"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Taylor Lewan and Devin Gardner
As leaders of this team, what was your message to your teammates after this game?
Lewan: "It was embarrassing. Gotta give it to Akron. They played a hard-fought game. We didn't prepare. This is on the seniors, this is on the leadership of this team, and extremely poor, poor leadership. Especially on my side. Being the one offensive captain on this team, I put that offensive performance on myself. Devin [Gardner] didn't have enough time to throw. Our running backs didn't have enough holes, and that's my fault. That's my fault."
Gardner: "I mean, he pretty much said it all. I talked to Tom Brady and he talked about being the best quarterback for the team, every time out in practice and in the game. I was not the best quarterback for the team today. Like [Lewan] said, it's embarrassing, and we're going to respond. We won the football game, and we're going to respond, I can guarantee you that."
Don't mind me I'm just here in the back corner minding my own business
You stress turnovers so much. Was this a good game to remind your team what can happen if you lose the turnover battle?
“Well, I think it is in a lot of ways. Number one, give Akron a lot of credit. Their kids came in here like most Mid-American Conference schools, they come in here to win the football game and played to win the football game. They coached it that way, they played it that way. You know, they did a nice job. I told Terry [Bowden] that, and I told Chuck Motta that. They did some things defensively that were a little different, but things that we should be able to overcome to a certain extent, but we didn’t. What was your question?”
Was this a good reminder for what could happen --
“Oh, turnovers? The upset is always in the mind of the favorites. Any time you don’t take care of the football, and I don’t care if we’re playing Saline High School. Or you know, the Super Bowl champions, whoever that was, you can’t turn the ball over. That is number one. Turnover margins will kill you as a football team. The other thing? Penalties. Fitz [Toussaint] got 50 yards of rushing wiped out because we fundamentally didn’t block properly and we held guys. That can’t happen because, you know, that’s 50 yards of rushing. That’s the rhythm of the game. That and then we had a couple balls thrown over our head. I think two of them were defended decently well, and you have to give people credit. It was a good ball, it’s where it needed to be, it was a good catch, but still there’s still too many of those that hit the post and two-deep, and we should have been in better shape but we weren’t. From the coaches first, and me first, we have to do a better job. I mean, you can’t win championships with those mistakes.”
This afternoon in front of a late-arriving, non-sellout crowd at the Big House, Michigan faced off against an Akron team that went 1-11, 1-11, and 1-11 in the last three seasons, started the year with a 38-7 loss to UCF, spent last weekend getting outgained and nearly outscored by FCS James Madison, and is considered the worst team in the FBS. This was a game to work out the kinks in the playbook, get in some good reps for the backups, and give a good show for the fans who probably paid $5 for a ticket from their friend who likes to sleep in on Saturdays.
At first, it looked like all would go as expected; Michigan forced an Akron punt on their opening drive, and after Fitz Toussaint rushed for a two-yard loss, Devin Gardner completed five consecutive passes, capped by a 48-yard toss to Devin Funchess, who outran the entire Akron secondary en route to the end zone.
Concern started to grow when Michigan's next drive netted zero yards. The first quarter ended with the score at 7-3, Wolverines; surely, Michigan would pull away any time now.
Then Brendan Gibbons missed a 45-yard field goal to start the second quarter, snapping his streak of 16 consecutive makes. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Wolverines drove deep into Zips territory, only for Devin Gardner to fumble away the possession on a speed option—a play in which Fitz Toussaint had a clear touchdown if Gardner would've pitched. The defense again picked up the offense, as Blake Countess intercepted a Kyle Pohl pass and returned it all the way to the Akron 20-yard line. Any time now...
Three plays later, Gardner forced a pass into coverage that Akron's DeAndre Scott intercepted easily. The Zips were able to mount a plodding drive that oozed into Michigan territory; after taking a delay of game on fourth-and-one, however, Robert Stein's 45-yard field goal clanged off the left upright. Any time now...
Two plays later, Gardner threw the ball to a well-covered Jeremy Gallon; Akron's Justin March came away with the interception. Luckily for Michigan, only 29 seconds remained on the clock. Stein's 55-yard attempt with 0:05 left in the half went wide left, and the Wolverines were happy to kneel out the clock and regroup at halftime. Any time now...
The second half began inauspiciously, with the Wolverines gaining just one yard on three plays before a Matt Wile punt. Akron's ensuing possession went 75 yards in eight plays, ending in a 28-yard touchdown from Pohl to a wide-open Zach D'Orazio, who went unmolested up the seam as the linebackers failed to get depth on their drops and the safeties couldn't close the gap. Akron 10, Michigan 7. ANY TIME NOW...
