With a goal line stand, Michigan beat Akron 28-24 in the final seconds. After the game, the silence in the Michigan locker room was deafening.
“This is embarrassing for the University of Michigan football team,” senior left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “We won the game. We’re 3-0. That’s great. But it was embarrassing.” That sums up the sentiment of the Wolverine Nation.
Michigan gave up 311 yards of passing. Devin Gardner had some brilliant running moments but for the most part served up a buffet of bad decisions. Hoke needs to think long and hard about the turnovers and penalties that plagued Michigan. Turnovers were the demise of last season; and this penalty problem is not getting better,
“We didn’t prepare as a team,” admits Taylor Lewan. “That’s 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 that aren’t playing.” Arguably, it was that lack of preparation that put Michigan at a deficit late in the fourth quarter. So then the question is why? Inferior teams often upset opponents who are coming off of big wins. Presumably, it is the job of the coaches to control for that mental pitfall. Champions should play like champions in every game.
Michigan started out that way. A 48-yard TD to Devin Funchess and the Wolverines had 7-0 lead immediately. Then the offense ground to a halt. They converted only 3-of-10 third downs; Gardner was 16-of-30. He threw three interceptions and fumbled twice.
“I wasn’t myself today,” Devin said. “I can’t really say much else. Pressure doesn’t bother me. They got to me today. I made a lot of bad decisions. I probably played my worst game ever. That won’t happen again.”
To his credit, late in the fourth quarter, Devin led the team on a late, come-from-behind scoring drive. Toussaint scored the go-ahead touchdown with just under three minutes remaining. But as if having to come from behind against Akron wasn’t disturbing enough, Akron responded. They drove into the red zone, and eventually to the 1-yard line, but failed to score and Michigan dodge a bullet. Although the fans cheered, the team sat in silence.
“We’ve all worked too hard to have games like this, way too hard,” Taylor Lewan said. “Y’all don’t even know. … We’ll be ready.” Unless you’ve been a Michigan football player can’t totally understand what Lewan was feeling. However, if you’ve ever been disappointed in yourself and colleagues, it was very easy to understand the tremor in his voice.
So now let’s examine this. We had a terrible game. Students, fans and alums, myself included, expected a huge blow out to add to the Notre Dame victory high. We wanted to see long runs, and killer passes, and beastly defense. We wanted to see a “gangsta” Michigan team on the field. Instead we saw a “we the people” Michigan team. Oh well life is hard all over—as the Husker Nation will tell you.
We have a young team, and they’re learning young team lessons. The good news is they learned this one without racking up a loss. There are a lot of things that this team has to work on. I think the smart money is on Brady Hoke emphatically pointing those things out in practice. This game is behind us. We found a way to win. It was disappointing, but it didn’t destroy our season, which a loss would have. We have to be grateful and move on.
Actually, this game may be a gift in disguise. Better these problems should happen here where the ultimate tragedy was escapable than to have them happen in Happy Valley or East Lansing where the outcome could be devastating. What we witnessed here was a growing pain. The coaches and the team, looked past Akron, and didn’t prepare for them properly. I doubt they will ever make that mistake again. That is a gift that could lead to a B1G Ten Title. I do not think we will ever see Michigan come out on the field, unprepared as a team again.
“It’s our fault,” Hoke said to the team. “We should have prepared you better. I promise you. We will prepare you better.” I believe Hoke and I believe he and the Wolverines have learned something very valuable, so Ex-HAIL, but HAIL, nonetheless.
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