2006 Gator Bowl

NCAAFootballSingleGameHeader
Name=2006 Gator Bowl
Year=2006
Type=bg


Date=January 2, 2006
Stadium=Alltel Stadium
City=Jacksonville, Florida
Visitor Name Short=Virginia Tech
Visitor Nickname=Hokies
Home Name Short=Louisville
Home Nickname=Cardinals
Visitor Record=10–2
Home Record=9–2
Visitor Coach=Frank Beamer
Home Coach=Bobby Petrino
Visitor1=3
Visitor2=7
Visitor3=3
Visitor4=22
Home1=14
Home2=3
Home3=0
Home4=7
Visitor

Visitor Coaches=12
Visitor BCS=10
Home

Home Coaches=16
Home BCS=19
MVP=Cedric Humes (Virginia Tech),
Hunter Cantwell (Louisville)
Odds=Virginia Tech by 7.5
Anthem=Monty Lane Allen
Referee=
Halftime=Various high school marching bands from Kentucky, Virginia, and Florida
Attendance=63,780
US Network=NBC
US Announcers=Tom Hammond, Pat Haden,
and Lewis Johnson
Ratings=3.93
Intl Network=
Intl Announcers=

The 2006 Gator Bowl was a postseason college football match between the Louisville Cardinals and the Virginia Tech Hokies at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida on January 2, 2006. Louisville represented the Big East Conference (Big East), and Virginia Tech represented the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in the competition. The game was the final competition of the 2005 football season for each team and resulted in a 35–24 Virginia Tech victory.

Virginia Tech was selected as a participant in the 2006 Gator Bowl following a 10–2 regular season that included wins over 15th-ranked Georgia Tech and traditional rivals Virginia and West Virginia. A loss to Florida State in the inaugural ACC Championship Game had given Tech a bid to the Gator Bowl instead of the more prestigious Bowl Championship Series-run Orange Bowl game. Facing the 12th-ranked Hokies were the 15th-ranked Louisville Cardinals, who had gone 9–2 during their first season in the Big East Conference. Louisville had won its last five games before the Gator Bowl and had participated in the Liberty Bowl at the end of the previous season. Pre-game media coverage of the game focused on Virginia Tech's fall from being a contender for the national championship, Louisville's loss of star quarterback Brian Brohm to injury, the fact that both teams were playing under new conference affiliations, and the rise of Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick, younger brother of NFL star Michael Vick.

The 2006 Gator Bowl was played on January 2, 2006 at 12:30 p.m. EST in Jacksonville, Florida. Louisville led for much of the game, beginning with an 11-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter by backup quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who filled in for the injured Brohm. Tech was only able to answer with a field goal, and Louisville was able to add another touchdown before the end of the quarter. In the second quarter, Virginia Tech fought back and narrowed Louisville's lead to a single touchdown. At halftime, the score was 17–10 in Louisville's favor. In the second half, Virginia Tech's offense began to have success. Tech earned the only points of the third quarter—a 28-yard field goal from kicker Brandon Pace—to narrow Louisville's lead to 17–13. In the fourth quarter, however, the game fully turned in the Hokies' favor. Though Louisville scored a touchdown early in the quarter, Virginia Tech scored 22 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes of the game to take a 35–24 lead and earn the win.

Running back Cedric Humes was named the most valuable player of the game for Virginia Tech, and quarterback Hunter Cantwell was named the most valuable player of the Cardinals. Tech punter Nic Schmitt set Gator Bowl records for punt yardage and average punt distance, kicking the ball six times for 300 yards, an average of 50 yards per kick. Virginia Tech's win was marred by excessive penalties and unsportsmanlike conduct that resulted in the ejection of one player. Following the game, Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick was released from the team as a result of several incidents of misconduct, including a stomp on Louisville defender Elvis Dumervil's leg during the game. Several players who participated in the game, including Dumervil, later went on to careers in the National Football League.

Team selection

In the 2005 college football season, the Atlantic Coast Conference had an automatic bid to the Gator Bowl that allowed the Gator Bowl Association to have the first pick of bowl-eligible ACC teams after the winner of the ACC Championship Game was given a spot in a Bowl Championship Series game. [ [http://subscr.techsideline.com/news_archive/showArticle-1430.php ACC Adds Two Bowls to Lineup for 2006-2009] Chris Coleman, Techsideline.com. July 26, 2005. Accessed May 17, 2008.] This was the final year that the Gator Bowl had first pick of eligible ACC teams, as contract renegotiations later resulted in the Gator Bowl slipping to the third selection, beginning with the 2006 college football season. [ [http://www.theacc.com/sports/m-footbl/archive/111306aaa.html Bowl Selection Process for Atlantic Coast Conference Teams] The Atlantic Coast Conference, TheACC.com. November 13, 2006. Accessed May 17, 2008.] Virginia Tech, losers of the 2005 ACC Championship Game, were chosen by the Gator Bowl Association to participate as the ACC's representative to the 2006 Gator Bowl.

