I will preface this post by saying that a win is a win. Michigan could’ve won by 23, or two. But, at the end of the day, Michigan adds another to the win column.
A victory should be celebrated. But, in this case, this win was completely unacceptable.
I refuse to believe Akron, a team who has won all of three games the past three seasons, is competitively similar to Michigan to the point where every game will be a hard fought battle. This was Michigan completely lapsing in all facets of the game. This was Michigan totally disregarding their opponent and allowing Akron to get back in the game by silly turnovers.
It was embarrassing and nearly catastrophic.
|Photo Credit: Greg Dooley, MVictors.com|
The effort starts with the student section. This picture was taken shortly before kickoff. BEFORE KICKOFF. The student section was barely half-full as the team was running out on the field. If I’m a player and I see that, do I feel supported? No. The entire game felt like a lackluster effort from the student section to try and make noise. Boo’s and shouts of “We want Shane!” rang through loud and clear. It was embarrassing. There were two people standing next to me who stayed halfway through the first quarter and LEFT. The effort works it’s way down. The team feeds off the crowd, the crowd makes it hard for the opposing offense to hear. This is why it’s important to show up and show up on time.
Brady Hoke said that this is on him. Personally, that is entirely false. Of all people, this debacle should not fall upon Hoke’s shoulders. He prepared his team, the team did not reciprocate the same level of preparedness or respect of their opponent. Regardless of how loaded and talented your team is, you can’t cakewalk through any opponent. We’ve seen it against Appalachian State and we’ve seen it against Toledo. Yesterday could’ve very much been another one of those nightmares.
Could it be a Notre Dame hangover? Maybe. But there was no excuse for Devin Gardner to play like he did. We have seen what Gardner is capable of, we saw it just last week. The Gardner we saw yesterday is not a sign of things to come. He was flustered, constantly pressured, and made bad choices because of it. All four turnovers Michigan had on offense could be marked to him. A horrible pick six, throwing interceptions in the red zone. It wasn’t pretty.
Both lines played awful. The offense had no push and couldn’t give Fitz Toussaint any window of daylight. Even when Toussaint broke free, the big runs were often wiped out by bad holding calls because Akron was applying significant pressure. In fact, Toussaint had 50 yards of rushing wiped out because of bad holding penalties. The defensive line, save for maybe one or two plays, was awful. There was no push, hardly any pressure, but they bailed out the offense. Blake Countess, perhaps Michigan’s lone defensive bright spot all season, intercepted another pass. Which brings his total to three interceptions in two week. Regardless of this positive, Michigan ended up losing the turnover battle in horrific fashion.
If you lose the turnover battle, don’t expect to win. Luckily for Michigan, they were able to escape with a victory. Turnovers were the reason Akron stayed in this game. When Michigan had a chance to pull away, it couldn’t. They left points on the field and lucked out when Akron’s kicker, Robert Stein, missed two field goals near the end of the first half which could’ve changed the landscape of the game looking back on it.
At the end of the day, this was an embarrassing win. It’s one of those victories that felt so wrong it almost feels like a loss. Though a win is a win, a lesson can be learned from this. Never take an opponent lightly. This is what the team learned yesterday and you can expect Michigan to show up for every game for the rest of the season, I’m sure the players are thinking the same. Could this be the wake-up call the team may have needed? Maybe. Could this catapult the team to newer heights because of the lessons learned? Maybe, as well. Only time will tell.
Yesterday was not the norm for Michigan football. Yesterday was not the permanent dismantling, or unraveling, of Devin Gardner either. Every once in awhile a player will have his days, it’s just unfortunate it had to be yesterday and not in a practice-type of setting. This isn’t the time to panic, it’s a time to exhale and be thankful for the third win of the season. Regardless of how ugly or embarrassing it was to get there.