by CFP Staff
December 28, 2012
Virginia Tech rallied late for a 13-10 overtime victory over Rutgers. The true story of the first Russell Athletic Bowl, formerly the Champs Sports Bowl, is one of a stout defensive battle, an inept offensive struggle, and a series of egregious errors by the officials.
The Rutgers defense was credited with its only touchdown. On the second play of the game from the Virginia Tech 22, a snap from center sailed over quarterback Logan Thomas' head. Thomas chased down the ball and was shown by broadcast replays to have at least regained possession with a knee down in the end zone before losing the ball. It was ruled a recovered fumble for a Rutgers score, though the play also appeared to have begun with an uncalled offside on the Scarlet Knights. Remarkably, the play was never reviewed.
Instead, Rutgers had an early 7-0 lead and the tone of the game was set. Each team finished with just 196 yards of total offense, neither quarterback made it near the 50% completion mark, and the officiating crew botched or missed multiple calls, including pass interference on Rutgers in overtime that almost surely would have given the Hokies a second touchdown. Virginia Tech was called for 14 penalties to Rutgers' 4, including an 8-0 disparity in the first half.
Ironically, Virginia Tech was also the victim of a horrendous call in last year's Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan when an overtime touchdown catch for the win was overturned on replay. It was later admitted to be an erroneous overturn.
At any rate, Rutgers took a 10-0 first quarter lead and was in complete control of the outcome until Virginia Tech took matters into its own hands early in the fourth. After Rutgers came up woefully short on a 47-yard field goal attempt, the Hokies drove 67 yards to the Rutgers 3 before ultimately settling for a 25-yard field goal.
On Rutgers ensuing possession, Gary Nova overthrew a pass down the left sideline and MVP Antone Exum returned it 32 yards to the Rutgers 21. Three plays later, Logan Thomas hit Corey Fuller on a 21-yard pass to the left corner of the end zone and a 10-10 tie with 10:56 to play.
It was about at that time that a heavy and constant rain began to soak the field and the nearly 50,000 fans in attendance. Over the rest of regulation the teams combined for 5 punts, a fumble by Rutgers, a long pass interception thrown by Virginia Tech and a missed 51-yard field goal attempt by the Hokies with 2:20 to play.
In overtime, Journell kicked a 22-yard field goal for the 13-10 lead after the missed interference call, and Nick Borgese subsequently missed right on a 42-yarder to end the game.
Virginia Tech rescued its worst season since 1992 (2-8-1) by winning its last three games to finish 7-6 for its 20th straight winning season and 20th straight bowl appearance. It also punctuated the season with a milestone 10th bowl win (10-16).
Rutgers, which was tied for the national lead with Mississippi State and Auburn for the most consecutive bowl wins, saw that 5-game streak end. The Scarlet Knights also fell short of notching just their third-ever season of double-digit wins. Rutgers ends on a 3-game losing streak that also cost the program its first-ever outright conference title.
First-year Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood kept Greg Schiano's football momentum going, but a 9-4 season actually fell short of the preseason 10-2 projection by the Congrove Computer Rankings.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech performed nothing like the team that the computer projected to notch a 9th straight 10-win season, secure another ACC title and play in the national championship game. And if you understand that the computer has an untouchable record with its preseason predictions, the Hokies' 7-6 season was an abysmal under-achievement.
After all, the computer basically nailed the outcome of this game with a 2.18-point pick favoring Virginia Tech.