Published September 14, 2013
| Sports Network
Ann Arbor, MI – After beating Notre Dame last week in what could be the Fighting Irish's last trip to Michigan Stadium for awhile, surely Akron would not pose a threat to mighty Michigan in its first visit to the Big House.
The 11th-ranked Wolverines needed a late Fitzgerald Toussaint touchdown run and a goal-line stand in the closing seconds to earn a 28-24 victory over the Zips in another thriller.
"Their kids came in here like most Mid-American Conference schools are going to come in here, to win the football game and play to win the football game," said Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
"And they coached it that way, they played it that way."
Toussaint's 2-yard touchdown run with 2:49 remaining gave Michigan the lead, but Akron marched from its own 25 to the Michigan 2. Jawon Chisholm was stopped for a loss of two yards and the Zips called their final timeout with just five seconds to play.
Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl dropped back to pass, but was pressured by blitzing Michigan linebacker Brennen Beyer and threw incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
Michigan was in control with a 21-10 lead and the ball in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but Devin Gardner gave the Zips life. The quarterback who led the Wolverines to last week's 41-30 win over the Irish, couldn't make a play for most of the final period.
He tried to force a throw on a screen pass to Toussaint, but Justin March stepped in front and cruised into the end zone from 27 yards away with the interception to shift the momentum and pull Akron within four.
Akron's defense forced a three-and-out and the Zips quickly moved into Michigan territory. A 43-yard pass from Pohl to L.T. Smith set up a first down at the seven, but Jarron Wilson came up with an interception in the end zone to keep the Wolverines in front.
Michigan again failed to pick up a first down and the Zips this time cashed in. After a pair of third-down conversions, Pohl and Smith hooked up for 40 yards to the one, as a video review ruled the receiver down before he reached the end zone. Two carries by Conor Hundley left Akron with a third down, but Pohl calmly found Tyrell Goodman just inside the end zone from the one to put the Zips in front with 4:10 remaining.
The Wolverines' offense, which produced a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, finally kicked back into gear. Gardner broke free for 35 yards and hit Jeremy Gallon for 20 to set up a first down at the Akron 15 before a pass interference penalty set up Toussaint's go-ahead score.
Gardner was both good and bad Saturday. He ran for 103 yards with a touchdown on 10 carries and threw for 248 yards with a pair of touchdowns, but was also picked off three times and lost a fumble with the Wolverines threatening to score.
Toussaint finished with 71 yards on 19 carries for the Wolverines (3-0), who will venture out on the road for the first time this season next week with a trip to Connecticut.
Pohl finished 25-of-49 for 311 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in defeat. He said he knew his team had a chance to win by the way it played in the first half.
"I think with how our defense was playing before we were even ahead we knew we could beat them," Pohl said. "I knew we could move the ball as soon as we got our offense straight, so I really was confident before we even went ahead because of how our defense was playing.
"We were moving the ball, we just were not executing like we were in the second half."
Smith had five catches for 125 yards and Zach D'Orazio hauled in six passes for 97 yards with a touchdown for Akron (1-2), which was coming off a 35-33 win over James Madison after a 38-7 loss at UCF to open the season.
The Wolverines had a great start, scoring on their opening drive as Gardner hooked up with Devin Funchess for a 48-yard score, but a poor punt after the second series left Akron with great field position. The Zips, starting from the Michigan 31, managed just four yards and settled for a 45-yard field goal from Robert Stein.
Brendan Gibbons then missed a 45-yard field goal attempt for Michigan in the first minute of the second quarter and the Wolverines followed with turnovers on their next three possessions. Gardner was stripped by March inside the Akron 20, then followed a Michigan interception by throwing a pick inside the Zips' 10.
Akron marched into Michigan territory after DeAndre Scott's interception, but Stein's 45-yard field goal try hit the left upright with 43 seconds left in the half. March then picked off Gardner to give Akron one more opportunity with 29 seconds remaining, but Stein came up well short on a 55-yard kick.
The Zips then stunned the home crowd with a 75-yard drive for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half. Pohl found D'Orazio for a 28-yard touchdown to give Akron a 10-7 lead, but Michigan appeared to take control afterward.
Toussaint broke free for 24 yards on the first play after the kickoff and added four more yards before Gardner found an opening on the right side and raced 36 yards for a touchdown to put the Wolverines back on top.
The Zips went three-and-out and pinned Michigan at its own eight, but Gardner quickly rumbled 35 yards to ignite a 92-yard drive. He capped the 9-play set with a 33-yard scoring pass to Jehu Chesson to make it 21-10.
Michigan has won 17 straight home games, the longest active streak among BCS teams ... Akron has lost 28 straight road games and last won away from home on Oct. 28, 2008 at Eastern Michigan ... Gibbons had a string of 16 straight field goals made halted in the second quarter ... Akron fell to 1-23 all-time against ranked opponents since joining Division I-A in 1987 and also dropped to 1-24 versus current members of the Big Ten.