Michigan Football (3-0) pulled out a much tougher than expected 28-24 win over Akron (1-2) on Saturday afternoon. The first half was sluggish and uninspiring as Michigan’s ground game sputtered out a meager 19 rushing yards and Devin Gardner turned the ball over three times. The Zips went into the locker room feeling pretty good about their chances of pulling off what would have been a stunning upset. Inexplicably the second half started off even worse. Michigan opened with a three and out. Akron responded with an 8 play, 75 yard touchdown drive to, I can’t believe I’m even typing this, take a 10-7 lead. That must have finally awakened the slumbering Wolverines as the offense responded with a 4 play, all runs, 57 yard touchdown drive to reclaim the lead.
The defense responded with a three-and-out that included two big hits, one each from Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis. The offense countered with a 9 play, 86 yard drive that was capped by Jehu Chesson’s first career reception and touchdown. Just like that order was restored and pulses throughout Michigan Stadium returned to normal rhythms. That was until Gardner chucked his third interception of the game and second pick six in the last two weeks. From there on the Wolverines were in a dogfight that would continue until the final snap of the game when the Zips were on the threshold of pulling off the biggest upset in the early season.
1. Desmond Morgan finished the game with 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a pass break up. He also was responsible for one of the biggest plays of the game. With the game in the balance and Akron facing a 3rd and 1 from the Michigan 2 yard line, Morgan dropped Jawon Chisholm for a two-yard loss.
2. Devin Gardner, yes he turned the ball over a whopping 4 times, but he also came through with several big plays that the Wolverines had to have to win this game. Gardner rushed for a game-high 103 yards and a touchdown. He also passed for 248 yards and 2 more TDs.
3. James Ross III notched a game-high 10 tackles including 1 for a loss and he also broke up a pass. It wasn’t a banner day for the defense, but Ross was steady.
Honorable mention: Jeremy Gallon, Thomas Gordon
3 Key plays
1. No play was bigger than the final play of the game. The Zips had a chance to win the game on the final snap. Greg Mattison dialed up a blitz and Brennen Beyer burst through a wide-open hole, and crushed Akron QB Kyle Pohl as he rushed a pass that would fall harmlessly to the turf. After the game, Beyer credited Jibreel Black for opening that hole.
2. As mentioned above, Desmond Morgan’s tackle for loss on the second to last play of the game was huge. He diagnosed the play and snuffed it out to help save Michigan from what would have been an embarrassing loss.
3. With Michigan clinging to a 21-17 4th quarter lead Akron proceeded to march down the field. The Zips had the ball 2nd and goal at the two yard line and the Wolverines were in dire need of a defensive player to make a play. Enter Jarrod Wilson who picked off a Kyle Pohl pass in the end zone.
Through their first two drives, Michigan’s ground game sputtered to the tune of -2 yards rushing. At the half, the Wolverines only managed to churn out 19 rushing yards. The Wolverines finished with 177 rushing yards.
After Michigan’s third turnover in the opening frame, Taylor Lewan got a little charged up on the sideline.
True freshman cornerback, Jourdan Lewis played a lot.
Dennis Norfleet can sure scare the wits out of me as he attempts to shag punts. He very nearly muffed one in the 3rd quarter. It should be noted that on the next punt, Drew Dileo was the return man.
Taylor Lewan was angry in the post-game press conference and that’s a good thing. He said he was embarrassed and placed the blame for the team’s performance squarely on his broad shoulders.
The 4 turnovers ignited a hope inside of the Zips that would not have been there otherwise. You cannot turn it over like that and expect to win. This is a trend that cannot continue if Michigan hopes to win their 43rd Big Ten Championship this season.
Blake Countess intercepted a pass and now has three picks in the last two weeks.
Akron picked up 21 first downs, Michigan had 19.
Michigan edged out Akron 425-418 in total yards.
Akron was 9-18 on 3rd down conversions.
Matt Wile punted 4 times, shanked two and posted a 33 yard average on the day.
What it means
Michigan has not shown the ability to simply run the ball with a running back. The overall rushing numbers look pretty good because Devin Gardner has run the ball so effectively. The fact that the Wolverines could not run the ball down Akron’s throat is disconcerting. The defense has to do a better job getting off the field on 3rd downs.
The Wolverines clearly have some work to do and it begins with both lines. The offensive line is not dominating and the defensive line is not generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Thankfully, Michigan was able to secure a win and avoid a humbling upset.
Michigan will play at UConn next week.
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