Devin Gardner bounced back from his turnovers and gave U-M fans a brief respite from PANIC on the next possession, scoring on a 36-yard inverted veer keeper—for seemingly the first time all day, Michigan got great blocking up front, and Jeremy Jackson guaranteed the score by wiping out three Akron defenders downfield. The defense held up their end, too, forcing another three-and-out, and the Wolverines took a 21-10 lead when Jehu Chesson took his first career reception on a crossing route, broke through a few (poor) tackling attempts by the Akron secondary, and jetted into the corner of the end zone. After Michigan came up with another stop, disaster averted, right?
Wrong. Two plays into the fourth quarter, Al Borges tried to set up a screen pass on third-and-9. Facing heavy pressure, Gardner sidearmed a horribly ill-advised throw directly into the arms of Justin March; as noted earlier, March plays for Akron. He waltzed 27 yards untouched into the end zone. ANY TIME NOW...
Michigan's next drive went nowhere, and Wile didn't help matters by booting a 35-yard punt—not even among his two worst on the day—to set up the Zips on their own 39. A 43-yard pass from Pohl to L.T. Smith set up Akron at the Michigan seven. The Wolverines caught a huge break two plays later, when Pohl threw a play-action pass right to Jarrod Wilson (above, Upchurch). Wilson smartly took a knee in the end zone, giving Michigan the ball on the 20. Time to run out the clock, yes?
Well, not quite. Fitz Toussaint started the drive with a 16-yard run, but his two ensuing carries netted a lone yard. After Gardner's third-down pass to Gallon came up just short of the sticks, Wile shanked a 22-yard punt. The Zips went on an 11-play march down the field, and after getting stuffed twice at the goal line, scored the go-ahead touchdown when they spread the field—Pohl rolled right and found receiver Tyrell Goodman all alone. 24-21, Akron. 4:10 left on the clock. Full-blown PANIC.
Gardner went back to what he'd done best all game, run the football, taking off for a 35-yard gain to move Michigan into Akron territory on the next possession. He found Gallon on the sideline for a 20-yard gain on the very next play, and Michigan got another first down when Gardner's throw to Jake Butt in the end zone drew a pass interference call. Toussaint found a big hole on the left side of the line and took advantage for a two-yard touchdown on the next play. 28-24, Michigan. 2:49 left. Now was the time, yes?
Well, kinda. First, Pohl found Jerrod Dillard for a 24-yard gain, and the Zips moved into Michigan territory two plays later when Blake Countess jumped offsides on a blitz. A 19-yard run by Conor Hundley on third-and-five gave the Zips a first down at the Michigan 27. Despite a holding call moving them back ten yards, Akron kept pushing downfield, with Pohl finding Smith all alone at the 11-yard line after escaping the pocket. Another pass to Smith gave Akron a third-and-one on the Michigan two as the clock ticked down to 0:15. An ill-advised toss play to Jawon Chisholm moved the ball back two yards; the Zips burned their final timeout. Fourth down, five seconds left, ball on the Michigan four.
Greg Mattison dialed up a heavy blitz, and Pohl's desperation pass found only fieldturf, perhaps helped by a missed holding call in the Michigan secondary. The time had finally come, with zero seconds on the clock. Michigan 28, Akron 24, The Horror II narrowly avoided.
In the end, Michigan outgained the worst FBS team outside of Georgia State by seven yards—seven very critical yards, as it turned out. Gardner's 248 passing yards and 103 rushing yards were offset by his four turnovers, including his second pick-six in as many games. The offensive line struggled to open up holes against a very small Akron defensive front. The defense, for their part, allowed far too many passes over the middle and couldn't muster a good pass rush until the game's final play; they gave up big plays, too, as both Raymon Taylor and Jourdan Lewis were beat for big gains over the top.
"This is an embarrassment," Taylor Lewan said after the game. Even with the victory, there's no argument here.
Still trying real hard to fear the roo, ma'am.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Nick RoUMel
Akron was already at the Big House last Saturday. Not that you would have noticed, with Notre Dame on the field. Akron was circling around in the skies above, taking in the festivities.
We’re talking, of course, about the Goodyear blimp. Yes, Goodyear’s corporate HQ is in Akron, Ohio, but the company won’t send it out for a mere tilt with their hometown university. Oh no, that was reserved for ESPN “Gameday,” an opportunity to give a few hand-chosen executives a party in the sky, while the blimp displayed the corporate logo and a digital crawl of commercial messages on its belly.
