A win is a win, right? Meh. Not so fast. If you feel comfortable chalking Michigan’s performance up Saturday to a blip on the radar, you need to reconsider what you define as a blip. Because that was about 55 minutes of poorly executed football (and that might be putting it gently). So, let’s talk about it.
The mailbag is every Wednesday and you can email or Tweet me (chanteljenningsESPN@gmail.com, @chanteljennings) to see your questions here.
Kevin Ujvary via Twitter: Are we overreacting to the nail-biter? Poor excuse but going from a Notre Dame-like atmosphere to Akron might have had an effect.
A: That’s part of it, I’m sure. There’s the hype-hangover factor. But I think Michigan got a little cocky. I think the worrisome part is that Michigan didn’t prepare well. There are certain teams in this country that maybe can overlook a smaller opponent. The Wolverines aren’t there yet. And if they think they are then they have another thing coming and they’re going to get beaten by one of the Big Ten teams they believe they should beat or UConn is going to hand it to them this weekend. The Wolverines aren’t nearly experienced enough to rely completely on their physical nature or anything else to take out smaller teams and not give 100 percent during film and game study. Game-week prep is crucial. Michigan learned that last week. The good thing for the fans is that I’d imagine they won’t have that problem the rest of the season as long as Taylor Lewan sticks to his word.
Jake Allen via Twitter: What was going with [Devin] Gardner’s decisions? Why were we so turnover-prone?
A: It was a mix of things. The offensive line really didn’t play very well. There were miscommunications on the line and because of that it made it easier for Akron to put pressure on Gardner. The QB also said he wasn’t himself. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said on Tuesday that he thought the offense was just having issues finding a groove. With a quarterback such as Gardner who has an “I can always do it” mentality, he might have overdone it, tried to make too many plays. And credit Akron. The Zips got the pressure on Gardner, and they made sure their defensive backs were in the right places to make those kinds of plays.
Morris Fabbri via Twitter: Why has Michigan's pass rush experienced such a drop-off this year?
A: There really seems to be no good answer for this. With both Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison as the defensive line coach, you’d imagine that even as inexperienced a group as the Wolverines have would be able to put something together against the Akron offensive line. Nope. Mattison said on Tuesday that he would put the pass rush deficiencies on himself. “I have to coach it better,” he said. “Our guys are working hard at it. … We just have to get better at it. And we know that. We started working on it on Sunday already but we will be able to rush, we’re going to do that.” And he admitted that maybe after last spring, the team got away from the fundamentals and working at the pass rush in a step-by-step situation. In a way, at that point, he gave them a bit too much and built on a foundation that wasn’t completely concrete. We’ll see what happens this weekend and in the coming weeks, but I just haven’t seen the kind of production that would make me believe that this team will be able to be an elite four-man pass rushing team by the time it faces Ohio State. If the Wolverines have to return to the basics at this point in September, how far can they really get? Michigan can continue to try to four-man rush. But as it gets into the Big Ten season, it might have to rely more and more on heavy blitzing to get any kind of pressure.
Thom Kohl via Twitter: Any fallout on the students not showing up for Saturday’s game?
A: No. And don’t expect there to be. The athletic department can enforce general admission, but they can’t physically pick the students up from their pregame parties and put them in the stadium. It was Akron, and even members of Michigan’s own team assumed it’d be a blowout. Now, it’ll be interesting to see the next few seasons as strength of schedule is taken more into consideration for the playoffs. We’ll likely see fewer Akron-like teams scheduled so I don’t know how many more times we’ll see the student section 25 percent (that might be gracious…) full at kickoff.