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."
Taylor, was there anything specific that they were bringing at the offensive line that --
Do you think this was due to a letdown from last week or maybe even some disrespect for Akron?
Lewan: "I don't know about disprect. I think Akron came out and fought hard. Like we said before, we didn't prepare as a team. That is truly embarrassing for Michigan that we came out like that. It's not fair to the fans, it's not fair to the people who are associated with this program. It's not fair to the freshmen on this team who aren't playing. This is the seniors' fault. This is the captains' fault. We will not come out like this again."
Given that assessment, what changes this week?
Lewan: "Preparation. If any guy on this team thinks they can do anything but prepare every single week -- this is your job. You came here to be a student-athlete. You go to school, you get your degree, you win Big Ten championships. If we prepare like we did this week, we won't win another game."
Taylor, were you aware the team wasn't playing well this week?
Lewan: "We can always prepare better."
Devin, can you talk about the pressure you faced?
Gardner: "It's something I deal with well usually. I wasn't myself today. I can't really say much else. You know, pressure doesn't bother me, but they got to me today, and I made a lot of bad decisions. I probably played my worst game ever. It won't happen again."
A lot of people might chalk this up as a wake-up call. Would you agree with that?
Lewan: "100 percent."
Gardner: "You guys can call it what you want, but we're going to respond. That's what we talked about all summer. Responding to adversity. This is the probably the most adverse situation we could be in. We almost lost to Akron. No disrespect to Akron, but we almost lost after coming out and having a great win last week in front of the whole world, and we come out and almost blow it. It's majority me. I would have been sick if we didn't have a chance to pursue our goals of a national championship and Big Ten championship because of the way I played today."
Taylor, are there any lingering effects of the injury?
Lewan: "Don't worry about me. I'm going to play in the game."
Devin, you had to respond late to score. Talk about that last drive and then having to sweat out the last few moments?
Gardner: "I mean we shouldn't have to have our backs against the wall like that against anybody. Not just Akron, but anybody. We did what we had to do. We won the football game and we responded with the last drive to put us ahead, and then the defense responded and got us a stop on the goal line. We can't change the past. The game is over and we won and we're going to move forward. Like Taylor said, we're not coming out like that again."
Devin, why weren't you able to shake off your mistakes today?
Gardner: "I shook it off and drove down to score."
You had a lot of turnovers --
Gardner: "I made mistakes like any quarterback would."
What were you guys were thinking when Brennen Beyer had the hit on the quarterback on the last play?
Lewan: "Uh, this is embarrassing for the University of Michigan football team? I'm pretty sure I've said that three times. So. Yeah. We won the game. We're 3 and 0. That's great. It was embarrassing. It was embarrassing. It wasn't Devin's fault. It was the leadership of this team. Devin's a leader on this team, but it was not on him."
What about Beyer's play?
Lewan: "I didn't even see it."
Did you go to the student section afterwards?
Lewan: "No. I'm not -- we're 3 and 0. I'm not here to celebrate that kind of game, that kind of preparation. I know in that locker room it's quiet right now. I'm fired up. I'm fired up and we have a lot of work to do if we want to accomplish our goals. The seniors in this class, Devin, Jake Ryan, we've all worked too hard. Too hard to have games like this. Way too hard. Y'all don't even know. Y'all just write shit down. We're just ready to play. We'll be ready."
When preparing for a team like Akron, is there ever a discussion about Appalachian State or Toledo?
Gardner: "I mean, you guys may see us sometimes in some games as not the favorite. We always see ourselves as the favorite. So every game [has the potential to be] an upset."
Taylor, what's your assessment of the problems in the running game?
Lewan: "We're not making holes for the running back. Fitz [Toussaint] is a great, unbelievable running back, but you can't do anything if you don't have a hole. A couple times there's a hole here and there. Obviously Fitz got out, a couple penalties took him back, but we'll get it fixed."
Are they assignment issues or physical issues?
Lewan: "Uh, I don't know. We'll have to look at the film."
Brennen Beyer and Thomas Gordon
I didn't take a photo, so here is a baby seal.
Brennen, what goes through your mind when you hit the quarterback but you don't know the result of the play until you turn around?
Beyer: "Yeah. Well, I could tell that the ball was in the air so I just turned around to see what happened. I fell over and I was just looking at my teammates and their reactions told me that we had won the game, so that was awesome."
Thomas, you gave up 300+ yards of passing for the second straight week. What do you need to do to shore up some of those issues in the secondary?
Gordon: "We just have to compete. We have to get better pressure with the defensive lineman. That was an emphasis this week. And as DBs we have to be playmakers. We just have to make plays on the ball. They executed. With all respect to Akron, they came out ready to play."
Taylor Lewan said "embarrassing" a lot. Your thoughts?
Beyer: "I don't think you can really expect anything coming into a game. You have to treat every opponent the same. I think we need to prepare better in practice and come out and know what our job is and execute a lot better than we did this week."
Taylor also said there was a lack of leadership. Did you notice any of that during practice?
Gordon: "Tuesday and Wednesday we had back to back 90 degree days, so some of the guys were kind of lacking [in effort]. He's absolutely right. It's leadership. We preach it all week, but obviously there were different certain circumstances today. We didn't execute."
What are your concerns about letting opponents convert third downs so frequently? What do you need to do to improve?
Beyer: "Like Thomas said, it starts with pass rush. The guys up front, we have to get to that quarterback a lot faster. We've been working on it and we have to work on it a lot more next week. Also in the backfield, just know your assignment and execute."
Was there an emotional letdown this game?
Gordon: "Well that can be an excuse, but we still expect to come out and execute and compete. We did not do that. But you know, obviously you see the stands at the beginning of the game, but it shouldn't affect you. This is a young team, and we can't let things like that affect the team."
Red zone defense has been pretty good. What's your feeling about letting them get down there though?
Beyer: "Red zone's a big thing. It's a big mindset and we really pride ourselves in having the best red zone defense you can. But we can't let the ball get in there all the time. It's going to happen every once in a while, but we really need to work on keeping them out of the red zone and holding them to no points."
Brennen, can you talk about the last play and what you saw?
Beyer: "I was blitzing right up the middle and to my surprise, it just opened wide up. Jibreel [Black] did a good job opening that gap wide up, so I just tried to get to the quarterback as fast as I could, and I thought he was going to throw it, so I tried to get a hand on the ball."
Beyer: "I don't really know. I don't really know what happened after I hit him."
Is this a kind of win that can galvanize a team?
Gordon: "I mean, you can let it, but we're not that type of team. [MGo: I don't think Gordon knows what that word means.] We're not going to let that happen. We're going to go in and make these corrections. We're happy that this happened right now. We need this as a team, and we feel like it's going to make us better. We're going to make the corrections. We're going to put this game behind us, and we have UConn on the road next week."
What's your assessment of how the younger corners played this game?
Gordon: "They deserved to be out there. In practice, they practiced hard. The coaches trusted them enough to put them on the field. They're out there. They deserve to be out there. JD [Jourdan Lewis], he had one big play against him, but overall they're doing a good job."