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Posted at 10:57 AM ET, 01/04/2012

Michigan football on the rise after Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech

When asked what was going through his mind during his game-winning field goal in overtime of Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl, Michigan sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons responded: “brunette girls.”

“Every time we were struggling in kicking, coach always tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls. So that’s what we did.”

Brady Hoke, ladies and gentlemen. Strategic mastermind.

Whatever buttons the Wolverines’ first-year coach pushed seemed to be work like a charm. Under Hoke’s leadership, Michigan finished the regular season with 10 wins for the first time since 2006, earned a somewhat surprising BCS bid, and took advantage of several Virginia Tech miscues to come away with a 23-20 overtime victory on the left foot of Gibbons. It was the school’s first BCS bowl win since 2000.

The Wolverines’ 11-2 finish is their best since 2006 and the excitement in Ann Arbor will only grow this offseason as fans of Big Blue await Hoke’s second act.

Much of that excitement is hitched to dynamic junior quarterback Denard Robinson, who has yet to announce whether or not he will return to Michigan for his senior season.

Last Friday, the 6-1, 193-pound speedster told reporters he expects to return. But Robinson, who idolized Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s play-making ability, could choose to make the jump after a season in which he threw for 20 touchdowns and rushed for 16 more.

Robinson got the job done against the Hokies, but it was hardly a masterpiece. He completed only 9 of 21 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Virginia Tech’s defense held the shifty runner to 13 yards on the ground — 27 fewer than his previous season low.

But Robinson’s versatility has been a revelation for Big Blue in the Big Ten, and his return would make Michigan a legitimate conference title contender once more.

Only one year ago, college football’s winningest program was reeling from the worst bowl loss in program history — a 52-14 drubbing at the hands of Mississippi State. That game marked the end of Rich Rodriguez’s tumultuous tenure and began the search for his replacement.

“We’ve had a bumpy three years, but we’re Michigan,” Wolverines athletic director Dave Brandon said after the win. “We’re supposed to be playing on the big stage. We’re supposed to be playing against formidable competition. We’re supposed to be in the national hunt. For years and years and years, that was Michigan. That’s what we want Michigan to be in the future.”

So far, so good for Mr. Hoke.

More from Washington Post Sports:

Mistakes cost Virginia Tech in Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan

Hokies Journal: CB Jayron Hosley will declare for NFL draft

Box score: Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT)

Michigan hopes Denard Robinson’s college finale isn’t against VaTech

College football bowl schedule and scores

By  |  10:57 AM ET, 01/04/2012

 
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