Michigan 28, Akron 24 Comment Count

Ace September 14th, 2013 at 4:15 PM


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.



September 15th, 2013 at 5:14 AM ^

Why does your child know the words to a song that glorifies violent rebellion?  When I was his age, my parents were so impressed by me learning the Lord's Prayer.  They would be appauled if I was singing The Song of Angry Men about a fringe extrimist minority violently rebelling against the governing institution that the vast majority openly consents to.

Then again, my parents wouldn't encourage me to practice punching people, forcably interrogating the family cat, doing mean things to people we don't like because it's fun (the MSU chip video), etc.  My parents read me story books like "Where the Wild Things Are" and "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales".  We went fishing, flew kites, had picnics, when to the library for fun, road our bikes to the ice cream store, etc.

Just saying, difference of opinion...


September 16th, 2013 at 2:28 PM ^

My son, who was code-named "Marius" before birth, will certainly be singing that song when he is that age. When that time comes, I will be proud to watch him celebrate great literature, through one of the best musicals of all time.

(And the June Rebellion was against a monarchy--the king took a small step towards being representative of the people, but was still very much a traditional monarch--I certainly wouldn't demean people trying to overthrow a king and impose a republic.)

Gulo Gulo Luscus

September 14th, 2013 at 4:33 PM ^

Blah blah Bowden outcoached us blah blah rush four blah blah Gardner panic blah blah offensive line black hole.  We've all got plenty to say (fairly) about today's performance, but I'm glad to hear how Lewan feels.  Hope he gets the message across in the locker room.


September 14th, 2013 at 4:31 PM ^

Anyone else get mad all over again reading the recap?

I worried about this one A LITTLE only because college kids in football tend to play a bit more poorly the next week after a big win....but I had no idea that this game would come down to the final play. i thought yeah maybe it will be a 2 TD game for a while and then Michigan pulls away at the end.

A week ago I thought this team could be in for a special year and now I am worried.

Mmmm Hmmm

September 14th, 2013 at 4:31 PM ^

It was hard to tell on TV in the heat of angst, but did Q-Wash and Pipkins play much? I assume if not it was a scheme thing, but Q-Wash is one of the better players on the first-team line and Pipkins is one of the best on the second team (yeah yeah, infinite rotation and all that).  Are both so neutralized by spread teams that they cannot even see the field?



September 15th, 2013 at 5:33 PM ^

Outline what the site wants to achieve with the voting system in writing. Advertise for a Drupal consultant. Get an estimate on the cost. Set up a freaking Kickstarter if cost is an issue. "Donate to bring back real voting!" We could have neg/posbangs back in two weeks if some random staffer were willing to put in 3 hours of work, tops.

Instead we get lame excuses and ten-month-late UFRs.

Double Wolverine

September 14th, 2013 at 8:55 PM ^

That was definitely pass interference. "Textbook" as the BTN announcer kept calling it is to have the arm there, not spin the receiver as he did. The ref was in perfect position to make that call. I was more worried they'd get a pass interference/defensive holding call on the last play of the game.


September 14th, 2013 at 4:33 PM ^

Gallon wasn't 100% right?  Was there ever anything offical said?  He looked a step slow and didn't seem to be able to consistently cut as sharply as usual.

Billy Ray Valentine

September 14th, 2013 at 4:35 PM ^

Relief?  Anger?  Frustration? Humility? Thirst (mmmmmm ... thank you Bourbon for allowing me to forget the last 4 hours)?  Fear? Confusion? Analytical ... what happened, and why? 


We had The Horror.  What should this be called?  I'm sure Brian is already brainstorming.  My vote -- The Horrible!  I have complete confidence that someone will think of something better, then again, I had complete confidence that we'd win by 48.


September 14th, 2013 at 9:27 PM ^

I get that the fanbase is frustrated after today's subpar performance but the idea that Carr "let off the gas" is ludicrous and revisionist as if the guy couldn't coach. People forget that in December 2006 he got screwed by Urbz on politics after losing the game of the century by 3 points. 

This earlier poster was probably one of those "Michigan needs a new Carr" guys from haloscan era.

Probably the jackass behind me in my section yelling at 18 and 19 year old players to "get your head in the game" and repeatedly calling Raymon Taylor "Ray-Mon" like that was either funny or appropriate.

Nothing like the rational Michigan fanbase response after a crap performance.


September 14th, 2013 at 6:42 PM ^

...we still have a nagging problem:  Our Lines on both sides of the ball are not that good. Not good enough to compete for the B1G title, that's for sure. 

The "letdown" may have been a factor, but it doesn't explain away weak line play over three games.



September 14th, 2013 at 7:16 PM ^

Scheme isn't the issue unless you're constantly asking people to do things they can't do.

Are we asking our interior lineman to execute complicated pull-block-and-peel, scoop and combo blocks? Doesn't look like it to me. Are we asking them to constantly set moving/slide protections or roll the pocket? Again, no. We're asking them to down block, straight pop and peel, with the occasional pull. Scheme doesn't seem to be the issue.

Is it coaching? Schofeld seems same as ever, Kalis seems to be mixing smashface blocks with oops-sorry-coach moves (I.e. exactly what you'd expect from a promising player after 3 games), and Lewan is Lewan. Glasgow has done some nice things but is also screwing up too often (again, what we should expect from someone of his recruiting rep). Miller is undersized but efforting and we don't seem to have snap issues, which also seems like what we should expect.

I think the worst we can say about line coaching is that they haven't helped people transcend their limitations 3 games into their careers. Heavens, what s scathing indictment!

Sometimes we seem to forget the lag time in recruiting. Kalis was a recruiting steal three years ago, a year before he would set foot on campus. All those lineman we've hauled in are just starting to see the field. Right now, like it or not, we're still vulnerable along the lines. When we graduate the first set of candidates Hoke recruited we still might not be able to say anything about line coaching, but at least there will be data points to look at.

Talent? Hard to say that about a line with the best pair of tackles we've had in a while, but it sure looks like a Rimington award winning center is more key than an All-American LT ... which is not the way I'd have guessed.

Right now it's all looking for something on which to blame this awful feeling, and bitching about how we're not where we're entitled to be.


September 14th, 2013 at 7:52 PM ^

Great post man.  The best one today.  Turn overs aside, this game exposed what was an already exposed line on both sides of the ball, so all of us are concerned about exactly what the freak is going with the lines.  This was the most insightful post on the matter, although I am a little more cautious about how much this failur has to do with experience, and more to do with Funk being either awful, or on a different page than Borges.


September 14th, 2013 at 9:10 PM ^

Here's the thing:

I'm starting to see that all the random plays that are getting thrown in with varying results really are smoke and mirrors trying to cover up the fact that we can not sustain a smashmouth running attack. I'm not sure this is on Borges, right now. There weren't many playcalls where I thought, what is he doing? Really, Poor execution on many fronts. Al's really trying to disguise weaknesses and distract our opponents with flashy playcalls.

I think we are going to see as Big Ten play starts that DG is going to start getting his number called in the running game closer to 15 times a game. It's the only thing that's consistently working in the run game, and will help get Toussaint a little more room.

As for the pass game. I see the latter part of that game being a result of DG adopting the same mindset as the fans in the stands. He's surely thinking, "wow, we are sucking, but surely we'll get it going and still win comfortably". Then he starts pressing and making bad decisions.

I think our pass game will be fine, and still a huge upgrade from recent seasons.