Al Borges Appreciation?

Al Borges Appreciation?

Submitted by Decatur Jack on October 19th, 2013 at 8:00 PM

248 yards rushing

503 yards passing

751 yards of total offense

Devin Gardner breaks record for passing yards in one game (also, throws No INTs)

Jeremy Gallon breaks record for receiving yards in one game (yes, that was Braylon's record previously)

Fitz Toussaint had four rushing touchdowns

63 points

THIS OFFENSE BORES ME

Who is Al Borges? (Part III - HOKE IS A STRATEGY)

Who is Al Borges? (Part III - HOKE IS A STRATEGY)

Submitted by Ron Utah on June 18th, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Ohmygod Ohmygod his tie is red his tie is red HOW CAN WE TRUST THIS MAN???!!!

I have to start Part III off with an apology: there will be FOUR parts in this series.  As I looked at the data left to review for Borges' play-calling and the cumulative data I planned to analyze in Part III, I realized it would make for a long, long post.  You people don't tend to like that.  Plus, this way, you'll have an extra distraction at work on Monday AND Tuesday.

In Part I, Borges' first years in coaching (going back to 1975) and his rise to OC at UCLA were summarized.  Part II examined Al's disastrous decision to return to Cal, his subsequent punishment as the OC at Indiana, and his triumphant and terrible years at Auburn.  Now, it's Brady Hoke's turn.

"Resigned" sounds so much better than "fired," but that's what happened to Al Borges before the 2007 season ended at Auburn.

Borges sat out the 2008 season.  It was the first time he had not been part of a coaching staff since 1974, and he had been an OC since 1985.  There is no doubt that Borges took the blame for Auburn's 2007 woes, and, while some of that is surely justified, Tuberville was part of the problem too--he got canned in 2008.  Nevertheless, Borges was the fall guy in '07, and was forced out even before the Tigers' appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

If you've read Parts I & II, you know Borges is a California guy.  So after a year away from the only job Borges had ever had--still living in East Alabama where his wife served as Associate Athletic Director for Marketing and Communications for Auburn--I'm sure he was thrilled to get Hoke's call, even if it was coming from San Diego State.

Interestingly, SDSU had been among the schools that had reported interest in hiring Borges in 2005, after his record-breaking season at Auburn.  I'm not sure Brady had to be very persuasive, but all Hoke had to sell as a Head Coach at that point was an undefeated regular season at Ball State.

On Christmas Eve, 2008, Borges joined Brady Hoke.  They haven't been apart since.

The 2009 season at San Diego State was less than spectacular.  Coming off of a 2-10 performance in 2008, the Aztecs didn't seem to have much talent, and had average attendace of 24,376 in a stadium that holds over 70 thousand.  Not good.

But they did have Ryan Lindley.  In 2008, the freshman had taken the starting job and had a respectable season for the unrespectable Aztecs.  Throwing for 2,663 yards and 16 TDs, it was a decent season and earned him a 117.17 rating.  The running game?  It averaged 3.09 yds/att and accumulated a pathetic 878 yards for the season.  Denard accounts for 878 yards in like six quarters.

2009 wasn't exactly a turnaround.  SDSU doubled their win total, but that got them to just 4-8.  And the offense certainly wasn't humming, averaging just 23.3 pts/gm (#85 nationally).  Here's the final tally:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 328 42% 940 23% 2.87
Pass 448 58% 3163 77% 7.06
Total 776   4103   5.29

The frightfully bad running game from 2008 was even scarier under Borges in 2009, but the passing game did take some big steps.  At 77% of offensive yardage, the '09 Aztec passing attack represents the most yardage-biased phase Borges has ever coached--a full 5% greater than his 2000 UCLA passing offense.  Lindley's rating improved to 123.45 on 3,054 yds, a 54.7% completion rate, 7.0 yds/att, 23 TDs, and 16 INTs.

The running game was atrocious.  Bradnon Sullivan's 558 yards led the team.  He averaged just 3.62 ypc.  Only Borges' 2000 UCLA running offense averaged fewer yds/play.

