Michigan vs. Akron: Game? What Game?

This is the best way I could describe my feelings about this game in a concise fashion.  I wish that it had never happened.  Everything after Devin Funchess had the long touchdown reception was a total abomination.  I could go and highlight the positives, but there were few.  I had hoped that the freshman would get a chance to get some much-needed playing time, obviously the coaching staff wanted this too, and this game killed any opportunity for that.  The only silver lining to this almost loss is the fact that Michigan realized it will have to stop reading its own press clippings about how good they are and actually have to show up and play each game.  They were able to get a learning experience game and it didn’t cost them the season.  I was also very impressed with what Brady Hoke had to say in the locker room after the game, it was the perfect message.

Devin Gardner played one of the worst games I’ve seen a quarterback play at Michigan in a while (excluding Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan obviously).  Gardner made plenty of bad reads that resulted in plenty of turnovers.  He kept the ball on an option play when he should have pitched it in the red zone and it resulted in a fumble.  He then had two bad interceptions and I’m sort of inclined to write off the pick six as a good play call by Akron because the linebacker blitzed perfectly and Gardner never saw him.  Regardless, a four turnover performance is brutal; it looked like Gardner hadn’t started a game before.  Gardner still managed to make some plays, particularly with his legs, but if he plays like that during Big Ten play, Michigan will get killed.  I have faith that he has a good enough skill set that he will bounce back and all will be good again.

The running game was pretty terrible when Gardner wasn’t tucking it and running it himself.  Fitzgerald Toussaint only managed 71 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown against Akron.  Not good.  It was a combination of some bad blocking early on and Toussaint running through the wrong holes.  There were plenty of times where he had a lane between the tackles or just outside of the tackle and he bounced it outside of the wide receiver that was blocking.  Toussaint is a downhill, one-cut runner and when he starts bouncing the ball outside of the wide receiver, that is going to cause some major problems for the running game.

The offensive line had some pretty spotty play, especially from the interior.  Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield were pretty solid considering the offense was a mess, and I actually though Graham Glasgow played a pretty good game.  Kyle Kalis did not have a very good game, but it wasn’t a bad game either; the best way to describe it is it was pedestrian.  Meanwhile, Jack Miller was downright awful.  He got blown up a lot and didn’t get any push in the run game.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Miller was replaced by Glasgow at center and Chris Bryant was put in at left guard if he continues to play poorly.  That being said, the offensive line wasn’t as much of an issue as Toussaint and Gardner.

On the receiving end, Funchess looked good when the ball was thrown his way and Jeehu Chesson managed to score a touchdown on his first career reception.  Jeremy Gallon was blanketed for most of the game and Gardner tried to force the ball to him an awful lot.  Gallon still caught six balls for 66 yards, so he was still productive, but Gardner needs to find a second option he is comfortable with.  Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t remember Drew Dileo being thrown to even once.  No reason he can’t be put in the slot and catch a few passes to take the pressure off of Gallon.  If a second target doesn’t emerge, Michigan will be in trouble.  This is a perfect example of what Michigan is missing in the passing game with Amara Darboh out for the season.

If you want to see the box score I’ve linked it here, but I must warn you, it isn’t pretty.

The defense was a total mess but they made a few huge plays that won Michigan the game.  On the defensive line, I’m not sure Frank Clark has done anything this season.  He’s been pretty terrible and the Akron game was no exception.  He was getting some semblance of a pass rush during the Notre Dame game, but he got pushed around against Akron.  I was surprised, again, by the lack of playing time for Ondre Pipkins, but Matt Godin and Willie Henry were fantastic.  Henry did a great job getting pressure up the middle and it made me wonder why he hasn’t gotten playing time sooner.  Jibreel Black had a pretty good game as well in the interior, it was mostly the defensive ends that were the issue and have been the issue all season.  The only defensive end I saw that stood out for doing something positive was Mario Ojemudia.  Michigan still struggled with the pass rush and they clearly have some big issues on the defensive line.  Until they get more pressure from their defensive ends, the secondary will continue to get shredded.

Since Brennan Beyer is still listed as a linebacker, I’m going to include him here, but when he lines up at defensive end he manages to get pressure.  He also did pretty well in coverage when he was called on to do so.  He has certainly been one of the pleasant surprises on the defensive side of the ball.  Desmond Morgan had an average game at best and I thought James Ross played very well.  Ross is easily one of the best tacklers on defense.  Joe Bolden, on the other hand, had one of his worst games here at Michigan.  He struggled in coverage and looked out of place, which was strange to see.  Cam Gordon was completely invisible after a good outing against Notre Dame.  Definitely not a good performance out of the linebacking corps.

The secondary was downright awful with the exception of Blake Countess and Jarrod Wilson’s interceptions.  For the third straight game, a different corner got the majority of the snaps in the nickel.  The first game it was Channing Stribling, then Delonte Hollowell against Notre Dame and this time it was Jourdan Lewis.  Lewis did a good job breaking up a pass play that would have been a touchdown, but other than that he didn’t do much.  For his first significant game action, I’m okay with what I saw, but I still wonder why Hollowell or Stribling didn’t get more time.  Stribling hasn’t been in much at cornerback since the first game and I really wonder why.  I thought he was great against Central, but obviously the coaching staff has seen something in practice or in games that I haven’t.  Countess and Raymon Taylor didn’t do much of anything and Taylor was flat-out terrible.  He got burned a lot and I still do not understand why they are playing so far off the line of scrimmage in coverage.

At least we know they’re not supposed to be that far off the line of scrimmage, but it makes me wonder why the corners are doing what they aren’t supposed to do.  Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson played a pretty good game overall, but the middle of the field was wide-open so often that it was difficult to tell how well they were actually playing.  Wilson did have a crucial interception in the end zone that helped save the game, so he gets major points for that.

The special teams were downright brutal.  Matt Wile shanked two punts horribly and finished with a punting average of 33 yards, while Brendan Gibbons missed a field goal and broke his streak of 16 straight field goals made.  Wile has to get his kicking issues fixed because shanking punts and putting opponents in good field position does not help the defense whatsoever (duh).

This is the type of game where if I’m Brady Hoke, I would have called all the players into the team meeting room and burned the tape of the game right in front of them.  The game was downright awful and Michigan was three feet from losing to Akron.  If it weren’t for such a brutal playcall by Akron, pitching the ball to the Akron running back when they were on the one-yard line, Michigan would have lost.  Thankfully Greg Mattison called a zero blitz and the final pass fell incomplete.

This is the first game that I’ve ever watched that said Michigan won on the scoreboard, but it felt like a loss.  When you let a bad team hang around in games, more often than not, you will lose that game.  My stomach was in knots the entire game and I hope that the players learn from this and get their heads straight going forward.  Based on what I saw from Taylor Lewan and Devin Gardner’s post game interviews, I don’t think that will be a problem.  Perhaps this was all just bad karma from the Athletic Department hiring planes to fly over Spartan Stadium and write out “Go Blue” in the sky.

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