The other half of the matchup (according to the selection guidelines used in the 2005 season) would consist of either Notre Dame or the first selection from the Big East Conference after that conference's automatic BCS bid. [ [http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/071205/col_19218026.shtml Big 12 could share Gator Bowl tie-in] Gary Smits, "Jacksonville Times-Union". July 12, 2005. Accessed May 17, 2008.] Because Notre Dame was selected to play in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, a BCS game, the Gator Bowl Association was forced to select the Big East's Louisville Cardinals, which, like Virginia Tech, had finished second in their conference. [ [http://www.gatorbowl.com/pressroom/11282005.asp University of Louisville to play in 2006 Gator Bowl] The Gator Bowl Association, Gatorbowl.com. November 28, 2005. Accessed May 17, 2008.]

Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech Hokies football team began the 2005 college football season having won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship the previous year. [ [http://www.hokiesports.com/football/recaps/1242004aaa.html Tech topples 'Canes to win ACC championship] Jimmy Robertson, "Hokiesports.com the Newspaper". Hokiesports.com. December 4, 2004. Accessed May 18, 2008.] The Hokies also played in the 2005 Sugar Bowl against the third-ranked Auburn Tigers, losing 13–16 in a close contest. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=250030259 Sweet enough? Auburn finishes season 13-0] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. January 3, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Expectations were high for the Hokies to repeat their ACC championship performance the next year, and a preseason poll of media covering ACC football resulted in Virginia Tech being picked to face Florida State in the inaugural ACC Championship Game. [ [http://www.theacc.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/072505aal.html Media Predict Virginia Tech, Florida State Will Finish Atop Respective Divisions] David Droschak, TheACC.com. July 25, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.]

In its first game of the season, however, eighth-ranked Virginia Tech almost let those expectations fall short. At North Carolina State, the Hokies trailed at halftime and were tied at the beginning of the fourth quarter before eking out a 20–16 win in the final minutes. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252470152 Wolfpack's woes against Top-10 teams continue] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. September 4, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Any doubts about the Hokies' effectiveness were put to rest in their second game of the season—against the Duke Blue Devils—as Tech raced to a 45–0 victory. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252530150 Vick leads Hokies' offensive charge] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. September 10, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] The Hokies held Duke to just 35 yards of total offense, Tech's best defensive performance in the modern era. [ [http://www.hokiesports.com/football/recaps/20050910aaa.html Tech 'D' stymies Duke as Hokies open season 2-0] Jimmy Robertson, Hokiesports.com the Newspaper. Hokiesports.com. September 10, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2005.]

The win over Duke was followed by several others in succession. Heading into their ninth game of the season, the Hokies had amassed an undefeated 8–0 record and were the third-ranked college football team in the country. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/rankingsindex?seasonYear=2005&weekNumber=10&seasonType=2 2005 NCAA Football Rankings - Week 9 (Oct. 30)] ESPN.com. October 30, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Against the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes, however, Virginia Tech suffered its first defeat of the season, falling 27–7. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=253090259 Miami brings rude end to Virginia Tech's title dreams] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. November 5, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Tech recovered by winning its next two games, earning a spot in the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game, held in Jacksonville, Florida. There, the Hokies lost, 27–22, to the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles earned an automatic bid to a Bowl Championship Series game by virtue of the victory—had Virginia Tech won the game, it would have been awarded the bid. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=253370259 Florida State pulls off VaTech upset, clinches BCS berth] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. December 3, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] The day after Tech lost the ACC Championship Game, the Gator Bowl extended a formal invitation to Virginia Tech, which the Hokies accepted. [ [http://www.gatorbowl.com/pressroom/12042005.asp University of Louisville to play Virginia Tech in the 2006 Gator Bowl] The Gator Bowl Association, Gatorbowl.com. December 4, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Ninth-ranked Miami, the same team that beat the Hokies 27–7 earlier in the season, had been considered as the ACC's selection, but the Gator Bowl Association took into consideration Virginia Tech's history of having a large fan base travel to its bowl games, and selected the Hokies on those grounds. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/04/AR2005120401218_pf.html Virginia Tech Accepts Gator Bowl Invitation] Eric Prisbell, "The Washington Post". December 5, 2005. Accessed May 19, 2008.]

Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals football team came into the 2005 season having gone 11–1 the previous season, including a season-ending 44–40 victory over Boise State in the 2004 Liberty Bowl. [ [http://uoflsports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/recaps/123104aaa.html Louisville Edges Boise State In Liberty Bowl Shootout, 44-40] Theresa M. Walker, The Associated Press, uoflsports.cstv.com. December 31, 2004. Accessed May 18, 2008.] In addition, Louisville was also entering a new conference—the Big East—after departing Conference USA following the end of the 2004 season. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=243660097 Cardinals leave C-USA in style] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. December 31, 2004. Accessed May 18, 2008.] In a poll of media members covering the Big East prior to the 2005 season, Louisville was picked to win the Big East championship its first year in the conference. [ [http://uoflsports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/072005aaa.html Cards' Picked to Win BIG EAST Crown] July 20, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.]

In their first and second games of the season, the Cardinals lived up to that expectation. At in-state rival Kentucky, Louisville earned a 31–24 victory to win the Governor's Cup. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252470096 Late fumble recovery saves win for Cardinals] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. September 4, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] This was followed the next week by a 63–27 victory over non-conference opponent Oregon State. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252600097 Beavers lose seventh straight road game vs. ranked team] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. September 17, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Unfortunately for the Cardinals, their first Big East conference game of the season—and of school history—did not go as well. At South Florida, the ninth-ranked Cardinals were outscored 45–14, the first time Louisville's offense had been held below 30 points in 13 straight games. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252670058 USF snaps Louisville's nine-game win streak] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. September 24, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.]