In 2010, Hoke did what had taken him five seasons at Ball State--he turned SDSU into a winner.  The Aztecs would ring-up a 9-4 record that was close to being even better--their four losses were by a combined 15 points.  The offense would put-up 35.0 pts/gm (#19) and never scored fewer than 21 points.  They hung 35 points on #2 TCU in Fort Worth, nearly beating the Horned Frogs, and coming closer than anyone else would during the regular season (Wisconsin came within two points at the Rose Bowl).  Here are the Aztecs numbers from 2010:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 439 51% 2101 35% 4.79
Pass 426 49% 3840 65% 9.01
Total 865   5941   6.87

Was Al Borges dumb in 2009 and smart in 2010?  No.  Al Borges had a better O-Line.  Al Borges also had a freshman named Ronnie Hillman--now a Denver Bronco--who ran for 1,532 yards and averaged 5.85 ypc.  His 262 carries were nearly 200 more than Walter Kazee, the sophomore who was the "other" RB in the offense and had 324 yards on just 67 carries.  Sullivan, a senior and the leading rusher from the previous season, had just 40 carries for 124 yards.  Only Borges' 2005 Auburn rushing attack--the Kenny Irons year, not the Cadillac/Ronnie Brown year--averaged more yards per play on the ground.

But as good as that running game was, the passing game was better.  Lindley pumped out 3,830 yards (#7 in the country) on 421 attempts (9.1 ypa) and threw for 28 TDs and 14 INTs.  To put that in persepective, it would be the best season in Michigan history for a QB by 509 yards and three TDs.  Lindley's rating sky-rocketed to a silly 149.43, good for #21 in the country and ahead of guys like Geno Smith, RGIII, and Matt Barkley (and one spot behind...Denard Robinson).

Which brings us to...

Dave Brandon approves this message

Most of us are familiar with Borges' trials since his arrival in Ann Arbor.  He had never coached a spread offense before, and never had a QB rush for significant chunk of his teams' yards.  Rather than summarizing those seasons, here are the numbers from 2011:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 560 66% 2884 55% 5.15
Pass 284 34% 2377 45% 8.37
Total 844   5261   6.23

As a percentage of plays called, Borges had never run the ball more.  Perhaps even more significantly, the ground game accounted for 55% of the yards gained in 2011--the first time a Borges-led offense had more yards rushing than passing, and 7% more than the 48% from his stinky 2003 offense at Indiana.  It was also his first rushing attack to average over 5 yards per play, and was more than a quarter-of-a-yard better than his previous best.  The flipside is that Denard's passer rating would suffer, falling almost 10 points to 139.73.  We would score 33.3 pts/gm (#26), go 11-2, and win the BCS Sugar Bowl.  Yeah, you know that.  But it's fun to look at.

Of course, 2012 was...not as good.  But it certainly wasn't bad.  At 29.8 pts/gm (#57), the 2012 offense had three parts: 1) Denard 2) Nebraska 3) DG/Denard hybrid.  It makes for a strange statistical study, and I'm not sure how significant it is, but here you go:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 502 61% 2389 48% 4.76
Pass 318 39% 2591 52% 8.15
Total 820   4980   6.07

This is still Borges' third-best ground game (in ypp) and a pretty good passing game (rescued by DG).  Denard's passer rating dropped again, this time to 126.63--his worst since his freshman year.  What may surprise you is that Denard actually ran for more yards in 2012 than he did in 2011.  The unfortunate accompanying truth is that no RB rushed for more than 514 yards (Fitz) or 5 TDs (Fitz again).

Perhaps more useful to examine would be the final five games of 2012:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 184 59% 736 38% 4.00
Pass 128 41% 1219 62% 9.52
Total 312   1955   6.27

I was surprised to see how run-heavy we remained, although, as I noted, this was really still a fusion offense, utilizing spread concepts to continue getting Denard carries.  There is no doubt that the running game suffered without Denard as the QB, just as it is crystal clear that the air attack was far more effective.  Overall, in fact, the offense averaged more yards per play than it did in 2011 and, at 32.8, just 0.5 pts/gm fewer.

