- Todd Needle/Daily
By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 14, 2013
Taylor Lewan used the word “embarrassing” five times after Michigan’s 28-24 win over Akron on Saturday, and that might not have done it justice.
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What was that? What team was that out there? It wasn’t the team that beat Notre Dame on national television last week, it wasn’t the team with a potential Heisman candidate at quarterback and it sure as hell wasn’t the team that has aspirations to compete in the Big Ten Championship game in a couple months.
This team was flat and boring and unable to execute anything on offense. This team made the Zips look competitive, never mind the fact that Akron now has a 28-game losing streak on the road, a 3-34 record over the previous three years and has not beaten an FBS opponent since 2010. This team made everyone forget about the magic of last week, Under the Lights II, real quick.
Lewan, the All-American fifth-year senior offensive tackle, blamed it on the seniors and the leadership of the team, who he said were responsible for a poor week of preparation during practice.
He didn’t blame his quarterback, redshirt junior Devin Gardner, who had four turnovers and single-handedly let Akron back in the game with an awful pick-six on the second play of the fourth quarter. Nor did he blame the secondary, which let the Zips throw for 311 yards, the second straight week the defense has allowed over 300 yards of passing offense.
Lewan could only blame his seniors, the backbone of this team who are theoretically the reliable ones.
“If any guy on this team thinks they can do anything but prepare every single week — you have to take this as your job,” Lewan said. “You came here as a student-athlete. You go to school, get your degree and win Big Ten Championships. If we prepare like we did this week, we won’t win another game.”
Saturday should and could be nothing but a wake-up call. Maybe it’s exactly what this young team needed — a strong punch to the gut, an awakening.
It’s easy to see how this could be a let down game. Last weekend was incredible. There was nothing special about this Saturday, a noon game against a middling MAC team with a lackluster crowd and half-empty student section.
But that type of letdown game only lasts to a certain point. It shouldn’t, and can’t, last until the last play of the game against the worst team on Michigan’s schedule.
If Lewan is right, if there is a lack of leadership, that’s a much bigger deal than just playing down to an opponent. Leadership is what will carry this team in November, when the Wolverines play three road games in four weeks, or during Thanksgiving weekend against Ohio State.
“Tuesday and Wednesday, we had back-to-back 90-degree days and some of the guys were kind of lacking,” said fifth-year safety Thomas Gordon. “(Lewan is) absolutely right. It’s leadership. We preached it all week, but obviously there were different circumstances today. We didn’t execute.”
The last play, the one that saved Saturday, was an incomplete pass from the four-yard line, Akron’s second big missed opportunity of the day. Twice, the Zips had the ball on Michigan’s one, and twice, they failed to convert.
Junior linebacker Brennan Beyer broke through the line and sent Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl back toward the field and away from the end zone, back to a place where this Michigan football team is still undefeated and didn’t lose to a middling MAC team. It was a win, the same as Notre Dame and the same as Central Michigan.
But Lewan didn’t go to the student section after this win. He went straight to the underbelly of the stadium, away from the field, where the only word he could think of was “embarrassing” and where he had more questions than answers.
“I’m not here to celebrate that type of game or that type of preparation,” Lewan said. “We have a lot of work to do if we want to accomplish our goals. This senior class, we’ve worked too hard, way too hard, to have games like this.”