After one of the ugliest games I’ve seen in a long time, Michigan was somehow able to hold off the Akron Zips by a score of 28-24. A combination of turnovers, no running game, and no defensive pressure added up to a scary Saturday afternoon for the Wolverines. A lot of credit must go to Akron as well, as they played a pretty good game.
Coming off a big win over Notre Dame under the lights last week, the Michigan football team seemed to take a step back this week as they struggled in all facets of the game. Akron came into the contest having lost 27 straight road games. Make that 28 after today. The Big House was held fairly silent because the game was surprisingly close and the fact that the student section wasn’t even close to being full.
What’s with Gardner?
Devin Gardner played out of his mind a week ago against the Irish, but played what he called the worst game of his career against Akron. Gardner threw three interceptions and also fumbled en route to a shaky performance.
Gardner got off to a hot start on the first drive as he completed all five passes, the last a long touchdown pass.
Everything went downhill from there.
Early in the second quarter, Gardner lined up in the pistol and looked to run an option play. He should have pitched the ball, but didn’t and ended up fumbling the ball on the Akron 22 yard line.
Michigan’s next drive ended after Gardner forced a pass to Jeremy Gallon and was intercepted by an Akron defender.
Let’s make it three in a row, why don’t we? The second play of the next drive was also an errant pass from Gardner that was intercepted. None of these first half turnovers led to Akron points, fortunately. Garnder had another pass picked off in the fourth quarter, which was returned for a touchdown.
Gardner showed brief flashes from his Notre Dame performance. A long touchdown run and passing score highlighted a productive third quarter.
Over 100,000 people watched this game in shock, as Gardner made multiple questionable decisions against an inferior opponent. There is definitely some work to be done and I have every reason to believe No. 98 will bounce back next week against UConn.
Concern with the run game
Fitzgerald Toussaint was limited last week, and once again was forced to fight for every last inch. Fitz managed 71 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Derrick Green carried the ball only once for 3 yards.
The play of the offensive line, namely the young guys on the inside should be looked at very carefully heading into next week. They had a lot of trouble run-blocking for the second straight game, which really hurt Michigan’s play-action passing against the Zips.
After the game, a fired up Taylor Lewan said that the line needs to do a better job in both the run game and protecting Gardner in the passing game.
Lewan said multiple times in the press conference about how embarrassing of a game this was for the University of Michigan. Reasons for the sub-par performance were lack of senior leadership and preparation in this week’s practice was not good enough.
Coming from someone who was 10 feet from the fuming Michigan captain, I definitely believe him when he says there will be improvement in the performance of the team next week.
Still no pressure
One major concern heading into the game was the lack of a pass rush on defense. Well, it didn’t show up again this week. Michigan didn’t record a sack and Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl was able to throw for over 300 yards as a result. Brennen Beyer said after the game that the defense needs to do a much better job of pressuring the quarterback.
Michigan’s secondary played with a lot of cushion again, and Pohl took advantage. Raymon Taylor was beat deep a couple of times by Akron receiver L.T. Smith, who made a couple of great catches near the endzone.
Matt Wile’s punts were… terrible. I’m confident I could throw the football with my non-throwing arm further. He has the capability of getting some really good punts off, but so far this season, Michigan is really missing suspended punter Will Hagerup.
Dennis Norfleet scares me when he receives punts. This fear might be gone soon because he might not be doing it for much longer.
Oh, they still won the game?
A lot of bad things happened, but Michigan escaped with the win.
Michigan scored on its first drive when Gardner found Devin Funchess for a 48-yard touchdown. If you excuse a number of inexcusable turnovers, the first half was fairly uneventful. Akron missed two field goals, one from 48 that hit the left goal post and one from 55 at the end of the half that fell well short. In a terrible half of football, Michigan led 7-3.
Akron’s first drive in the second half resulted in a touchdown. They benefited from an effective passing game and a pass interference call against Raymon Taylor. Pohl found his receiver for 28-yard touchdown, giving Akron the lead at 10-7.
The ensuing Michigan drive was capped off by a 36-yard touchdown run from Gardner. Akron went three-and-out and Michigan drove the field to go up two scores. Gardner found freshman receiver Jehu Chesson for a 33-yard touchdown, the first reception and touchdown in Chesson’s career.
Early in the fourth quarter, Gardner was pressured and forced out of the pocket. As he was going to the ground, he tried to get rid of it and it went right into the arms of Justin March, who returned it 27 yards for an Akron touchdown. Michigan’s lead was trimmed to 21-17.
After Michigan went three-and-out Pohl was picked off by Jarrod Wilson. The Wolverines couldn’t capitalize on the mistake, which led to a 22-yard punt from Matt Wile.
L.T. Smith hauled in a 40 yard pass as he dove to catch it near the endzone. A few plays later, Akron scored and regained the lead at 24-21.
Michigan answered and drove 70 yards in just over a minute. Fitz Toussaint scored on a 2-yard touchdown run, which would end up being the game-winning score.
Akron had plenty of time following the Fitz touchdown. They got all the way down inside the 5, but couldn’t reach the endzone. Beyer was untouched and hit Pohl as he threw and the ball fell incomplete, sealing the Michigan victory.
What did they do right?
While a lot went wrong today, there are some positive things that we saw.
Blake Countess turned in a solid performance, including an interception and 6 tackles. James Ross II led the team in tackles with 10 and also had a big pass breakup on Akron’s final drive.
Gardner was once again Michigan’s leading rusher, as he went for 103 yards on 10 carries. The offense will surely look to get more production out of their backs, but they will take what they can get.
They scored more points than the other team. Michigan fought to win a game that should have been over before halftime. There is a lot of work to be done before next week’s road game at UConn, but the Wolverines are still 3-0 after today.
Michigan needs to run the ball better. They also need to make better decisions. And play better defense. Okay, long story short, they need to do a lot of things better.
Everyone just calm down and hope for a better game next week. I’m sure Brady Hoke will have his team ready.