So what does all this mean?  That's for you to decide.  But in Episode Part IV - A NEW HOKE, I will put the data together and attempt to find patterns and tendencies while spending some time pointing out some important potential error sources.

Who is Al Borges? (Part IV - A NEW HOKE)

Who is Al Borges? (Part IV - A NEW HOKE)

Submitted by Ron Utah on June 18th, 2013 at 4:53 PM

Yes I used this pic even tho someone might whine about politicz

Part I.  Part II.  Part III.

Al Borges has been a football coach since 1975.  That's 38 years.  He's been an offensive coordinator since 1985.  That's 28 years.  He's been an OC at the D1-A level since 1995.  That's 18 years.  So there is a lot of data.

But before we get to the fun part (the data...yes, I'm a nerd), it's important to look at some of the factors that may have skewed the data.  I freely admit that I have not considered all of the potential bias sources, but here are a few:

Head Coach

Perhaps the most influential factor on an OC's performance is the Head Coach.  Borges has worked for six HC's since coming to D1-A football--three of the them have been winners, and three have been not as good.

Borges' first season as an OC at the D1-A level was at Oregon with Mike Bellotti.  Bellotti is a 63% career winner and an offensively-minded HC.  In fact, he's sort of the godfather of Oregon's rise, and is considered an innovator and a an offensive genius.  Since Bellotti took the helm at Oregon at 1995 (and subsequently Chip Kelly), the Ducks have gone to a bowl game 16 out of 18 years.  They had only been to four bowl games in the previous 31 years.  It's worth noting that the 1995 season was the most pass-heavy (as a % of plays called) in Borges' career.  Bellotti averaged 8.3 wins per season as the Oregon HC, and won 9 games with Al as his OC.  Bellotti averaged 7.2 wins/season over his career.

Bob Toledo has been coaching for a long, long time.  His first college season was at UC Riverside in 1974.  He is an ex-QB and an offensively-minded HC.  He's averaged 5.2 wins/season over his career, and his best two years were at UCLA in 1997 and 1998, when Borges was his OC.  He averaged 7 wins/season at UCLA, and averaged 7 wins/season with Al.  He is now the OC at San Diego State.

This is Tom Holmoe.  You didn't need to know that.

Tom Holmoe played safety at BYU and professionally.  He is a defensively-minded HC and had success as a DB coach at the pro level.  He was not a good coach.  He averaged  2.4 wins/season at Cal (his only college HC job) and won one game with Borges in 2001, his last season.  He has been the Athletic Director at BYU since 2005.

Gerry DiNardo was the last in a string of three losing HC's.  At Vanderbilt, LSU, and Indiana, DiNardo averaged 4.9 wins/season.  In three years at Indiana, he averaged 2.7 wins/season, winning five games in two years with Borges as his OC.

Tommy Tuberville is a bit of an enigma.  He played safety at Southern Arkansas in college and is known to be a very defensively-focused HC.  There have been reports of him fighting with his OC's in the past, and he generally prefers a more conservative offense, as he believes defense wins games.  In 2003, when he was on the hot seat, he fired his OC and hired Al Borges.  In 2007, when Auburn tried to organize a coup (not kidding) to fire Tuberville, he had Borges resign and hired a new OC.  It seems this guy likes to pass the buck.  He has been successful, averaging 7.6 wins/season as a HC, and averaged 8.5 wins/season at Auburn.  With Borges running his offense, he averaged 10.5 wins/season.  They were his best years at Auburn.  FWIW and based on my limited observations, the Auburn faithful still seem to have a lot of love for Borges.

And, of course, there's Brady Hoke (54% career winner as HC).  I'm not going to compare average wins/season here, since Ball State and SDSU don't really compare to Michigan.  But Brady is a defensively-minded HC who appears to give Borges a lot of autonomy--learning about Al's story, I have to wonder if that's one of the big reasons he agreed to coach for Brady, having been burned at Auburn by what appears to have been a meddling HC.

Offensive Line

It's darn near impossible to know how good the O-lines have been that Borges has coached.  There are very few stats for the O-line, and they are hard to find before the last 6 years or so.  What does appear to be clear from Al's record is that his teams with strong O-lines seem to perform well regardless of who is playing QB, RB, WR, or TE.  More sacks have generally corollated with fewer wins.  His two years at Michigan certainly correlate with that, but it's just an observation.

