Watching Michigan struggle against Akron this weekend may have been the second best thing Buckeye fans saw, only behind OSU thumping California. The Wolverines struggled against the Zips providing much opportunity for Buckeye amusement and analysis on how to beat the hated rival.
On Saturday’s clash with Akron, it was quite clear where the majority of Michigan’s struggles stemmed from – their offense. Quarterback Devin Gardner came out firing in that weird 98 jersey again (yes, I know it’s a homage to an all-time great, but it makes him look like a defensive tackle) and his performance left much to be desired. On his 30 pass attempts, Gardner completed just 16. Three of those pass attempts wound up in the arms of an Akron defenseman, bringing his season interception total to six, already more than he had last year. The final interception he threw was returned for a 27-yard touchdown, putting the Zips just four points down in the fourth. Gardner was able to contribute in the running game, with 103 yards and a touchdown on ten carries, but those are the numbers one might expect from an established quarterback going against a team from the MAC conference.
In a game where the passing offense really struggled, Michigan needed steady play from their backfield. But instead of consistent contribution, the Wolverines received mediocre support from lead back Fitzgerald Toussaint, just 71 yards on 19 carries, and 24 of those yards came on one carry. Toussaint did provide the game-winning touchdown with 2:49 to play, but the game never should’ve been that close.
The struggle for Michigan doesn’t end there. The Wolverines lost every statistical battle with the Zips. From turnovers, to time of possession, to first downs, to third down conversions, to penalties, to passing yards, one might be able to make a pretty sound argument that the Akron Zips deserved to win this game. The Zips even had a last-minute drive that came up just short, which would’ve resulted in the unexpected upset and their biggest win of the year.
The Zips may have had an extra unknown edge in this contest. While he may be hated for his actions which resulted in OSU sanctions, the Akron Vice President of Strategic Engagement may have nearly helped Akron dethrone the Wolverines. Who is this man you may ask? Jim Tressel. Tressel has been with the school since last year and his role is defined as non-football related, but you never know with the man in the vest. Tressel began his coaching career at Akron.
While they didn’t get the victory, the Zips provided every other team on Michigan’s schedule invaluable scouting reports on Michigan’s biggest weaknesses, which will prove to be crucial when OSU stomps That Team From Up North on November 30th.