Well, that was fun. Or at least interesting. Michigan fans thought today’s game against Akron would be easy, and apparently so did the players. As it turned out, everyone was wrong and Michigan narrowly escaped with the 28-24 win. But what should Michigan fans be taking away from this game?
As bad as this game was for Michigan, and it was atrocious, they still walk away at 3-0, with a trip to UConn next weekend. The old saying that a win is a win is a cliché, but it’s also very true. Now, the critics will mock, the fans will exhale and the coaches will yell. But most importantly, Michigan’s players have to play better. A lot better.
On defense, Michigan could not create any pass rush with their defensive linemen. That sounds bad, but sounds much worse when you consider that it was against Akron’s offensive line, who are not only below Big Ten quality, but not even an average MAC unit. To get any pressure on QB Kyle Pohl, Michigan needed to use stunts or corner blitzes. Pohl threw for 311 yards against Michigan, after averaging under 121 passing yards his first two games this season. Michigan’s defense was embarrassed and constantly dragged up and down the field. It should be said that on the final play, Brennan Beyer was able to cause the game winning incompletion with his pressure up the middle. There weren’t many other positives from the defensive front. Hoke, who personally coaches the d-line, will have a lot of work cut out for him this week.
Michigan’s other line had nearly as much trouble, particularly in the running game. Fitzgerald Toussaint had trouble all day, finishing with 19 rushes for 71 yards. Michigan’s young interior offensive linemen weren’t able to open many holes for Toussaint, which is again concerning when you consider their superior pedigree and size compared to the Zips. Michigan’s coaches had talked about how the running game wasn’t good enough this past week after a decent game against Notre Dame. Today, it only got worse. Some will likely argue that freshman Derrick Green should have a larger role in the offense, due to his big body and massive potential. Toussiant, while solid, struggles to make big plays out of nothing, and if he doesn’t have a big hole to run through, isn’t going anywhere. Whatever the answer is, there is clearly a problem with Michigan’s running game.
Finally, the most obvious and troublesome problem for Michigan today was Devin Gardner. Gardner, following up his massive performance against Notre Dame last week, completed 16-30 passes for 248 yards, 2 TDs and 3 picks. Afterwards Gardner claimed it just wasn’t his day and boy was he right. His four turnovers (one fumble) killed Michigan’s offense, which was already sputtering. Gardner did have success scrambling, rushing for 103 yards and a TD, but he never had any rhythm throwing the ball after completing 7 of his first 8 passes. After three seasons of Denard Robinson, a more or less one-dimensional QB, today was scary for Michigan fans who believe Gardner can be more. So, hopefully it was just a bad day, because he really can be and has shown that. But it is also important to remember that Gardner has now thrown an interception in every career start, and 6 picks through 3 games this season.
Although it sure felt like a loss, Michigan did beat Akron today. Now, they have to look at all that went wrong and improve. The good news is that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdaleCFB