The feeling of deja vu was overwhelming during Michigan’s 28-24 victory over Akron on Saturday.
Against an opponent they should have beaten handily, the Wolverines struggled in front of a stunned Big House crowd. In fact, the team came a mere yard away from being on the wrong side of the first significant upset of 2013.
A little over six years ago, on Sept. 1, 2007, what almost transpired Saturday did come to fruition. In that game, then No. 5 Michigan fell to FCS foe Appalachian State 34-32 at home in what is still considered one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
Ironically, Saturday’s contest bore a lot of similarities to that 2007 collapse.
For starters, the Wolverines struggled to convert on third down in both games.
Against the Mountaineers, the team was 7-of-15 overall. However, after starting 3-of-4 in the first quarter, Michigan was just 4-of-11 the rest of the way. Conversely, the team allowed Appalachian State to convert seven of their 13 opportunities.
On Saturday, against the Zips, the Wolverines struggled the entire game. The team went just 3-of-10 while putting together drives of five plays or more just four times. On the other hand, Akron had no trouble moving the chains, converting on nine of 18 chances while recording eight drives of five plays or more.
Then there was the lack of efficiency through the air.
Chad Henne—Michigan’s starting quarterback in 2007—was just 19-of-37 for 233 yards and a touchdown. He also threw a crucial second-half interception.
This time around, although Devin Gardner was great with his legs—103 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries—he struggled with his arm. The junior threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns on just 16-of-30 passing. He also had three interceptions in the game.
Finally, the Wolverines benefited from late go-ahead scores in both contests before conceding a lengthy drive to the opposition in the final seconds.
Against the Mountaineers, running back Mike Hart rushed for a 54-yard touchdown to put the Wolverines up 32-31 with 4:36 left to go. However, the team failed to complete the two-point conversion. That shortcoming proved to be costly as Appalachian State drove seven plays and 69 yards before kicking the game-winning field goal with 26 seconds remaining.
History almost repeated itself against the Zips.
Following a Fitzgerald Toussaint two-yard touchdown run with 2:49 remaining, Michigan looked to be in good shape up 28-24. Next thing you know, Akron drove 11 plays and 71 yards, eventually reaching the Wolverines’ 1-yard line. However, quarterback Kyle Pohl overthrew his receiver on fourth down as time expired.
As the Michigan faithful breathe a collective sigh of relief, head coach Brady Hoke and his squad have a lot of work to do. The team travels to face Connecticut next week.
Suddenly, that game looks to be a little more difficult than originally thought.