Through three games, Michigan's offensive line has struggled, but against Akron it nearly resulted in an embarrassing loss at home.
How bad are the Zips? They had lost 27 straight road games dating back to 2008 and have only beaten a Big Ten opponent once, Ohio State in 1894.
The Wolverines came out in the first half, using a number of formations to try to establish their ground game, but only gained 41 yards on 12 running plays against a Mid-American opponent that has only won four games since the 2010 season.
Offensively, the Wolverines only scored a single touchdown before halftime.
According to Michigan offensive left tackle Taylor Lewan during the postgame press conference, “…this game was embarrassing…Devin didn’t have enough time to throw and our running back didn’t have enough holes...”
When Devin Gardner dropped back to pass he was hurried and forced out of the pocket by Akron defenders who attacked the interior of the Michigan offensive line. Center Jack Miller and guards Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis were consistently beaten, hampering the Wolverine offense.
Gardner, who played a nearly flawless game against Notre Dame, struggled to evade the Akron defense, throwing two first-half interceptions.
The Wolverines came out in the second half and returned to the play-calling that had worked so well against Notre Dame—they unleashed quarterback Devin Gardner and scored two third-quarter touchdowns to seemingly take control of the game, 21-10.
But in the fourth quarter, Akron continued to exploit the Michigan offensive line, pressuring Gardner into throwing a pick-six in the opening minute.
Gardner was able to lead the Wolverines on a late touchdown drive, and Michigan escaped with a 28-24 victory, but Akron exposed a serious flaw in the Wolverines offense.
The interior of the offensive line has not shown itself capable of consistently containing pressure.
Against Central Michigan, Devin was able to use his speed and agility to evade defenders.
When Notre Dame brought pressure up the middle he was able to dump the ball to hot receivers for quick yardage.
But against Akron the pressure stifled the running game and forced him to make bad decisions with the football.
Brady Hoke once described offensive guard Kalis as “a road grader,” a description he uses to describe the large, mobile lineman he favors to power his running game.
But at this point, the Wolverines need their interior offensive line to be “a road block” against defenders pressuring quarterback Devin Gardner.
Give Gardner time and he is an amazing playmaker.
Future opponents are taking note of how to shut down him down.
And for now, all roads to accomplish that run through the middle of the Wolverines offensive line.
All quotes collected by author unless otherwise noted.