Michigan Staves Off Akron on Late TD, Goal-Line Stand
The No. 11-ranked University of Michigan football team used a goal-line stand as time expired to hang on for a 28-24 win over Akron on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 14) in front of 107,120 at Michigan Stadium.
Senior/junior quarterback Devin Gardner (Detroit, Mich./Inkster) went 16-for-30 with 248 yards and two touchdowns passing and accounted for 103 yards rushing with one touchdown. Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (Youngstown, Ohio/Liberty) rushed for 71 yards and one touchdown, with fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) catching six passes for a team-best 66 yards and sophomore tight end Devin Funchess (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison) grabbing two passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore linebacker James Ross III (Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's Prep) led the way with 10 tackles, including one for a loss. Meanwhile, sophomore safety Jarrod Wilson (Akron, Ohio/Buchtel) and sophomore defensive back Blake Countess (Owings Mills, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel) each recorded an interception.
Michigan wasted no time getting on the board, scoring on its sixth play of the day when Gardner found Funchess for a 48-yard touchdown with 10:29 remaining in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Akron came up empty on its next offensive series but forced the Maize and Blue into a short punt of 21 yards on its next possession to start at U-M's 31-yard line. With the short field, the Zips cut the Wolverine lead to four, 7-3, on a 45-yard field goal from Robert Stein with 2:59 showing on the clock in the first quarter.
Following the exchange of scores, neither team put another point on the board for the rest of the half. Michigan turned the ball over three times and missed on a 45-yard field goal, with Akron turning the ball over once and missing on 45- and 55-yard field goals to give U-M a 7-3 lead at the break.
Starting at its own 27-yard line to start the second half, Michigan went three-and-out. After the 54-yard punt, Akron began its first possession of the second half at its own 25-yard line. The Zips orchestrated a 10-play drive, culminating in a Kyle Pohl 28-yard touchdown pass to Zach D'Orazio. Following the successful PAT from Robert Stein, Akron took a 10-7 lead with 9:56 to go in the third.
After having his first run of the drive called back for a holding penalty, Toussaint ripped off a 24-yard run from U-M's 36-yard line to jumpstart Michigan's second offensive series of the half. Following Toussaint's four-yard rush on the next play, Gardner scampered 36 yards for Michigan's second touchdown of the afternoon. With the good PAT from fifth-year senior Brendan Gibbons (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman), Michigan regained the lead, 14-10, with 8:13 remaining in the third.
The Wolverines forced an Akron punt on the ensuing possession, taking over at its own 15-yard line with 7:14 to go in the quarter. After Gardner fumbled and recovered on the first play of the drive for a loss of six yards, he took off for a 35-yard gain on the next play to advance to the 46-yard line. Five plays later, Gardner found sophomore/freshman wide receiver Jehu Chesson (St. Louis, Mo./Ladue Horton Watkins) for a 33-yard touchdown to increase Michigan's lead to 21-10 with 3:23 left in the third -- Chesson's first career catch and TD.
Akron responded with its third interception of Gardner on the day to start the fourth quarter, with Justin March picking off Gardner and returning it 27 yards to the end zone just 14 seconds into the quarter. After converting the point after, Akron trimmed the Michigan lead to four points, 21-17.
With the Zips threatening to score on Michigan's two-yard line, Wilson picked off Pohl's pass in the end zone. U-M came up empty on its next possession, with Akron taking over at its 33-yard line. The Zips strung together an 11-play, 67-yard scoring drive to take a 24-21 lead with 4:10 remaining. After having a 40-yard pass originally ruled a touchdown overturned, Akron cashed in on third down from the one-yard line for the three-point advantage.
After his first pass of the drive was batted down on the next Michigan possession, Gardner took off on a 35-yard run to enter Akron territory. The Wolverines then took advantage of pass interference by Akron in the end zone, moving to the two-yard line. Toussaint then punched it in on first down, putting Michigan on top, 28-24, with 2:49 remaining.
Akron marched down the field on its final possession of the game, using three big plays to reach the Michigan one-yard line with 15 seconds left. Passes of 24 and 21 yards coupled with a rush of 19 yards set the Zips up a yard away from the end zone. A pitch to the right was unsuccessful on first down, leaving Akron with four yards and five seconds to score. Junior linebacker Brennen Beyer (Canton, Mich./Plymouth) broke through the line untouched to rush Pohl, whose pass fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
The Wolverines hit the road next Saturday (Sept. 21) for their first contest of the season away from Michigan Stadium, taking on Connecticut in East Hartford. Game time has yet to be announced.