Following the loss, Louisville recovered, scoring 61 points and 69 points, respectively, in non-conference wins over Florida Atlantic University and North Carolina, returning to their previous offensive success. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252740097 Bush makes Owls' heads spin in Louisville victory] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. October 1, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252810097 Brohm throws for 304 yards, four TDs in rout] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. October 8, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Again, however, Louisville faltered against a Big East opponent. The Cardinals' second Big East game, at West Virginia University, had much the same result as their first contest in the new conference as Louisville lost, 46–44. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252880277 Freshman QB Slaton scores 6 TDs for Mountaineers] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. October 15, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] West Virginia later went on to finish 11–1 for the season, winning the Big East championship and defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2006 Sugar Bowl. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=260020061 Slaton's record night stuns pro-Georgia crowd at Sugar Bowl] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. January 2, 2006. Accessed May 18, 2008.]

Louisville, meanwhile, returned to its winning ways. The Cardinals, following their loss to the Mountaineers, won their first Big East game in school history the next week, over the Cincinnati Bearcats, 46–22. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252952132 Brian's song: Brohm sparks Louisville rout of Cincinnati] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. October 22, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] The rout of Cincinnati sparked a five-game winning streak, which concluded on December 3 with a 30–20 victory over the University of Connecticut Huskies. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=253370041 Louisville gets three TDs from Bush, beats UConn] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. December 3, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.] Unfortunately for the Cardinals, starting quarterback Brian Brohm, who had the sixth-best season (in terms of passing yards) in Louisville history, suffered a season-ending knee injury. [ [http://uoflsports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/112805aai.html Brohm Out for the Season] Louisville Cardinals Athletic Department, uoflsports.cstv.com. November 28, 2005. Accessed May 19, 2008.] With West Virginia having won the Big East championship and an automatic Bowl Championship Series game bid, Big East second-place Louisville was selected by the Gator Bowl even before the victory over Connecticut. [ [http://www.gatorbowl.com/pressroom/11282005.asp University of Louisville to play in the 2006 Gator Bowl] November 28, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2008.]

Pre-game buildup

Pregame media and fan interest surrounding the game focused largely on Louisville's top-ranked offense and Virginia Tech's first-ranked scoring defense. [ [http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/lopresti/2005-12-15-lopresti-bowls_x.htm Bowl season brings 28 games and a few hundred commercials] Mike Lopresti, USA Today. December 15, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] Other major points of media coverage included the two teams' quarterbacks: Louisville's Hunter Cantwell, who replaced starter Brian Brohm after Brohm suffered a season-ending knee injury; and Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick, brother of National Football League star Michael Vick. Also a concern for Louisville was the health of star running back Michael Bush, who had missed two games in November due to an injury. On a wider note, there was also interest in the conference-level showdown between a new Big East team (Louisville) and a team that had left the Big East for the ACC after the 2003 season (Virginia Tech). [ [http://www.gainesville.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051222/GATORS01/51222035/-1/sports Conference pride swells in postseason] Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press, Gainsville.com. December 22, 2005. Accessed May 19, 2008.] For Virginia Tech, there was also the hope of overcoming the disappointment of a season that had seen the Hokies ranked third in the country and in the hunt for the national championship before failing to even win the Atlantic Coast Conference and missing a bid to a Bowl Championship Series game. [http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=47939 Hokies arrive in Jacksonville for Gator Bowl] The Associated Press, "Sporting News", SportingNews.com. December 27, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] [ [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/wb/xp-46446 Beamer touts bowl's urgency] Randy King, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 30, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

When betting on the game opened, spread bettors favored Virginia Tech by 10 points. Five days after betting opened, the point spread had narrowed to 7.5, still in favor of Virginia Tech. Two weeks later, the point spread remained at 7.5 in favor of Virginia Tech. [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/45969 It's 'W' or bust for the Hokies] Randy King, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 26, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

Offensive matchup

Louisville

Heading into the Gator Bowl, Louisville's scoring offense was ranked third in the country—averaging 45.2 points per game—and had been held under 30 points just once in their preceding 21 games. [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/44743 Cards not believing the 'weak' Tech talk] Randy King, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 16, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] The high-powered Cardinals' offense was predicted to pose a challenge for the Virginia Tech defense.

With star quarterback Brian Brohm having undergone surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, there were some questions as to how backup Hunter Cantwell would perform under pressure. Cantwell played well in the Cardinals' season-ending contest against Connecticut, but some commentators predicted that Virginia Tech's quicker defense would pose problems for him. [ [http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=46009 Inside Dish: Life after Bush, White] Matt Hayes, "The Sporting News". Sportingnews.com. December 19, 2005. Accessed May 19, 2008.] In that contest, Cantwell completed 16 of 25 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. In high school, Cantwell passed for 7,272 yards and 70 touchdowns. His .606 career completion percentage ranked 11th in Kentucky state history. [http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2005/122005/12312005/156833 Hokies will get a shot at young quarterback] Jim McConnell, Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star, Fredericksburg.com. December 31, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

Running back Michael Bush was predicted to return to form after suffering a foot injury that kept him out of two games in November. Bush ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns against Connecticut, his first game back from the injury. Heading into the Gator Bowl, Bush had a school-record 24 touchdowns and led the country in scoring. He ran for 1,049 yards in nine games. He was also a capable receiver, catching 20 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. But with Brohm on the sidelines, it was expected the Cardinals would rely on Bush's legs more than usual, in an effort to minimize the need for the inexperienced Cantwell to pass the ball. [ [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/wb/xp-46334 Hokies hope Bush won't make 'em 'look bad'] Randy King, "The Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 29, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

Louisville wide receiver Mario Urrutia, who caught 31 passes for 702 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season, [ [http://uoflsports.cstv.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/lou/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/06gatorbowlguide 2006 Gator Bowl Media Guide] Louisville Athletics Department, Louisville, Kentucky. Page 3. Accessed May 21, 2008.] stirred a bit of controversy in the final days leading up to the Gator Bowl after he declared that Virginia Tech's first-ranked defense was "mostly hype."

