NEW ORLEANS — Danny Coale remained a team player to the end.
In a crowded Virginia Tech locker room, he stood for more than 20 minutes answering questions from wave after wave of reporters, who wanted to know about the senior’s role in a 23-20 overtime Sugar Bowl loss.
He said it was unfortunate his overtime catch was ruled incomplete, that it was a tough way to lose. Watching from the next locker, Jarrett Boykin offered a different perspective.
“I definitely thought he was in bounds,” Boykin said of Coale. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it: The refs were giving us a whole bunch of (bullcrap).”
Across the hallway, in the defensive locker room, cornerback Jayron Hosley offered a similar perspective.
“I thought it was a (heck) of a catch, man,” he said. “Danny Coale has been making plays for us all year, and that just solidified it.”
The junior, who announced that Tuesday night was his last game as a Hokie, twice intercepted passes only to see them overturned. On the second, a pass interference call negating what would have been a crucial third-quarter play.
“Both guys were into each other, and the receiver rolled his ankle, and he made it look like he got shoved down,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “That’s what I saw, anyway.”
Then there was the incredible story with a bittersweet ending.
Pressed into duty when the team’s starting and backup kickers got hurt, senior Justin Myer, who had never made a collegiate field goal, went 4-for-4 in regulation Tuesday night.
However, he missed from 37 yards in overtime, as his counterpart, Michigan’s Brendan Gibbons, hit from the same distance to push the Wolverines to victory.
“Right now, the last one’s really all that’s on my mind,” a dejected Myer said as he was consoled by teammates.
Had Coale hung on, it might not have mattered. And it might have been enough to overcome a game full of special teams gaffes.
Facing fourth and 1 on the Michigan 48, with the game tied, it seemed that coach Frank Beamer had a decision to make: Allow Logan Thomas to go with a quarterback sneak, one of their most successful plays, or let Coale punt the ball away, because the Hokies defense had been so dominant.
Instead, in a year where Beamerball seemed to take a vacation, the inexplicable happened.