BY CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Staff Writer
The Michigan Wolverine football team is bound for New Orleans and the BCS Sugar Bowl on January 3 after a 10-2 season under first year head coach Brady Hoke.
Michigan will look to its junior quarterback Denard Robinson to lead them against a highly skilled Virginia Tech team coached by Frank Beamer.
The Wolverines started their 2011 Football season a high note, with a win against Western Michigan, 34-10. It was called short though because of rain and storms in the third quarter, something very rare for a football game. The Wolverines defense shined in the game with an interception and a fumble for a touchdown, scored by Brandon Herron. It was Hoke’s first win and began a streak of six consecutive wins.
The first test of the year would come against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It would also be an historic game, the first night game in Michigan Stadium History. It was a gut-wrenching, heart-attack waiting, and super exciting football game for either side. A touchdown with two seconds left led Michigan to a win, one that probably stuck out the most in the season, other than the game against Ohio State. Wide receiver Roy Roundtree caught a 16-yard pass from Robinson to stun the Irish.
“It’s never over until you see zeros on the clock,” says Robinson.
Eastern Michigan was the third game of the season, and what was probably going to be an easy game. Indeed it was, as the Wolverines blew them out 31-3. Robinson accounted for three touchdowns against the Eagles after a poor start, with no points in the first quarter. A couple of turnovers by the Eagles helped the Wolverines too. They cruised to a 3-0 start with Hoke’s former team, the San Diego State Aztecs up next.
Robinson took control of the Aztec-Wolverine match-up by running for 200 yards and three touchdowns. It was a 28-7 win for Hoke against his former team and the Wolverines improved to 4-0. Even though Robinson threw two interceptions, the defense played very well and only allowed one touchdown to Hoke’s former team.
Up next was the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who only had one win up until that game.
Minnesota was shut out by the Wolverines defense, which played their best game of the year. Even though the Golden Gopher offense was held to eight first downs and a total of 177 yards, the defense did give up 104 yards of the 177 in passing. Robinson also didn’t throw an interception for the first time since the season opener against the Broncos. It was 58-0 blowout of the Golden Gophers as Michigan won the Little Brown Jug.
The first road test of the season came against the Northwestern Wildcats, and the Wolverines were up to the challenge. The Wildcats had a 10 point lead going into halftime, but that was quickly erased as Michigan came back and won 42-24 with 14 points each in the third and fourth quarters. The statistic that hurt the Wolverines in the first half was three interceptions from Robinson. He quickly regrouped and threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
Following the first road win of the season, the Wolverines would experience their first loss of the season at the hands of rival Michigan State the following week. Traveling out to East Lansing after six wins, a 7-7 tie after the first quarter looked like the game was going to be pretty even but the Spartans pulled away in the third quarter to give the Wolverines their first loss, 28-14. They headed into their bye week on a bad note with the first loss of the season but came out on a high during Homecoming week against Purdue.
The Wolverines scored early and often in a 35-14 win over the Boilermakers. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had 20 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns, one of which being a 57-yard rushing touchdown. The Michigan defense also scored a safety in the second quarter which helped spark two field goals and a touchdown. The Wolverines looked back in form heading to Iowa the following week.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the same team that beat the Boilermakers that traveled to Iowa. The Wolverines fell 24-16 to the Hawkeyes. Even a final drive at the end of the game, four chances couldn’t help the Wolverines win the game.
It was a tough loss, but the Wolverines took the loss and turned it around the rest of the season. Robinson only threw two touchdowns for 194 yards and one interception. The Wolverines dominated the statistic side of the game but were unable to get on the scoreboard.
Their final away game of the season came against the now fired Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini of Illinois. The Wolverines dominated the 31-14 win even though they lost Robinson to a bruised wrist. Backup quarterback Devin Gardner filled in very well with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Martavious Odoms directly after an Illinois touchdown.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers came to the Big House in the first matchup for the new B1G Ten team. The Wolverines came out victorious against the number 16 ranked Cornhuskers, 45-17. It was a bit of a surprise as Michigan was ranked 18 in the BCS. Robinson threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. Toussaint had another big game with 29 carries on 138 yards and two touchdowns. The Wolverines took control early and didn’t look back. It was a dominant win for a team looking for some help in the standings.
The final game of the year came against none other than, “that team from Ohio.” The Buckeyes were unranked and after allowing a touchdown early, the Wolverines took over from there and dominated the whole game. The seven game losing streak against the Buckeyes ended with a 40-34 win. Although they did allow 34 points, it doesn’t seem all that bad as the offense was too much for a young Buckeye defense. Surround the Buckeye team with suspensions and controversy, they couldn’t shake it. Robinson had three touchdowns and 167 yards passing. He also ran 26 times for 170 yards and two rushing touchdowns of his own. Denard took the game and put it on his back. A win sent the student section rushing onto the field and the campus erupted in uproar with an amazing win.
Their season ended on a high note and they now head into a BCS Bowl game against the Virginia Tech Hokies. It will be the Sugar Bowl on January 3 at 8:30pm in New Orleans. It will be a even match-up as the Wolverines finished 13 in the BCS ranking while the Hokies finished 11. Virginia Tech finished 11-2, falling in the ACC Championship to the Clemson Tigers but still earning a BCS Bowl bid. Michigan had a strong season under first-year head coach Brady Hoke and it can only improve as they have a top five ranked recruiting class coming in. Go Blue!