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick was considered the key player for the Virginia Tech offense heading into the Gator Bowl. The younger brother of first-overall NFL Draft pick Michael Vick—who also played for Tech—Marcus led the league in passing efficiency (141.6 rating), completed 166 of 268 passes (60.3 percent) for 2,190 yards and 15 touchdowns, with ten interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 370 yards and six touchdowns. Prior to the Gator Bowl, he pledged that he would return for another season at Virginia Tech before entering the NFL draft. "The NFL is tough. It's the real deal. You've got to be ready for it. You just don't want to rush into just throwing yourself out there because of the money or anything like that. You've got to really be prepared for it", he said. [ [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/46458 Vick 'definitely sure' he'll return] Randy King, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 30, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

On the ground, two different Tech players were predicted to share time running the ball. [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/wb/xp-46568 Humes: Ore will soar] Randy King, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 31, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] Senior running back Cedric Humes was predicted to get the bulk of the carries in the game, but redshirt freshman Branden Ore was also predicted to see some plays at times. Humes rushed the ball 140 times for 639 yards and ten touchdowns during the regular season. [ [http://www.hokiesports.com/football/2006gator.pdf 2006 Virginia Tech football Gator Bowl Media Guide] (PDF) Virginia Tech Sports Information Department, Hokiesports.com. Blacksburg, Virginia. Pages 18–19. Accessed May 21, 2008.] Ore, meanwhile, ran the ball for 591 yards and six touchdowns.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan was also considered a key component of the Hokie offense. Morgan finished the season with 28 receptions for 471 yards and four touchdowns. [ [http://www.hokiesports.com/football/2006gator.pdf 2006 Virginia Tech football Gator Bowl Media Guide] (PDF) Virginia Tech Sports Information Department, Hokiesports.com. Blacksburg, Virginia. Pages 23–24. Accessed May 21, 2008.] Prior to the game, Morgan predicted that if the Hokies executed their plays well, they would emerge the victors. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/29/AR2005122901136.html Gator Bowl Bound] Sonny Amato, "The Washington Post". January 1, 2006. Accessed May 19, 2008.]

Backup guard Brandon Gore broke his ankle during the Hokies' loss to Florida State and would not be able to participate. Senior Tech running back Mike Imoh, who had shared time running the ball during the regular season with Ore and Humes, was also out after undergoing surgery to repair an injured ankle. Adding to the injury situation for Virginia Tech was offensive tackle Jimmy Martin, who suffered a sprained knee ligament in practice leading up to the game. [ [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/46566 Tech's Martin may miss Gator Bowl] Randy King, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 31, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] Martin had started 45 consecutive games prior to the Gator Bowl, a streak that was broken when he was replaced by Brandon Frye on the day of the game. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/bowls05/news/story?id=2278012 Hokies' Martin misses Gator Bowl with sprained knee] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. January 2, 2008. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

Defensive matchup

Louisville

Shortly after Louisville was selected to the 2006 Gator Bowl, Cardinals defensive end Elvis Dumervil was awarded the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the top defensive college football player in the United States. [ [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/43482 Dumervil wins Nagurski] Wire Reports, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 6, 2005. Accessed May 19, 2008.] Dumervil also earned several other honors in the weeks leading up to the game, including being named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, an Associated Press All-American and earning the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the best defensive end in the country. [ [http://www.sportingnews.com/cfootball/articles/20051226/690262-p.html Louisville's Dumervil wants piece of Vick] The Associated Press, "Sporting News", SportingNews.com. December 26, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] Dumervil led the nation in sacks (20) and forced fumbles (10) during the regular season. Prior to the game, he announced that he was looking forward to the contest, saying, "To me, I wanted to play the best possible team in the Gator Bowl, and I think that's what we've got." [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/wb/xp-43891 Cards excited for Tech game] Randy King, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 9, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

A week and a half after Dumervil won the Nagurski Trophy, senior defensive tackle Montavious Stanley, who had been a leader on defense for Louisville, underwent surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Stanley had been the Cardinals' best run-stopper on defense, amassing 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks during the season. [ [http://louisville.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=490354 It's Official: Stanley will miss Gator Bowl] Matt Willinger, Cardinalsports.com. December 12, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

Virginia Tech

Coming into the Gator Bowl, the Virginia Tech defense was ranked first in total defense, second in pass defense, fourth in rushing defense, and third in scoring defense, allowing an average of just over 12 points per game. The Virginia Tech defense was led by defensive end Darryl Tapp, a first-team All-ACC pick, an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-American, a finalist for the Lott Trophy, and a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award. Tapp was considered a natural leader both on and off the field and led the Hokies' defensive workouts during practice. [ [http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/acc/2005-12-29-zillgitt-tapp_x.htm Tapp carries lunch pail to work for Virginia Tech] Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today, USA Today.com. December 29, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] Tapp finished the regular season with 45 tackles (including 12.5 for a loss) and ten sacks. He was also named a second-team Associated Press All-American, and he won the Dudley Award, given annually to the best college football player in the state of Virginia. [ [http://www.wvec.com/sharedcontent/APStories/stories/D8ECF8CG1.html Tapp wins Dudley; sixth Hokies player to win in seven years] Hank Kurz Jr., The Associated Press, WVEC.com. December 9, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2005.]

