Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
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.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan was split close to evenly between shotgun/pistol/under center. Notre Dame, meanwhile, was in a ton of four-man fronts until late, when they went back to more of a 4-3 look. Here you can see Shembo with his hand down and a 1-3-5 technique split to the strongside of M's formation:
I know I've mentioned in the past that Notre Dame's defense is not really all that different from Michigan's, and this game was a good demonstration of that. ND prefers over fronts when they go to a four-man line since their SAM equivalent is Jaylon Smith, a fast light bugger. I guess that's kind of a big difference. The point is: ND runs a lot of four man fronts.
Here's ND's 3-4:
The DL are head up on the Michigan OL, with the SAM over the TEs and Smith is over the slot.
This is the pistol. Pew pew:
Another 4-3 over from ND.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: QB Gardner, RB Toussaint on almost every play. Derrick Green got in for two, I think, and M lined up Norfleet as a back once. The line was the starters the whole game, but when Lewan got poked in the eye, Michigan sent in Magnuson, not Braden. Lewan returned, so Magnuson didn't get a snap. He's your #3 tackle it appears.
Williams, Funchess, and Butt all played plenty; Williams went out with an injury, came back for a few plays, and then left permanently. At WR, Gallon (obvious) with Chesson and Jackson rotating more heavily than Reynolds, who may still be dinged. Excepting the Norfleet package early, the slot was always Dileo. Michigan never had more than two outside WRs in the game. On passing downs they filled out with Funchess and Dileo.
[After THE JUMP: slicing and dicing goes both ways.]
If they're going to do it, might as well be Gardner. [Fuller]
Schedule for roundtable Legends jerseys:
Akron: Brian Cook switches to #1
Minnesota: Seth Fisher will wear #2
Nebraska: Mathlete shall don #77
Ohio State: Blue in South Bend changes to #7
30 seconds before the end of the season: Ace Anbender will change to #32
Brian started to mention this in the game column but I thought it warranted some obsession. So now that ol' 98 is unretired and #12 has once again been abandoned before reaching its seniority* I'd like your thoughts on the Luminaries Numbers. Would you run the Interesting Integer program differently? Which have you been happy with, and which annoyed you the most?
|To infinitely weird numbers and beyond!
[Photo sent in by Scott Rains]
Brian: I would cleave as closely to the old numbers' origins as I could. 98 would be a skill guy, as would 47 and 21, 11 would be on the defensive line, 2 would be a defensive back. Ford's number would be some sort of DL/LB since it can't be an OL and the front seven on D is a little thing. I'd avoid switching anyone to those numbers after they'd been established. You can get it after your freshman or sophomore year, but after that your number is your number. Kovacs is 32, dammit, and Gallon is 10.
I was most happy with Gardner as 98, because that is weird and weird is good. Weird makes Michigan not Generic Sporting Experience. I am least happy with Funchess switching to 87, because who has any association with 19? Well, you would have. And shouldn't 87 be a lot more rough and tumble? Yes. To get the 87 you should have to sass the president.
Wait. No. I was least happy with Kovacs switching to 11 with two games left in his career because I think Kovacs should have his jersey legend'd right now and handed to any walk-on who finds playing time outside of the offensive line. 32, man. 32.
Actually it was Ford who sassed the tight end.
[Photo from HTTV Kramer article, courtesy of Gerald R Ford Presidential Library]
[After the jump: Un-retire 77!]
NOTE: UFR will be later than usual today, because of Dos A Cero IV. Lo siento.
BONUS: Soon to be number one in Google for highly competitive search term "mesh goofball punish." Dolla dolla bill y'all. See you on my yacht.
Michigan had seen enough of Notre Dame's maniac linebackers by the second quarter to expose their aggression. On their drive after ND had kicked a field goal to make it 17-13, M opened with four straight runs.
The one tailback touch in there was a one-yard loss on power. A Notre Dame linebacker shot the gap, meeting Kyle Kalis two yards in the backfield, and Toussaint bounced it outside without having any hope of doing something out there. The other three plays all worked because they used Devin Gardner's legs to punish the overcommitting Notre Dame defense. Each of these plays could have been a 35-yarder.
- Michigan fakes inside zone, has Gardner run for 7.
- A false zone read keeper breaks outside for 35.
- Toussaint stuffed for loss of one on power, holding on Houma.
- Inverted veer keeper for nine, phantom holding on Miller.
One of them did go for 35. We discussed the veer keeper a bit in the last picture pages post: it sucked a Notre Dame linebacker well into the backfield and may have been a touchdown if Funchess didn't spin around.
The opener is an interesting play; it follows.
Michigan has it first and ten from their 37 and comes out in a pistol 3-wide formation. Notre Dame goes with their 3-4. (I swear ND was mostly a 4-3 team in this game.) Shembo is tight to the LOS over the tight end with Day next to him. ND has two deep safeties and Jaylon Smith in the grey area over the slot.
Michigan will show inside zone, with quickly aborted doubles on Nix and Tuitt forced by the usual hard reaction by the ND linebackers.
MGoIcebreaker: Big win. Does that mean we get to have a word of the day? [MGoContext: Al stopped doing words of the day because "It's only cute if you win.']
" 'Big win.' Two words."
Other than the big mistake, the offense seemed to execute flawlessly. Were you pleased?
"Oh I wouldn't say flawlessly. But I think I was pleased with the result. I was certainly pleased with the effort. I mean we played pretty hard from the beginning to the end, and that was nice. We had a time during the game when the football gods were kind of frowning on us a little bit. We recovered nicely. That was probably as good as anything. That one part where we turned the ball over, had a couple bad things happen, but we recovered nicely from it, and all the coaches felt good about that."
This whole sequence—Hoke trying to call a timeout as Gardner barely gets the play off, Gardner scoring, Hoke shrugging—is spectacular; the ever-so-subtle smirk at the end just kills me, though. However, is this even the best GIF of the week? Hit the jump to find out my choice and vote for your favorite.
[JUMP like Funchess on a middle screen]