September 16, 2013

Karsch: From The Sidelines

Michigan sideline reporter Doug Karsch watched the Wolverines nearly go down to defeat against Akron on Saturday, witnessing all of the emotion that flows from that sort of scare. There wasn't much celebrating, he noted.

Here's Karsch…

On the fact that some Wolverines just headed up the tunnel afterwards, instead of going over to the student section like usual after a victory: "I will tell you, that was a post-game demeanor that felt a lot like a loss. The interviews we did with the players, postgame, it's a much different feel after a win.

"There weren't a whole lot of smiles. There wasn't a whole lot said that was positive. I think the message was pretty clear after that game. Collectively, they know exactly how bad that was, based upon their demeanor.

"I've been in the locker room after wins, and I've been in the locker room after losses, and that did not feel like a locker room after a win."

On Taylor Lewan's post-game frustrations expressed: "Taylor Lewan got progressively more and more upset as that game went on. At one point, he came over to the offensive line and he was so upset. He had some choice words for them.

"The possession after that was the possession when they went five plays and about 77 yards, all on the ground. They just ran the ball. Taylor is not out there for extra points, and after they ran it in for the touchdown, he came to the sideline and made a gesture as if to say he loved that play calling and he wanted them to continue to run behind him. That was my impression, just reading his body language.

"What you saw in the postgame, he started to show during the game as well, that what was going on wasn't acceptable."

On Michigan's offensive line play: "It didn't look like they were winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes it's really easy to tell who is winning that battle, and sometimes it's tough.

"They were getting beat at the point of attack, and these things feed off of themselves. You take a loss on first down, an incompletion on second down, and now Devin Gardner is looking at third-and-long. It seems as though that's where the majority of his mistakes are made.

"Two of his three interceptions were on third-and-long. His interception last week against Notre Dame was on third-and-long. He forces plays and makes mistakes when they're in bad down-and-distance situations. That's not to excuse him. Gardner has to make better decisions with the football, and sometimes eat the football or look off his primary receiver, or throw it away on third-and-long.

"But he forces the football just to try and make something, and the seeds for that are being planted on first and second down, when they can't make positive yardage, and they're looking at third-and-long.

"I remember interviewing [former Michigan offensive coordinator] Mike DeBord, and he said something that drove the fans nuts, but I think you see how it rings true. He once said, on the air: 'Sometimes punt is a good play.'

"And people went crazy. They thought that was a terrible attitude for an offensive coordinator. But when you're looking at third-and-long and there's nothing open, and the choices are force the ball, throw it away or take the sack, I think we're seeing where a quarterback sometimes has to understand that a punt is a good play."

On Gardner after his mistakes: "He would come to the sidelines, put the headset on and talk to the coaches. You could tell he was disappointed. Devin has always talked about trying to keep a level head and demeanor, because he sets the tone for the whole team.

"He's done that after great plays, at times. He threw a touchdown pass against Notre Dame in a critical moment. I believe it was to [Jeremy] Gallon in the third quarter. Devin came off the field and was just ice cold. He just ran off the field and didn't get too high.

"When I watch Devin, usually I don't see as much emotion. I think he's trying to set the tone for the team."

On Michigan's defensive issues in the second half: "When I talked to [defensive coordinator] Greg Mattison at halftime, I said, 'After a first half like that, fans tend to think you guys are going to go into the locker room and just go nuts, that there will be a lot of yelling and screaming.'

"His response was: 'Well, it was quiet on our side of the room,' referencing the defense. They were reasonably pleased. The defense in the first half kept getting put in bad positions and kept forcing field goal attempts. As that game went on, you could sense Akron's confidence growing.

"I was over behind their bench at one point, and Michigan was still leading, and it was relatively early in the game. But I could overhear their coaches, saying, 'One play. All it takes is one play.' That's not only just to change momentum, but to start creating belief.

"I think it was as much Akron's confidence growing as it was Michigan probably starting to doubt themselves a little big. Brady [Hoke] has talked about the fact that 61 of the 85 are first-year players. When it's like that, you're most susceptible to that sort of thing happening, when you rely on so much youth.

"Thomas Gordon said after the game, 'I'm glad something like this happened early in the year.' When you're able to maybe learn a critical, critical lesson that will be with you your whole career, that can be something the younger kids on this team can get out of it."

On a final observation: "I've visited the message boards. I saw what people are saying. A lot of it is frustration out of a game like that, and understandably so.

"All I will say is, remember that the team that lost to Appalachian State beat Florida and Tim Tebow the same year. As bad as it was, it was a win. If they don't learn from the win, it's a moot point. But if they learn from the win, this doesn't mean doom and gloom.

"How does a team that lost to App State beat Florida?"

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