Pushed Around by Akron and Now UConn? Michigan Not as Tough as It Thinks

Phil Callihan@umgoblogContributor ISeptember 22, 2013

EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21: Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines feels the pressure of Jefferson Ashiru #32 of the Connecticut Huskies in the first half at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.   (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Last week the Wolverines barely escaped an embarrassing loss at home against Akron. Within minutes of watching the Wolverines surrender two fourth-quarter touchdowns, and very nearly two more, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke decided that a Sunday practice was in order.

This week they barely survived an embarrassing loss on the road to Connecticut, winning 24-21.

EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21: Brady Hoke, coach of the Michigan Wolverines walks the sideline in the second half against the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.   (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Imag
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Hoke might need to have the Wolverines practice right when the plane lands back in Ann Arbor, and not stop until after their bye week.

The Wolverines were pushed to the brink for the second consecutive week by an opponent that they were expected to crush.

Following a huge night-game victory over Notre Dame, perhaps the Wolverines could be excused for coming out flat against Akron. 

This game was supposed to be different. 

Taylor Lewan
Taylor LewanJim Rogash/Getty Images

Wolverine offensive tackle and captain Taylor Lewan vowed during this week’s Monday press conference (h/t Detroit Free Press) that as team leader, "I'm going to do my best to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Things were different against the Huskies; the Wolverines played worse.

They trailed 21-7 in the third quarter against a team that entered the game ranked 115th nationally in total offense.

The Wolverines needed 17 unanswered points to win the game, and scored their last touchdown gift-wrapped by an interception that was returned by Desmond Morgan to the 12-yard line.  

For the second straight week the Wolverines were only able to manage a sole touchdown during the first half. 

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner struggled (13-of-25 for 111 yards with two interceptions) for the second straight game and appeared to grow tentative after throwing the interceptions. The running game didn’t get on track until the second half when Fitzgerald Toussaint (24 rushes for 120 yards and two touchdowns) started to have success during the Wolverines' comeback.

These last two games have exposed serious flaws in a Wolverine team that had looked impressive in wins against Notre Dame and Central Michigan.

The offensive line is unable to consistently run- or pass-block. There was no noticeable improvement despite the addition of another offensive lineman in some formations. When the running game falters, either because of poor blocking or poor decisions by Toussaint, Gardner takes it on himself to run the ball more, and the offensive becomes predictable. 

EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21: Lyle McCombs #43 of the Connecticut Huskies catches a touchdown pass by the defense of Chris Wormley #43 of the Michigan Wolverines in the first half at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The defense doesn’t generate enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to disrupt the passing game. The only way the Wolverines are able to get pressure is to blitz, leaving receivers open for big plays. 

Entering this season, Brady Hoke promised a return to power football at Michigan. 

But the Wolverines have failed to show that they are tough enough on the offensive or defensive lines to fulfill that promise.

It’s time for Michigan to show how tough it is rather than just talk about it.