Many fans were also looking up for not one, but two air shows. Whereas a single flyover was once a remarkable occasion, now it’s passé. There were so many planes over Michigan Stadium, that when they introduced the pilots later in the contest, there may have been more than the Michigan basketball team members who were also introduced.
They were joined by Desmond Howard, Anthony Carter, the Women’s volleyball team, Eminem, and by video link, Beyoncé, for the special halftime show she plans to use in a music video. Alum Stephen Ross was recognized for his generous gift to the University. And of course there was the evening’s honored guest, actor Mark Harmon, and son of Michigan legend Tom Harmon, who had dad’s #98 jersey presented to him by Athletic Director David Brandon.
Throughout the game, maize-clad fans waved yellow pompoms, pumped by recorded music blaring over the PA system. When victory was inevitable, instead of hearing creative chants students might have made to taunt the Irish, we were instead treated to the umpteenth playing of Otis Day’s “Shout,” and then the sly musical reference to Notre Dame chickening out of its rivalry with Michigan - an event already chronicled in Wikipedia’s “Chicken Dance” entry.
While I certainly had fun, I felt it was tricked up with all the over the top festivities. We were manipulated as to what to see and hear, and when to chant or sing. It was a three ring circus, deprived of spontaneity.
What it wasn’t like was a college football game in Tom Harmon’s era. Watching footage from a 1943 Michigan-Ohio State game, for example, one hears the marching band, the fans, and the action on the field. That’s all. The only special guest from that game was a little terrier that ran loose in the north end zone. The game was by the students, and for the students. And every fan in attendance sat on the same outdoor benches.
But last week’s event was heavily choreographed, except once: when students lustily booed Dave Brandon during the Harmon ceremony, no doubt still furious over the general-admission seating fiasco that has made them second-class citizens in their own stadium. (When I sat down over an hour before kickoff, I saw with amazement that the student section was nearly full, among an otherwise sparse crowd. I thought, “I pay for my ticket and can come to my seat whenever I want, but they can’t.”)
Maybe in this corporate, luxury box age such changes are inevitable. Certainly the athletic department is raking in money hand over fist. Michigan wants state of the art facilities in order to stay competitive. It’s too bad that with all the noise and distractions, they can no longer hear the fans.
And as for the Akron Zips, the only school named for a party cracker, they’re already scripted to lose today. Big time.
Michigan 200,000,000 – forgotten blimp orphans 0
Allow me a moment to step off your lawn.
There. Grass, sidewalk, me. Happy?
No, you’re not. And see, that’s the problem with Michigan fans like you. You’re never happy unless you’re unhappy. You know how Brady Hoke often says he has 115 sons? I bet Dave Brandon feels like he has 115,000 in-laws.
Michigan entered the luxury box age because it got a stadium with luxurious luxury boxes. Deal with it. First of all, those things aren’t so bad. If it weren’t for their big imposing walls to reflect all of your whining noises back onto the field, how would opposing teams ever remember that it’s third down?
Furthermore, and before you go on about Brandon and money and corporations, let me remind you it was former athletic director Bill Martin who came up with the idea in the first place. It was really Martin’s renovations that dragged Michigan into the 21st century, where shockingly everyone’s still alive and the earth didn’t blow up because computers couldn’t handle a new digit in timestamps. So it was in fact Martin who created the future, not Brandon.
If you want to get mad, get mad at Brandon for stealing the credit. Don’t be mad about the future, because the future has night games, and night games are pretty cool.
“But why can’t these night games in the future be like all those day games from the past,” you say, watery eyed, with a beat of hesitation that indicates you realized mid-sentence that the words coming out of your mouth might sound a little stupid.
Stupid because, what, were you not entertained? Did you not enjoy the light show? Did you really look up at the sky and say, “That’s too many planes and not enough sun”? Did you look at the scoreboards and wish you could see the replays less clearly? Did you actually think a dog running around the end zone would be a better experience than Mark Harmon honoring his dad and giving us a unique jersey number for a quarterback?
I don’t think you did, because I don’t think you’re stupid. I wholeheartedly understand your fear of abandoning traditions and losing the aspects of Michigan football that you hold dear, even if I don’t hold them dear myself. I know there are things that mean something to you that don’t mean anything to me; there are things that mean something me but won’t mean anything to anyone in a decade or two.
But it’s not something to get upset about. Entropy inevitably follows us into the future, and trying to recreate the past and its quaint ideals in exacting entirety, like trying to put dryer lint back into a t-shirt, is a waste of energy. Just be thankful the essentials, like Michigan blowing out Akron to follow up last week's thrilling victory over Notre Dame, are intact. Ditch the lint and move on.
Michigan 55, Akron 3