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September 16, 2013 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-16

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2B - September 16, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

SPORTSMONDAY COLUMN
For 315 Saturdays, Michigan outruns its past

hree hundred and fifteen
Saturdays had passed
since Michigan Sta-
dium felt just like this, and time
seemed to melt and then fuse
into one thread. This time it was
a third-and-1 from Michigan's
2-yard line, but it felt like it did
when Michigan had a 37-yard
field-goal attempt to savea
season from
destruction
before it even
began.
No play-
ers remain
from the teamW
that lost to
Appalachian ZACH
State in 2007. HELFAND
Michigan's
current fresh-
men were in
sixth grade then. Most probably
didn't watch. But look closely
and the past is everywhere in
this stadium. The whole place
was built in Fielding Yost's
vision: the corner where Braylon
seemed to fly, the goal posts torn
down in 1969, a loss that still
defies belief.
That's the allure of Michigan,
of college sports. Four years
pass, and everything is new but
it's the same.
No. 98 is gone and then
washes up again. Howard's No.
21 finds its way back too. Michi-
gan coach Brady Hoke likes to
say his players represent every
Michigan player who has worn
the jersey.
3:39 p.m. on a Saturday in
2007 becomes 3:16 p.m. in 2013.
Appalachian State lines up in a
field-goal block, and Akron lines
up on the goal line and it's as if
a stadium had been holding its
breath that entire time. The past
crashes into the present like a
wave, and sometimes it's easy to
get crushed.

I

but Michigan was still not out of
that hole: still no Big Ten titles,
still no Rose Bowls. And then
an Akron team even worse than
Appalachian State threatened to
start the nightmare over again.
On the bus to the game, the
Akron coaching staff showed
the game tape of Michigan's
game against Notre Dame.
They weren't analyzing plays
or looking for tendencies. They
wanted to show their players
how emotionally drainingthat
game was for Michigan. They
wanted to show them Michigan
couldn't possibly come out with
that same intensity two weeks
in a row.
Akron understood. Part of
the deal of 20-year-olds playing
football is that sometimes they
don't show up. All that's left is to
survive and move on.
There's not much to learn
from a game like this. Does
Michigan seem like a worse
team than last week?
In the locker room after the
game, Hoke gathered his team
and spoke, his voice growing
more hoarse as he went on.
"No.1 goal is to do what?" he
said.
"Win," the team said.
"Did we win?"
"Yessir."
"That's the good part," Hoke
said. "That's the good part."
Michigan managed to out-
run its past, even if just by four
yards. For players after the
game, it hardly seemed like a
win. But the Wolverines have
now survived 315 Saturdays
since the worst loss in program
history. That's the only good
part, but that's the only part that
matters.
-Helfand can be reached
at zhelfand@umich.edu or
on Twitter @zhelfand

U

4

Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore celebrated after the 2007 upset.
Losing isn't much different After the game, a coach
from winning. With two plays blamed himself.
left, Akron thought Michigan "We were not awell-prepared
would pinch, but Michigan was football team," he said. "That is
waiting wide for the outside my job, and I take full responsi-
pitch; Greg Mattison called the bility."
right blitz, and Michigan won. Six years apart, a different
Someone missed an assignment, coach tells his team the same:
and Appalachian State blocked "Guys, it's our fault. Starts with
the field goal and Michigan lost. me. Our fault. Our fault, We

TODD NEEDLE/Daily
A Michigan fan grimaces after Michigan's narrow victory over Akron.
didn't do a good enough job pre- the spiral; it was more of a
paring you. We will prepare you symptom. Remember, though,
better, I promise you." the Wolverines were national
The first was Lloyd Carr. The championship contenders at 3:39
next, Brady Hoke. Take out the p.m. of that day. At 3:40, they
context, and it's impossible to weren't. They went to the Rose
tell one from the other. Bowl the year before and haven't
Michigan still hasn't dug been back since.
itself out from the Appalachian The memory of the loss-had
State hole. The loss didn't start long receded before Saturday,