Tech cornerback Jimmy Williams, considered a cornerstone of the Hokie defense, had been a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, but lost to Louisville's Elvis Dumervil. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=2249289 Louisville senior DE Dumervil wins Nagurski Trophy] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. December 5, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] Williams was Tech's sole first-team Associated Press All-American and was also named to the American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of American and Walter Camp All-America teams. He recorded 44 tackles and an interception for the Hokies in the regular season. [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/college/wb/44475 Williams, Ferguson tops at positions] Roanoke Times, Roanoke.com. December 14, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.] Williams had foregone entering the NFL draft after the 2004 college football season in order to return to Virginia Tech for his senior season, and he was expected to be a high draft pick upon graduation. [ [http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2005/122005/12302005/156594 Williams glad he returned] Jim McConnell, the "Free-Lance Star", Fredericksburg.com. December 30, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

Game summary

The 2006 Gator Bowl kicked off at 12:30 p.m. EST on January 2, 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=260020259 Vick powers second-half rally as Hokies win Gator Bowl] The Associated Press, ESPN.com, January 2, 2006. Accessed February 20, 2008.] Official attendance for the game was listed as 63,780, placing it at 34th (out of 62) on the list of Gator Bowls in terms of attendance. [ [http://www.gatorbowl.com/tgb/history/ar.asp Attendance Recap] The Gator Bowl Association, Gatorbowl.com. Accessed May 16, 2008.] [http://web1.ncaa.org/d1mfb/worksheet.jsp?year=2005&game=200500000074220060102.xml Game Summary - Virginia Tech vs. Louisville] The NCAA, NCAA.org. March 29, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2008.] At kickoff, the weather was mostly cloudy with a temperature of approximately 76 degrees. The wind was from the south-southwest at convert|11|mph|km/h. [ [http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KNIP/2006/1/2/DailyHistory.html?req_city=NA&req_state=NA&req_statename=NA History for Jacksonville NAS, FL] Weather Underground, Wunderground.com. January 2, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2008.] Approximately 4.14 million American households watched the game on television, earning the game a Nielsen rating of 3.93. [ [http://www.bcsfootball.org/bcsfb/tvratings 2005-06 Bowl Game TV Ratings] Fox Sports, BCSfootball.org. Accessed May 18, 2008.] The pre-game show featured the Marching Virginians, the Cardinal Marching Band, and the Wachovia Dance Team, a collection of Jacksonville-area entertainers. Also before kickoff, the stadium was overflown by a flight of U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets from VFA-103, based in Virginia. The national anthem was sung by Monty Lane Allen, member of a Gospel singing group."2006 Toyota Gator Bowl Gameday Program". Host Communications, the Gator Bowl Association. December, 2006. Page 12.]

First quarter

Virginia Tech won the ceremonial pre-game coin toss to select first possession and elected to kick off to Louisville. The Cardinals began the game's opening drive at their own 18-yard line after the opening kickoff. Running back Michael Bush rushed for 12 yards on the game's opening play, netting the game's first first down. Subsequent plays, however, saw Louisville struggle to gain another. Facing fourth down and six yards at their own 34-yard line, the Cardinals elected to attempt to gain the needed six yards rather than punt the ball away. Kolby Smith surprised the Tech defense and broke free for a 30-yard run, converting the first down and continuing the Louisville drive. Eight plays later, Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell connected on an 11-yard pass to Mario Urrutia for a touchdown and the game's first points. The extra point kick was good, and with 10:42 remaining in the first quarter, Louisville took a 7–0 lead. [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/playbyplay?gameId=260020259&period=1 2006 Gator Bowl:1st Qtr Play-by-Play] ESPN.com, January 2, 2006. Accessed February 20, 2008.]

Virginia Tech's first possession of the game began at its own 32-yard line after Louisville's post-touchdown kickoff. Tech running back Cedric Humes gained 12 yards and a first down on the Hokies' first play of the game, and quarterback Marcus Vick completed a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Josh Hyman three plays later to get another first down and drive the Hokies into Louisville territory. After Vick was stopped for losses on two consecutive rushing plays, he completed another long pass to Hyman for a first down. Subsequent plays saw Tech advance into the Louisville red zone but fail to gain another first down. Kicker Brandon Pace entered the game to attempt a 36-yard field goal kick, which was successful. With six minutes remaining in the first quarter, Tech had cut Louisville's lead to 7–3.

