Akron vs. Michigan: 10 Things We Learned in Wolverines Win
Michigan was lucky to escape with a 28-24 win Saturday over Akron.
The Zips hadn't won on the road since 2008, but they certainly didn't play like a team that was intimidated by the Wolverines or The Big House. Down to the wire, the game was decided on a last-second pass by Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl, which fell incomplete as the clock expired.
Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner threw for 248 yards, two touchdowns and three picks during the worst two halves of the season.
Akron came to play. Michigan didn't. It's as simple as that. Although they're 3-0, Saturday's game proved minor deficiencies could be major problems for Team 134.
No Running Game Whatsoever
The arrival of Derrick Green and the return of Fitz Toussaint was supposed to be the rebirth of Michigan's ground attack.
Thus far, neither have been impressive. But one of the two hasn't been given a true shot.
Toussaint has come up with enough big plays to essentially ensure minutes and nothing else. He rushed for 71 yards and scored a touchdown Saturday against the Zips.
However, he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. Remove his 24-yard scamper and his average looks all the more, well, average and lackluster.
He's quicker off the exchange. He's faster to the holes, or at least he appears to be. So what's the problem? It's obvious that Toussaint isn't the solution; it's been apparent since 2012, yet he continues to command the most carries.
Green, who had a carry in the win, needs more reps. So does Thomas Rawls, who had none. That'll be a point hammered home after every game if the trend continues. The rushing is one dimensional. Toussaint has been easily boxed in by defenses. Akron did a wonderful job of sealing off the edges and keeping Toussaint in front of, rather than behind, its players.
Don't Underestimate a Bowden
Coaching has varying levels of influence on games.
During Saturday's game, Terry Bowden's football heritage shined against Michigan. Other than a missed and questionable field goal attempt in the first half and play-action call on the goal line in the second, Bowden and his staff called a superb game against Brady Hoke.
Bowden, the son of legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, showed that he could match wits with one of the Big Ten's best. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel may have had something to do with the close game as well. He teaches classes at Akron. Maybe he's given Bowden tips on playing Michigan.
A team led by a lesser coach than Bowden would have probably left with a much larger loss. The Zips staff deserves recognition for a job well done, too. Playing in front of 115,000 people is a test, especially when they applaud your turnovers and boo your advancement.
If not for turnovers, Akron could have pulled off the upset. The fact that its players had enough grit to stay the course says a lot about the program.
Devin Gardner Is Still a Good QB
Don't abandon hope just yet.
Devin Gardner hasn't plummeted into No Man's Land because of one bad game. Besides, it'd be hypocritical for Michigan fans to slam him after a single bad start. They crowned him as The Next based on a five-game resume.
See where this is headed?
He's still good; he just had his head somewhere else Saturday versus Akron.
The redshirt junior threw three interceptions, one of which was a pick-six to Justin March in the fourth quarter. At that point, Akron trailed 21-17 and Twitter exploded with anti-Gardner comments.
Slow. Down. He'll be OK.
Obvious Alert: O-Line Can't Live Without Lewan
Michigan got a scare in the fourth quarter: All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan fell to the ground with an apparent knee injury.
The Big House went silent as one of its heroes struggled to lift himself. After a few moments, Lewan exited the field under his own power.
Why the narrative? Well, the offensive line—with Lewan, no less—was horrendous against the Zips, who lived in the backfield and zeroed in on Gardner during every series. It was quarterback hunting put on display. Relentless pursuit and exceptional effort.
So, imagine the game without Lewan.
Enter Kyle Pohl, a Guy You Have to Talk About
Throwing for 311 yards and taking Michigan to the limit will turn a few heads. And if he gets what's coming to him, Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl will be the most talked-about player in the MAC this week—and maybe for the season.
Scratch the MAC for right now. He deserves major props at the national level. If not for Pohl, who wasn't perfect but extremely effective, the Zips probably wouldn't have competed with the Wolverines, who are now 17-0 at The Big House under Hoke.
Turnovers Will Haunt Michigan
Turning the ball over four times usually doesn't breed success. Doing so against a team such as Nebraska or Ohio State will cost Michigan a win.
Michigan pulled a rabbit out of a hat Saturday. That won't be case in future weeks; not against the Big Ten.
Three of the turnovers were from Gardner, who was uncharacteristically careless against the Zips. Regardless of where they come from, turnovers will cut short any chances of a championship season for the Wolverines.
It's nearly impossible to protect the ball at all times. Teams make mistakes.
But legitimate national threats take much better care of the ball than Michigan did against Akron.
Defensive Line Lacks Zeal
There were moments, such as Frank Clark's hit on Kyle Pohl in the first half, when Michigan's defensive line looked dominant and superior.
But they were few and far between. Far too comfortable, Pohl threw at his leisure, guiding the Zips down the field for three scoring drives while dissecting the Wolverines secondary.
Running back Jawon Chisholm knifed his way for 58 yards. His average of 3.9 yards per carry wasn't much. However, he had a long of 12 yards and ran with a head of steam. He kept his legs moving while fighting for yards against a line that should have shut him down.
Up front needs work in Ann Arbor. That's all there is to it. No pass-rushing prowess is visible at this point, and the line hasn't shown that it can bottle up a running back for an entire game, either. That'll be necessary. Top teams typically run the ball well.
Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will probably have choice words for his men this week. If the players thought practices were rough up to this point, they haven't seen a thing yet. Bet on Mattison cranking up the intensity during next week's workouts.
Michigan didn't avoid a let-down this week. A lot of that falls on the defense.
Shane Morris Got Cheated
Michigan probably planned on getting Shane Morris a few snaps. Then again, Michigan planned on decimating the Zips, too. Things don't always turn out that way.
Ideally, Morris would have played much of the second half in a comfortable win. Cruising along, he would have probably thrown a touchdown and gained confidence. That's what non-conference games against MAC schools are for, right?
Akron didn't approve that plan, therefore cheating Morris out of at least a couple of series. All kidding aside, Morris is left without what should have been a key developmental game. He won't get many more shots at mop-up duty. If Michigan doesn't handle its business against UConn, Morris may not play much at all this year.
Blake Countess Is Emerging as MVP-Caliber Player
Blake Countess isn't wasting time. After suffering an ACL injury in Week 1 of 2012, the cornerback appears ready to pick up where he left off and defend receivers at an elite level.
He's a rock for the Wolverines secondary and already has three picks this season. His 47-yard interception in the second quarter gave Michigan momentum as it clung to a 7-3 lead. But Akron forced a punt.
Stalled drives and inconsistency plagued Michigan all day.
Despite all of that, one thing should be crystal clear: Mattison has an All-Big Ten-caliber corner in Countess, who has arguably been Michigan's steadiest defender through three games.
Secondary/Defense Has to Key in on WRs
Tommy Rees and T.J. Jones were a dual threat for Notre Dame.
Kyle Pohl and Zach D'Orazio were for Akron—and they were slightly better. When all hope was seemingly lost, Pohl and D'Orazio found ways to keep the Zips afloat in the rugged seas of Ann Arbor.
They hooked up for three completions of 28 yards or more; Michigan surrendered a few big plays to the Irish in Week 2. But i remains an issue that needs further attention after Saturday's 28-24 win. An underdog such as Akron shouldn't have been able to move the ball so easily.
D'Orazio finished the day with six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Focusing on one go-to receiver has certainly been a challenge through the first weeks. But the Wolverines had to deal with two Saturday; L.T. Smith caught two passes of 40 or more yards, both of which came during 2nd-and-long scenarios.
Play log courtesy of ESPN
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81