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Hokies Have a History in the Sugar Bowl

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #517, December 30, 2011

The Hokies will make their fourth trip to New Orleans since 1995 when they take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night. Tech fans certainly have some bittersweet memories of past Sugar Bowls. There have been some great moments in the Superdome for Virginia Tech, as well as some oh-so-close moments.

1995 vs. Texas

Virginia Tech was a heavy underdog back in 1995 against the Texas Longhorns. The Hokies won the Big East, but they weren't respected on a national level. Texas was 10-1-1 and champions of the Southwestern Conference (SWC), in its last season of existence. Texas featured the vaunted "BMW" backfield of quarterback James Brown, tailback Shon Mitchell and fullback (and future Heisman Trophy winner) Ricky Williams.

Despite falling behind 10-0, a punt return for a touchdown before halftime by Bryan Still gave the Hokies new life, and Tech went on to outscore Texas 21-0 in the final two quarters. The "BMW" backfield was held to just 78 rushing yards and averaged only 2.4 yards per carry, mostly because James Brown was sacked five times.

Still was the MVP of the game, catching six passes for 119 yards and a touchdown to go along with his punt return. That game propelled him into the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft.

That game was, and remains to this day, the biggest bowl win in the history of the program. It's arguably the biggest overall win as well, only rivaled by the 1995 victory over the Miami Hurricanes, which propelled the Hokies to the Sugar Bowl. It was a great ending to the season, which had not looked promising after an 0-2 start.

Other game notes:

  • Tech outgained Texas 371 to 226
  • The Hokies gained only 105 yards on the ground, but threw for 266
  • Tight end Bryan Jennings caught six passes for 77 yards

1999 vs. Florida State

Many of you left the Superdome on New Year's Eve in 1995 thinking that things would never get any better. If you did, you were wrong. Just four years later, Virginia Tech ran the table behind freshman phenom Michael Vick and faced #1 Florida State in the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship.

The game couldn't have started any worse for Virginia Tech. Vick turned the wrong way on an option at the FSU one yard line, and fumbled the ball away. The Noles went on to take a 28-7 lead, though the Hokies managed to make it a 28-14 game at halftime.

Though they were down, Virginia Tech was not out. The Hokies dominated the third quarter, taking a 29-28 lead into the final stanza. However, starting cornerbacks Anthony Midget and Ike Charlton missed the fourth quarter with injuries, and r-freshman Ronyell Whitaker and r-sophomore Larry Austin stood no chance against All-American wide receiver Peter Warrick and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Chris Weinke. Tech lost 46-29.

Other game notes:

  • Tech outgained FSU 503 to 359
  • Tech sacked Chris Weinke four times
  • Shyrone Stith got hurt in the second quarter and never returned. He had 11 carries for 69 yards
  • Florida State returned a punt for a TD and blocked a punt for a TD

2004 vs. Auburn

2004 was a special season, as the Hokies won the ACC in their first season in the league. Their reward was another Sugar Bowl trip and a meeting with undefeated Auburn, the #3 team in the country. They were left out of the National Championship Game because USC and Texas were also undefeated.

That was a very talented Auburn team that featured three first round draft picks on offense: quarterback Jason Campbell and tailbacks Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. On defense, cornerback Carlos Rogers was a first round pick. That team also featured Jay Ratliff at defensive tackle, who has been a Pro Bowler for the Cowboys for the last four seasons.

The Hokies performed very well defensively, limiting Auburn to just 299 yards of total offense. The Tigers' outstanding backfield was held to only 110 rushing yards and 2.6 yards per carry. Unfortunately, the Tech offense dropped a touchdown pass and the Hokies missed a 23 yard field goal. That resulted in a 16-13 loss.

The Hokies played very well against Auburn, but in the end they shot themselves in the foot with missed opportunities.

Other game notes:

  • Tech outgained Auburn 375 to 299
  • Bryan Randall threw for 299 yards and also led the team with 45 rushing yards
  • Tech had 10 tackles for loss as a team
  • Jimmy Williams had 3.5 tackles for loss and an interception

2011 vs. Michigan

Texas, Florida State, Auburn, and now Michigan. Every time the Hokies get a Sugar Bowl invite, they are matched up with a high-profile team. As a fan, it's fun. Virginia Tech has a great opportunity to knock off one of the most tradition-rich programs in the history of college football. It will be a major challenge, but if the Hokies succeed it will be remembered as one of the best wins in school history.

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