September 14, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Terry Foster

Michigan owns up to shoddy performance against Akron

Lewan and Gardner unhappy despite U-M win
Lewan and Gardner unhappy despite U-M win: Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and quarterback Devin Gardner talk about Michigan's win over Akron.

Ann Arbor ó Sometimes you want to hug Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan for being so blunt and honest. The problem is if you did that after Michigan's game against Akron, he'd probably punch you in the face.

That's how angry he was.

Lewan is right. Michigan's 28-24, down-to-the-last play-victory over Akron Saturday at Michigan Stadium was embarrassing to the school, the fans and the program.

Michigan players said they will respond to this near miss. The problem is, how do you fix a leaky secondary, pathetic pass rush, spotty quarterback play, inconsistent running game and lack of focus all in one week for Michigan's first road game at Connecticut?

That's a lot of fix.

"We did not prepare as a team," Lewan said. "That is truly embarrassing to Michigan that we came out like that. That is not fair to the fans. It is not fair to the people associated with this program. It's not fair to the freshmen on the team that are not playing. This is the seniorsí fault. This is the captainsí fault. We will not do this again."

There is a lesson here. Michigan cannot roll out the football and roll over people. That used to be the case back in the day when Bo Schembechler rolled over inferior opponents. The Big House is big and louder than it used to be but no one is afraid to play here.

Teams like Akron look at it as an opportunity to make a name. The Zips came within one play of pulling it off. Let's be honest. Akron was the better football team during stretches.

I've already heard from apologetic Michigan fans who said Akron played a great game. Give them credit. Sorry guys. This is a team that lost its 28th straight road game, that got thrashed by Central Florida 38-7, and squeaked by James Madison by three points.

We are not talking Alabama here.

Empty feeling

This was self-inflected. Somebody owes running back Fitz Toussaint an extra 50 yards of rushing because of holding penalties.

Devin Gardner continued to throw hopes and prayers to the other team.

And no one can convince me this wasn't a huge Michigan hangover after an exciting victory over Notre Dame under the lights, in front of national television and a record 115,109 fans. Linebacker Brennen Beyer admitted to looking in the stands Saturday and seeing empty seats. It looked different and it felt different.

These were Zips wearing golden domes, not Fighting Irish.

Michigan was primed for a letdown after one of the most magical nights in Michigan Stadium history.

The students showed up late and Michigan's offense showed up later.

This game was not over until Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl's pass in the end zone missed Zach D'Orazio, who complained that he was held.

Gardner's judgment

Here is one disagreement I would have with Lewan. You must place some blame on Gardner. He is a high risk, high reward quarterback. He looks great at times but he sometimes needs to tone it down and take a sack or fall to the ground rather than try to make the spectacular play. He threw three interceptions and fumbled once. That will get you beat most days.

For the second game in a row he threw a pick-6. That is not acceptable.

"I talked to Tom Brady and he talked about being the best quarterback every time out for your team in practice and the game," Gardner said. "I was not the best quarterback for this team. It was embarrassing. We are going to respond. I guarantee that."

Many Michigan fans jumped for joy when Denard Robinson graduated. But didn't Gardner play a Robinson game? He was awful passing, going 16-for-30 for 248 yards. And his biggest plays were on the ground. Gardner rushed for 103 yards on 10 carries.

The good news is the coaches have a lot to bark about. And players will listen this week because they know they could have lost to an inferior opponent. I am sure Gardner and the rest of the captains and seniors will bark too.

"If we prepare like we did this week we won't win another game," Lewan said.

That is taking it to extremes but you can guarantee another failed season with no banners or championships to celebrate if Michigan plays like this again.

terry.foster@detroitnews.com
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Michigan defensive back Raymon Taylor (6) tackles Akron wide receiver L.T. Smith (3) just short of the goal line after Smith caught a long pass. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but reverse after instant-replay review. / John T. Greilick / Detroit News