Don’t call it a win. Maybe it’s better to just say that No. 11 Michigan didn’t lose to Akron on Saturday, 28-24. Either way, it was a pretty eye-opening game for Michigan. Here are three things we learned:
1. Devin Gardner’s lows are very low.
Gardner had two impressive outings against Central Michigan and Notre Dame. There were the interceptions against CMU and the interception in the end zone against the Irish, but for the most part those were considered the exception rather than the rule. However, after four turnovers (which could’ve easily been six), we’ve seen how bad it can be. Akron -- for some reason -- had Gardner’s number and teams are going to watch that game film to figure out what the Zips did to get to Michigan’s QB. So if Akron did it well with guys who were a bit undersized, then what will it look like when Nebraska or Michigan State does it? Not pretty. He was ready to admit that this was the worst game of his career. But if he wants to be playing for a Big Ten title, he can’t play anywhere close to that again this season.
1b. The offensive line didn’t help.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan addressed the offensive line’s problems after the game and took the blame for it. However, as rough of a day as Gardner had, part of it was the O-line’s issues. The pocket wasn’t always contained for Gardner and some of his poor decisions were a result of that. Akron’s defense accounted for eight tackles for a loss, one sack and five quarterback hurries. So yes, a lot of these issues manifested itself in the decisions made by Gardner, but his offensive front wasn’t exacting throwing him much of a lifeline either.
2. The defensive line still isn’t getting pressure.
Speaking of getting pressure on the quarterback, well, Michigan didn’t. The Wolverines rolled three deep on the defensive line (they even went four deep at tackle), but still, it wasn’t nearly enough -- the 13 of them accounted for just 10 tackles. They did register six quarterback hurries as a unit, but none resulted in sacks and Akron QB Kyle Pohl managed to pass for 311 yards. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison kept saying that the D-line was getting a better four-man rush, but we’ve yet to see it. And against Akron -- a team that Michigan should’ve been able to run over -- we should’ve seen that. We really didn’t even see promising glimpses.
3. Michigan has much further to go than we thought.
After last week, there was talk of how the Wolverines had a decent shot of going into its matchup with Ohio State undefeated. After Saturday, I’m not so sure. It’s not completely out of the question, but seeing how the mistakes compounded on Saturday and knowing how teams like Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State would take advantage of that, I think it’s safe to say the Wolverines’ march through the Big Ten season could be rough. Especially if 1, 1b and 2 don’t figure themselves out very, very soon.