Louisville's second drive of the game was much quicker than the Cardinals' first. After beginning at their own 20-yard line, it took the Cardinals just seven plays to travel 80 yards and earn a touchdown. Louisville was helped throughout the drive by repeated Virginia Tech personal foul penalties. Tech players committed three separate 15-yard personal fouls during the drive, one of which came after Louisville's successful extra point kick when cornerback Jimmy Williams bumped a game official. Williams was ejected from the game for the contact and was removed from the field after watching the next series from the sidelines. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/bowls05/news/story?id=2278089 Hokies' Williams ejected during Gator Bowl] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. January 2, 2006. Accessed May 21, 2008.] The touchdown and extra point extended Louisville's first-quarter lead to 14–3.

Tech received the ball at its 20-yard line with 2:44 remaining in the first quarter. Three quick rushes picked up 22 yards and two first downs, pushing the ball to the Tech 42-yard line. On the next play, however, wide receiver Justin Harper committed a 15-yard pass interference penalty, which negated much of the previous plays' gains. Marcus Vick rushed for five yards, threw two incomplete passes, and was unable to get another first down after the penalty. With time winding down in the quarter, Tech was forced to punt the ball away. The game's first punt traveled 53 yards, and Louisville took over on offense at its 40-yard line following a 25-yard punt return as time expired in the quarter. At the end of the first quarter, Louisville led Virginia Tech, 14–3.

Second quarter

Louisville began the second quarter in possession of the ball at its 40-yard line. Despite having good field position, the Cardinals were unable to gain more than four yards on three plays and were forced into their first punt of the game. Throughout much of the second quarter, both teams traded punts as each went three and out on several occasions. By the halfway point in the quarter, Virginia Tech had punted the ball twice in the quarter. Louisville punted the ball three times after kicking no punts at all in the first quarter. [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/playbyplay?gameId=260020259&period=2 2006 Gator Bowl:2nd Qtr Play-by-Play] ESPN.com, January 2, 2006. Accessed February 20, 2008.]

After the third Louisville punt, Virginia Tech took over at its 46-yard line. Unlike the previous second-quarter possessions, which saw the Tech offense struggle to move the ball effectively, Tech began its drive with a five-yard rush. After losing seven yards on the next play, Marcus Vick completed a 19-yard pass to tight end Jeff King, driving the Hokies into Louisville territory for the first time in the quarter. Two plays later, Vick connected with wide receiver Justin Harper on a 33-yard pass that resulted in the Hokies' first touchdown of the game. With 4:56 remaining in the first half of the game, Tech trimmed Louisville's lead to 14–10.

Following the Tech touchdown, Louisville attempted to answer with points of its own before halftime. After starting on his own 20-yard line, Hunter Cantwell completed two quick passes that resulted in 26 yards. Two plays later, Michael Bush broke free for a 34-yard run, driving Louisville deep into the Virginia Tech side of the field. Despite having a first down at the Virginia Tech 18-yard line, Louisville was unable to gain any yards on three consecutive plays. Bush was stopped for no gain on a rushing attempt, and two Cantwell passes fell incomplete. Kicker Arthur Carmody came in to complete a 35-yard field goal, and with 2:16 remaining in the first half, Louisville led by a score of 17–10.

After receiving Louisville's kickoff, Virginia Tech elected to run out the clock and bring the first half to an end. During the process, Marcus Vick ran the ball on a designed play and was tackled by Cardinals defensive end Elvis Dumervil after Vick gained nine yards. Following the play, Vick paused, then stomped on Dumervil's leg, apparently in anger. Though referees failed to observe the stomp, television commentators replayed the action, and Tech coaches considered pulling Vick from the game as punishment. At the end of the first half of play, Louisville held a 17–10 lead.

Third quarter

The second half of play began with Virginia Tech receiving the ball, going three and out, and punting the ball back to Louisville. The Cardinals reciprocated by also going three and out and punting the ball back to Virginia Tech. The Hokies began their second drive of the quarter at their one-yard line. Despite beginning deep in their own end of the field, Virginia Tech mounted a successful drive. Running back Branden Ore and quarterback Marcus Vick alternated rushes, picking up 18 yards and a first down. After Vick was sacked by the Louisville defense, he recovered by throwing a 29-yard pass for another first down. Following the pass, Vick and Ore rushed for six consecutive plays, alternating carries at various intervals. Inside the Louisville red zone, however, the Cardinals' defense stiffened and the Tech offense began to falter. After Tech successfully gained a first down on fourth and one, the Hokies were unable to gain another. Tech kicker Brandon Pace was forced to make his second field goal of the game, this one a 28-yarder, to make the game 17–13 with 2:52 remaining in the quarter. The Tech drive had begun with 11:17 remaining in the quarter and had taken eight minutes and 25 seconds off the clock. [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/playbyplay?gameId=260020259&period=3 2006 Gator Bowl:3rd Qtr Play-by-Play] ESPN.com, January 2, 2006. Accessed February 20, 2008.]

Louisville received the post-field goal kickoff, but again went three and out, punting the ball back to Virginia Tech. Louisville did not pick up a first down in the third quarter, and Tech began yet another drive as time ran out in the quarter. With one quarter remaining in the game, Tech had narrowed the Louisville lead to 17–13.