4

Five things we learned: Akron

By EVERETT COOK
Daily Sports Editor
1. Devin Gardner giveth, and
Devin Gardner taketh away
The redshirt junior quar-
terback had 83 percent of
Michigan's total yards on Sat-
urday, continuing his role as the
backbone of the offense. He's
immensely talented and athletic
- the Wolverines' offense would
look a lot different (read: worse)
without him.
But so far this season, there's
been at least one play a game
that a Pop Warner quarterback
shouldn't be making, much less a
collegiate quarterback who was
expected to be in contention for
the Heisman Trophy before the
season.
Against Notre Dame, it was
an interception in the end zone
that let the Fighting Irish back
into the game. Saturday, it was
an awful pass into the flat that
was again returned for a pick-
six. It was his fourth turnover of
the day and immediately brought
Akron back into the game. With-
out that play from Gardner, a
goal-line stand likely wouldn't

have been needed. If Michigan
is going to win a Big Ten champi-
onship, he will have to be better
than that.
Earlier in the season, Michi-
gan coach Brady Hoke said that
Gardner's talent is both a bless-
ing and a curse. It allows for
his quarterback to make insane,
remarkable plays, but it also lets
Gardner believe he can do any-
thing and that mistakes are for
other people.
Michigan's season depends
on whether he can find the line
between talented and mistake-
prone.
"I wasn't myself today," Gard-
ner said after the game Saturday.
"I made a lot of mistakes today.
It was probably my worst game
ever, but it won't happen again."
2. The offensive line isn't quite
there
Fifth-year senior offensive
tackle Taylor Lewan was furi-
ous after the game, to the point
where he told reporters, "You
all don't even know. You all just
write shit down."
He was angry because he felt
leadership from upperclassmen

was lacking on Saturday, but also
because he felt like the offensive
line wasn't doing anything to
help the running game.
"Being the one offensive tack-
le on this team, I put that offen-
sive performance on myself," he
said. "Devin didn't have enough
time to throw. Our running
backs didn't have holes. That's
my fault."
It wasn't entirely his fault,
obviously, but the offensive line
didn't look like a finished group
Saturday. For the second straight
game, fifth-year senior running
back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for
71 yards. He had a few long runs
but was bottled up for the most
part.
That was acceptable against
Notre Dame, a team with one
of the best defensive lines in
the country. It was not against
Akron.
Lewan and fellow fifth-year
senior Michael Schofield form
one of the best offensive tackle
duos in the Big Ten, but the inte-
rior line is incredibly inexperi-
enced and raw.
We'll see in the next couple
weeks whether it's a matter of
cohesion and inexperience or if
it's smatter of talent. If theo inte-

a

it' a matter of talent. If the inte-
rior line doesn't play well against
USE E Connecticut next week, offen-
m iim i sive coordinator Al Borges might
look to shake up the group.
3. Paging Frank Clark
6 2 3 1 Junior defensive end Frank
Clark said before the season that
9 3 7 his goal was 10 sacks. He was
supposed to be a wrecking ball
on a unit that looked devilish and
2 4 deep in the firstgame of the year
against Central Michigan.
9 7 6 Yet for all the talk before the
season, Clark still doesn't have
a sack. He's the biggest disap-
4 7 3 5 pointment on a struggling unit
that hurried Akron quarterback
3 8 1 Tyler Pohl but, for the second
straight week, didn't record a
8 1 sack.
Pohl - just like Notre Dame
quarterback Tommy Rees the
3 7 9 week before - had all the time in
the world to throw in the pocket.
6 5 1 7 The defensive line played best
when it had to, in the red zone,
' Ibut it'sthe first 80 yards that
raised warning flags Saturday.

TODDNEEDLE/Daily
Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner had four turnovers on Saturday, including a crucial pick-six in the fourth quarter.

4. The secondary doesn't have
Greg Mattison's trust yet
Part of the blame for the sec-
ondary's struggles can be placed
on the defensive line. The more
pressure they apply, the easier
the secondary's job is.
That doesn't let the unit off
the hook. Akron passed for more
than 300 yards, becoming the
second team ina row to do that to
Michigan. Starting junior safety
Raymon Taylor was beaten sev-
eral times on deep routes, and
Mattison had to rely on fresh-
man Jourdan Lewis and junior
Delonte Hollowell, both of whom
played more of a reserve role the

first two games of the year.
If Mattison trusted this group
more, he could dial up more blitz-
es to help apply pressure that the
defensive line so far cannot. But
because he understandably can't,
the two units struggled together
Saturday.
If one of these units improves,
the other one will, too.
5. Bold Prediction: Gardner
will throw at least one intercep-
tion in every game this year
Again, Michigan's offense
would be a lot less exciting and
impactful without Gardner. His
primary backup is a true fresh-

man - Michigan needs him.
But if Gardner is throw-
ing three interceptions against
Akron, what happens in Big Ten
games or games on the road?
Unless Gardner has a sudden
awareness epiphany, his false
sense of security will always be
there.
Maybe the revelation willhap-
pen soon, but it's far more likely
that the trend of Gardner making
one big mistake per game contin-
ues.
He will have stunning per-
formances, but ultimately, every
Saturday will end with at least
one pick from Michigan's most
dynamic playmaker.

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