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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Akron

September 17, 2013

DG Fumble



  • We Won – As the great(?) Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game”.   There are a lot of different ways to analyze games from a lot of different angles, but in the end, the only metric that should matter is the final scoreboard.  As long as Michigan’s number ends up higher than the other team’s, I’m happy. (Sort of).   If I had asked any fan what the ideal record would be on September 15th, 2013, the answer had to be 3-0, which is coincidentally what our record is.  So even though we came within one play of losing to a team that went 3-33 over its last 36 games (yikes!), I’ll still take it.
  • We Learned – I’d much rather have an ugly win than a bad loss – especially if you can learn the same lessons from both.  One of the things we learned today is that we aren’t good enough to play poorly and beat good teams.  And maybe not even bad teams.  We also learned we have a long way to go in terms of ball security, the offensive line, and tackling.   The good news though is that we were able to identify some weaknesses and still win. Most teams have one or two games a year where they just don’t bring their A game.  Luckily we didn’t need our A game to beat Akron and hopefully got the wakeup call we needed.


  • The Front Four – According to the participation chart, Michigan played 13 different defensive lineman against Akron.  And according to the box score, they combined for no sacks, no tackles for loss and a total of 11 tackles.  That is extremely problematic.  Worse, Michigan barely mustered enough of a pass rush to force Akron into any bad throws or decisions that would result in turnovers.  During most of the spring and fall, we heard how great this defensive line and front seven was going to be.  Through three games, we’re still waiting.  Even against CMU and Notre Dame they were hardly dominant.  To be clear, they aren’t exactly getting pushed around or blown off the ball.  Rather, they just aren’t making any plays that are changing the complex of the game.  If Michigan can’t create long down and distance situations from their front four, even average teams are going to be able to drive on us on a regular basis.
  • Devin Gardner – As I texted to a couple of people at halftime – “who the hell peed in my Devin Gardner Kool-Aid?”.  That was rough to watch.  4 turnovers is bad.  2 turnovers inside the Red Zone is inexcusable.  2 weeks in a row with an interception return for a touchdown is embarrassing.   During most of fall camp, Brady Hoke spoke about Devin needing to work on his decision making and eliminating bad plays.  I’m starting to see what he was talking about.  Only one of the turnovers (the fumble on the option) was a turnover that was forced by a good play from Akron, and even then it should’ve been a tackle for a loss, not a turnover.  The other 3 interceptions were gifts given from Gardner to Akron that never should’ve happened.  What’s worse is that despite the turnovers, Gardner still looked good running and occasionally throwing the ball, racking up over 350 yards of offense and 3 touchdowns.   But all of that is rightfully overshadowed by his turnovers.  Michigan will not win a game again in which Gardner is that careless with the football.
  • Offensive and Defensive Playcalling – Shortly after the game ended I spent some time wondering which playcalling I disliked more, Greg Mattison’s or Al Borges’.  In terms of Borges, I thought he failed to establish the run earlier enough (only 10 carries in the 1st half), and got too fancy with the playcalling.  If Michigan is supposed to be a Big Ten contender, they should’ve been able to run over and through Akron.  That being said, its possible we couldn’t, which is why the playcalling had to be what it was.  Though Gardner was mostly responsible for the turnovers, Borges has to realize when his QB just doesn’t have it and adjust things accordingly.  The case against Mattison falls entirely on the 2nd half of the game.  Through the first half, the Michigan defense was very good, giving up just over 100 yards and holding Akron the 3 points.  The problems came in the 2nd half where Akron put up nearly 300 yards and but for two goal line stands, probably would’ve had four touchdowns.  As it was they had two long touchdown drives that nearly cost Michigan the game. Mattison’s familiar strategy of keep everything in front of you and force the offense to make plays came up short when Akron continued to make plays.  The soft coverage Michigan played allowed Akron to find success dinking and dunking the entire 2nd half.  What’s worse, Michigan still managed to give up several big plays that resulted in touchdowns.  If they are going to play conservative, then Michigan cannot give away the big plays too.  In short, I was astonished at how well Akron moved the ball in the 2nd half.


  • Group Effort – When you’re a 37 point favorite, it takes a special effort in all facets of the game to come within one play of losing.  Somehow Michigan managed that on Saturday.  The offense committed four turnovers, the defense surrendered 293 yards to Akron in the 2nd half, and the special teams missed a FG and shanked two punts.  Sadly, Michigan wasn’t strong in any area of the game.  The good news is, its unlikely to have a failure of all three areas of the game in the same game again.  The bad news is that all three areas have some work to do.
  • Offensive Line – Speaking of work to do, probably the most disappointing area of the team so far has been the interior offensive line.  We all knew that with three new starters at guard and center it would be rough going early on, but I still think most expected more by this point.  Though Michigan has shown flashes of pass protection and a run game at times, on the whole we’re allowing far too many sacks and tackles for losses.  And most of the turnovers, those amplified by Gardner’s poor decisions, are in part due to the pressure he’s been under due to poor blocking.  Though I don’t advocating benching a kid, especially a center, mid game unless you absolutely have to, I’m hoping Al Borges is willing to take a long hard look at what’s happening up front.  Unfortunately, Miller, Glasgow, and to a lesser extent Kalis may be the best we have right now.
  • Ball Security – This is has already been covered above regarding Devin Gardner, but one of the giant red flags for Michigan right now is ball security, especially given that it is supposed to be a point of emphasis for this team.  Under Brady Hoke, we’ve been flat out bad at protecting the football.  Last year we had 27 turnovers in 13 games, an average of over 2 per game.  This year is a smaller sample size, but just as damning – 8 turnovers through 3 games.  Of the 27 turnovers last year, 18 of them came in our 5 losses.  If you can’t see a pattern…well I don’t know what to tell you.  Had Akron scored on that last play, we would be averaging 22 turnovers in 6 losses the last two years,  3.67 per game!!!!  We defied the odds, even against a bad Akron team, but we really should’ve lost because of our carelessness.
  • Tackling – One of my biggest frustrations so far this year has to be the poor tackling for Michigan.  The perfect example came on 3rd and long with just over 6 minutes to go and Akron with the ball near midfield.  Michigan had the play covered, but Zach Pohl, the Akron QB managed to scramble free and get close the first down.  Had cornerback Delonte Hollowell wrapped up and drive through the player, Akron would’ve been stopped short of the 1st down and facing 4th down.  Instead, Hollowell gave a weak effort on the tackle and Pohl picked up the first down.  Four plays later Akron  scored the go ahead touchdown.  To be fair to Hollowell, it wasn’t just him.  The Zips seemed to break tackles and fall forward all day.  And even when Michigan appeared to have a tackle for a loss or a sack they couldn’t finish the job.  Most of it appears to be fundamentals, as the team seems to be going for the big hit rather than the sure tackle.  Giving up an extra couple of yards on every other play just isn’t acceptable if we want to be a championship caliber defense.
  • Red Zone, Red Zone, Red Zone! – If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know how important I feel it is to score points in the Red Zone.  Coming into the game, Michigan was 27/27 on getting points in the Red Zone with Devin Gardner at QB, and scored touchdowns on 23 of those opportunities.  By anyone’s standards, those are exceptionally impressive numbers.  Apparently Devin didn’t get the memo that he’s supposed to be automatic in the Red Zone, because we were only 1/3 in the Red Zone, with two interceptions.  Even if we had converted field goals on both of those opportunities, we would’ve had a comfortable lead on that final possession, and though ugly, may not have felt like we escaped with a win.
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