sugar Bowl was tough, this one
far exceeds it in missed opportunities, critical lapses, bad coaching decisions,
and twists of fate.

Okay … Let’s Go Through It

I don’t like to do this, but for posterity’s sake, let’s rattle off the
agonizing moments. These aren’t necessarily in order, and I may have even left
out a few critical plays … there were so many.

If you want to save yourself the pain, skip over the bullet points, but you
may also want to read them, because they might contain information you didn’t
notice or don’t recall. It’s your choice.

  • VT’s first possession: David Wilson saves his worst run of the year for
    1st and goal from the Michigan 4, running 22 yards backwards. Hokies are
    forced to kick a field goal to go up 3-0.
  • VT’s second possession: Danny Coale is running open down the field, and if
    Logan Thomas leads him to the inside, it’s a touchdown. LT overthrows it to
    the outside, and it falls incomplete. VT kicks a field goal to go up 6-0.
  • Hokies go for it on 4th and 1 from the Michigan 4 yard line, and a QB
    sneak gets stuffed.
  • On the ensuing possession, Michigan is facing 4th and 10 from their 26
    yard line. The Hokies go for the punt block and rough the kicker, giving
    Michigan new life.
  • On 3rd and 17 from the VT 45 yard line, Denard Robinson drops back to
    pass. Kyle Fuller blitzes, grabs Robinson at the ankles … but can’t bring
    him down. Robinson shakes free and chucks it up for grabs.
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