Fourth quarter

Shortly after the fourth quarter began, the Virginia Tech drive that had begun in the waning moments of the third quarter came to an end. The Hokies were forced to punt, and Louisville began its first drive of the fourth quarter. The Cardinals' Harry Douglas ran for 29 yards on the their first play of the drive. On the second, Hunter Cantwell completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge. It had taken Louisville just 33 seconds and two plays to travel 58 yards and earn a touchdown. The score gave Louisville a 24–13 lead with 13:32 remaining to play. But just as it had taken Louisville just two plays to score, so too did it take Virginia Tech two plays to answer the Louisville touchdown. After taking over at his team's 22-yard line, Marcus Vick completed a 54-yard pass to wide receiver David Clowney. Virginia Tech and Louisville committed offsetting 15-yard personal foul penalties before the play, to no effect on the Hokie offense. On the next play after the long pass, Cedric Humes rushed for 24 yards and the answering Hokie touchdown. It had taken just 28 seconds for Virginia Tech to answer the Louisville touchdown. Having done that, Tech went Louisville one better, successfully scoring a two-point conversion on a pass from Vick to Morgan. The touchdown and two-point conversion cut the Louisville lead to 24–21. [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/playbyplay?gameId=260020259&period=4 2006 Gator Bowl:4th Qtr Play-by-Play] ESPN.com, January 2, 2006. Accessed February 20, 2008.]

The Cardinals began their second drive of the quarter at their own 25-yard line. In fits and starts, the Louisville offense advanced down the field. Kolby Smith ran for a yard, Michael Bush for two, then six yards, and Cantwell completed two passes of seven yards each. The Cardinals were also helped by a defensive pass interference penalty against Virginia Tech, which gave Louisville a first down by penalty. As Louisville began to enter Tech territory in earnest, however, the Cardinals suffered their first turnover of the game. Facing third down and three yards from the Virginia Tech 40-yard line, Cantwell was sacked and fumbled the ball. Tech defender Xavier Adibi scooped up the loose ball, and Tech gained the initiative. Following the fumble, the Hokies began a drive at their 47-yard line. On the first play, Tech was aided by a pass interference penalty on Louisville. The penalty was followed by a three-yard Cedric Humes rush and yet another pass interference penalty against Louisville. Humes rushed twice more for five yards, and Vick completed a 16-yard pass to David Clowney before Vick completed a five-yard touchdown pass to Jeff King. The score and subsequent extra point gave Virginia Tech a 28–24 lead—its first of the game—with 6:03 remaining.

Louisville took over on offense needing to get a touchdown to regain a lead before the waning clock finally ran out of time. After the Tech kickoff and a touchback, the Cardinals took over at their 20-yard line. Michael Bush ran for 10 yards and a first down, and Hunter Cantwell scrambled for six more on a rushing play. Facing third down and needing four yards, Cantwell dropped back to pass for the first down. As the pass soared through the air, Tech defender James Anderson jumped and caught the ball, intercepting it. Still on his feet, Anderson quickly rushed the other way and, unimpeded, ran 39 yards into the end zone for a Virginia Tech touchdown. The score and extra point energized Virginia Tech's offense and defense and gave the Hokies an 11-point lead—35–24—with 4:45 remaining in the game.

Louisville returned on offense, needing to score quickly, make a stop on defense, then score a second time to take the lead. The energized Tech defense was disinclined to allow any such thing. Though Cantwell completed two short passes for 16 yards and a first down, he was sacked on first down and the Tech defense prevented him from completing another pass. Two passes were knocked down by Hokie defenders, while another fell short. After Louisville failed to convert a fourth down, Virginia Tech took over on offense. The Hokies proceeded to run out the clock, executing two short rushes and an incomplete pass. Louisville had one final chance on offense after a Tech punt, but three consecutive desperation Hail Mary passes were unsuccessful. Two fell incomplete, and the third was intercepted by Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers. With time almost gone, Tech finished running out the clock and secured the victory. As time expired, Virginia Tech held a 35–24 lead and won the 2006 Gator Bowl.

Final statistics

Running back Cedric Humes was named the game's most valuable player for Virginia Tech, [ [http://www.gatorbowl.com/tgb/history/mvpwt.asp Most Valuable Players - Winning Team] The Gator Bowl Association, Gatorbowl.com. Accessed May 16, 2008.] and quarterback Hunter Cantwell was named the most valuable player of the Cardinals. [ [http://www.gatorbowl.com/tgb/history/mvplt.asp Most Valuable Players - Losing Team] The Gator Bowl Association, Gatorbowl.com. Accessed May 16, 2008.] Tech punter Nic Schmitt set Gator Bowl record for punt yardage and average punt distance, kicking the ball six times for 300 yards, an average of 50 yards per kick. [ [http://www.gatorbowl.com/tgb/history/rb.asp Individual Records] The Gator Bowl Association, Gatorbowl.com. Accessed May 16, 2008.]

Despite being more highly promoted in pregame media coverage, Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick was outperformed statistically by Louisville's Hunter Cantwell. Vick completed 11 of 21 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 10 yards on 13 carries. Cantwell, meanwhile, completed 15 of his 37 passes for 216 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.

On the ground, Tech running back Cedric Humes led all rushers with 22 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown. Louisville's leading rusher, Michael Bush, had 16 carries for 94 yards and one fumble. The third-leading rusher in the game was Tech's Branden Ore, who carried the ball 11 times for 56 yards. Louisville's Kolby Smith had three carries for 32 yards, including a 30-yard run that was the game's second-longest rushing play.

Defensively, Virginia Tech dominated, intercepting the ball three times, forcing a fumble once, and earning one defensive touchdown. Two Louisville defenders had the best individual performances during the game, however. Brandon Johnson and Abe Brown had six tackles apiece, and Brown sacked Marcus Vick once, for a loss of ten yards. The sack was one of three earned by the Louisville offense during the game. Virginia Tech's defense earned two sacks during the game, and the Hokies' leading tackler was Vince Hall, who recorded four and two assists on sacks of Louisville's Hunter Cantwell.

Post-game effects

Virginia Tech's victory in the 2006 Gator Bowl had far-reaching effects for both the Hokies and the Louisville Cardinals. The win pushed Tech to 11–2 on the season, [ [http://www.hokiesports.com/football/pastschedules.html?season=2005 Virginia Tech Football Past Schedules] Virginia Tech Athletics Department, Blacksburg, Virginia. Accessed February 20, 2008.] while the Cardinals' loss ensured they ended the 2005 season with a 9–3 overall record. The game itself provided more than $14 million dollars in economic benefit to the Jacksonville area as Louisville and Virginia Tech fans flocked to the region, spending money on food, hotel rooms, transportation, and entertainment. [ [http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=49458 JEDC has game plan to increase sports tourism] Max Marbut, Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record, Jaxdailyrecord.com. February 15, 2008. Accessed May 19, 2008.] [ [http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/wb/xp-43421 Hokies likely to snap up Gator seats] Erinn Hutkin, "Roanoke Times", Roanoke.com. December 5, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2008.]

Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers announced after the game that he would be leaving the team in order to become an assistant coach with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Rogers was replaced by offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, whose position as offensive line coach was replaced by James Madison University assistant coach Curt Newsome. [ [http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtfootball/wb/48242 Rogers: Not out for outing Vick] Randy King, Roanoke Times, Roanoke.com. January 13, 2006. Accessed May 19, 2008.]

Marcus Vick

Following the 2005 ACC Championship Game, Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick stormed off the field, refusing to talk to reporters following the loss. Vick, who picked up a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in that game, also earned several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the 2006 Gator Bowl, where post-game replays revealed he purposefully stomped on the leg of Louisville Cardinals' defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Vick claimed he apologized to Dumervil after the game, but Dumervil stated that no apology had been made. In the wake of the incident, Virginia Tech officials announced that they would be conducting a review of Vick's conduct on and off the field. [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/bowls05/news/story?id=2279427 Virginia Tech to review, address Vick's behavior] The Associated Press, ESPN.com, January 3, 2006. Accessed December 30, 2007.]

On January 6, 2006, just a few days after the Gator Bowl, Virginia Tech officials dismissed Vick from the Virginia Tech football team, citing a December 17 traffic stop in which Vick was cited for speeding and driving with a revoked or suspended license. Vick had hidden the information from the team and the infraction was not discovered until January. The traffic stop, an earlier suspension from the team, and his unsportsmanlike conduct during the 2005 ACC Championship Game and 2006 Gator Bowl were used as grounds for his dismissal. [http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=ncf&id=2283020 Virginia Tech kicks Marcus Vick off football team] The Associated Press, ESPN.com, January 6, 2006. Accessed December 30, 2007.] In response to being dismissed from the team, Vick was quoted as saying, "It's not a big deal. I'll just move on to the next level, baby." [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/bowls05/news/story?id=2282642 Vick, dismissed by Hokies, says he will turn pro] The Associated Press, ESPN.com. January 7, 2006. Accessed May 19, 2008.]

2006 NFL Draft

On April 29 and 30, the National Football league held its annual player draft. Over a dozen players who participated in the 2006 Gator Bowl were selected in the draft. Virginia Tech had a record nine players selected in the draft, with Darryl Tapp (31st overall) selected first from the Hokies. Jimmy Williams (37th overall), James Anderson (88th), Jeff King (155th), Jonathan Lewis (177th), Justin Hamilton (222nd), Jimmy Martin (227th), Will Montgomery (234th), and Cedric Humes (240th) were the other Tech players selected. [ [http://www.hokiesports.com/football/recaps/20060501aaa.html Nine Tech players go in weekend's NFL Draft] Jimmy Robertson, "Hokiesports.com The Newspaper", Hokiesports.com. May 1, 2006. Accessed May 21, 2008.] Louisville had four players selected in the draft. Offensive guard Jason Spitz was selected 75th overall and was the first Cardinals' offensive lineman to be drafted since 1996. [ [http://uoflsports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/042906aaa.html Spitz Taken By Green Bay In The Third Round] Louisville Athletics Department, uoflsports.cstv.com. April 29, 2006. Accessed May 21, 2008.] Elvis Dumervil was selected with the 126th selection, linebacker Brandon Johnson was selected 142nd, and defensive tackle Montavious Stanley was selected 182nd. [ [http://uoflsports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/043006aaa.html Three Cardinals Drafted on Second Day of the NFL Draft] Louisville Athletics Department, uoflsports.cstv.com. April 30, 2006. Accessed May 21, 2008.]

ee also

*Glossary of American football
*2006 NCAA Division I FBS football rankings

Notes

References

* Lazenby, Roland. Legends: A Pictoral History of Virginia Tech Football. Taylor, Full Court Press (1986) ISBN 978-0913767115
* Tandler, Rich. Hokie Games: Virginia Tech Football Game by Game 1945-2006. Game by Game Sports Media (September 15, 2007) ISBN 978-0972384520


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