Defense

Defenses can skew stats in all kinds of ways.  A great defense will probably give you more plays as an offense, but will also encourage more conservative play-calling and a run-heavy offense, since less risk is required to win.  Bad defenses can force mistakes and risk-taking by an offense, and would certainly tend to force an OC into a more pass-heavy offense.

Recruiting

It's the HC's job to make sure a team is getting the talent it needs to win.  That said, coordinators and the coaching staff obviously have a responsibility to identify and recruit talent.  Since we really only have recruiting data since 2001, Borges' performance relative to his talent is hard to determine (since the '01 class really didn't start having a significant impact until '04, his first year at Auburn).  The recruiting data has improved exponentially in the last few years, and the first years were not as reliable.

That said, Borges does not appear to be a strong recruiter.  His greatest success at Auburn came with players he inherited, as it did at Oregon, UCLA and SDSU.  Again, it's hard to know who's to blame, but I would be very concerned if Borges was our recruiting coordinator.  His track record doesn't seem to be strong there.

The counterpoint to that argument is his early success at lower levels of football.  At Portland State, his best offensive seasons were his last two, when he was coaching a team composed entirely of "his" players.

The Data

BOOM!  Chart.

  Plays % Yards % Yds YPP
Run 7,801 56% 30,928 40% 3.96
Pass 6,189 44% 47,054 60% 7.6
Total 13,990   77,982   5.57

Al Borges has called almost 14,000 plays at the D1-A level.  His cumulative averages suggest that he very much believes in a balanced offense.  He has averaged 28.0 ppg and 7.3 wins against an average SOS (strength of schedule) of 33.8 (roughly equivalent to the 34th toughest schedule in the country; U-M's 2012 SOS was 33).

If you remove the dismal years at Cal and Indiana, his averages jump to 30.1 ppg and 8.4 wins/season.  That is a lot of success at major programs.  Here is what his play chart looks like without the three years at Cal and Indiana:

  Plays % Yards % Yds YPP
Run 6,437 56% 26,302 40% 4.09
Pass 4,981 44% 39,522 60% 7.93
Total 11,418   65,824   5.76

Interestingly, his play-call bias is identical, and so is his yardage bias.  Relatively, his passing offense is much more efficient than his rushing offense: his 4.09 ypp on the ground would have ranked 78th in the country in 2012*, while his 7.93 ypp in the passing game would have been good for 25th.  The 5.76 ypp total average would have ranked 54th--one slot above the #55 ranking he would earn for ppg.

*Please note that using 2012 as a benchmark is not a valid comparison given how much the game has changed over time, but it does provide a decent benchmark for relative strength 

This data clearly communicates what we already know: Borges uses the run to set-up the pass, and even uses the pass to set-up the pass, calling on the running game and short passing routes to get defenses off balance before throwing deep.  It is a very traditional, pro-style play-call bias and it relies more on execution than scheme to defeat an opponent.

Quarterbacks

This is Devin Gardner.  He is good at football.

Borges has doubled as the QB coach at every stop where he's been OC except for...San Diego State.  So how has Borges done with the QB's he's coached?  Here's a chart:

Player Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A TD Int Rate Pvs yr Delta
Tony Graziani 231 426 54.2 2604 6.1 13 10 110.9   n/a
Cade McNown 176 336 52.4 2424 7.2 12 16 115.2 110.9 4.3
Cade McNown 189 312 60.6 3116 10 24 6 166 115.2 50.8
Cade McNown 188 323 58.2 3130 9.7 23 10 156.9 166 -9.1
Cory Paus 95 197 48.2 1336 6.8 7 9 107.8   n/a
Cory Paus 126 226 55.8 2007 8.9 16 9 145.7 107.8 37.9
Kyle Boller 133 271 49.1 1741 6.4 12 10 110.3 104.5 5.8
Gibran Hamdan 152 293 51.9 2115 7.2 9 14 113.1   n/a
Matt Lovecchio 155 291 53.3 1778 6.1 3 9 101.8   n/a
Jason Campbell 188 270 69.6 2700 10 20 7 172.9 132.6 40.3
Brandon Cox 177 306 57.8 2324 7.6 15 8 132.6   n/a
Brandon Cox 163 271 60.1 2198 8.1 14 9 138.7 132.6 6.1
Brandon Cox 188 316 59.5 2080 6.6 9 13 116 138.7 -22.7
Ryan Lindley 239 437 54.7 3054 7 23 16 123.4 117 6.4
Ryan Lindley 243 421 57.7 3830 9.1 28 14 149.4 123.4 26
Denard Robinson 142 258 55 2173 8.4 20 15 139.7 149.6 -9.9
Denard Robinson 89 167 53.3 1319 7.9 9 9 126.6 139.7 -13.1
Avg. 169.1 301.2 56.0 2349 7.83 15.1 10.8 131.0   10.23

The average rating for his QBs is 131.0.  Take out the Cal/Indiana years and that average jumps to 135.8.  Perhaps more telling, the average change in rating (delta) for a QB from his previous year is 10.2.  That number jumps to 14.6 when you take Denard out of the equation.  To put that in perspective, a 14.6 rating increase would move a QB up about 25 spots on the ranking chart.

Obviously, he's had some rough years.  Aside from Denard, whose rating dropped for two consecutive seasons under Borges, Brandon Cox and Cade McNown each saw their rating drop.  Cox was part of the 2007 Auburn offense that got Borges fired resigned, and McNown saw his rating drop from astronomical to very, very good--good enough to have him finish 3rd in Heisman voting.

Another fun fact: only Jason Campbell's undefeated season at Auburn in 2004 and Cade McNown's junior year at UCLA had higher ratings than DG's five games as a starter in 2012.  Just sayin'.

Rushing and Receiving

Gallon's head appears to be about two feet higher than this poor DB's

In 17 seasons as an OC, Borges has had nine RB's with over 1,000 rushing yards, and four more with over 900.  Ronnie Hillman's 1,532 yard season in 2010 leads the way, as does his 5.8 ypc.  Second place for ypc goes to Fitz Toussaint in 2011 at 5.6.  His teams have been over 1,500 rushing yards 11 times, and over 2,000 yards on six occasions.  It is also interesting to note that some of his best rushers--Hillman, Toussaint, Irons, Foster--had regressive seasons as starting RBs, which suggests that the blocking means as much or more than the running in a Borges offense.

Being a receiver in a Borges offense means learning to share.  No receiver (this term includes all pass-catchers, including backs and TEs) has ever caught 70 passes in Borges' offense, and there have been only 5 seasons with 60-plus catches (all WRs).  Two of those came in 2010, when Vincent Brown and Demarco Sampson caught 69 and 67 balls, respectively, at SDSU.

But a lack of catches does NOT equal a lack of yards.  Borges has coached six receivers to 1,000-plus yards, and 26 to 500-plus yards.  This means a high yds/rec, which correlates with the "big play" goal of his passing game.  Borges has coached 15 players (with at least 20 catches) that have averaged over 17 yards/rec.  Gallon averaged 16.9 last year.

So...Who is Al Borges?

Al Borges has had some amazing success and some pretty terrible failures as an OC.  While his play-call bias has varied from year-to-year, it does seem clear he strives for balance while attempting to use the best weapons at his disposal.  Here is an interesting chart:

Since a higher SOS means an easier schedule, this chart should show a steady incline in wins and ppg.  But Borges has had nine wins or more in 9 of his 17 seasons as an OC, and five of those years had a SOS ranked 33 or tougher, and three of those seasons had a top-15 SOS.  He has had success against top competition, and he has failed against lousy competition.  His performance seems to depend much more heavily on the talent and execution of his team than that of his opponent.

In the five seasons Borges posted double-digit wins, his teams averaged at least 4.0 ypp on the ground and 7.99 ypp through the air.  The key actually seems to be more based on the passing game, which averaged 9.2 ypp in those five years.  Again, this suggests that Borges' success is largely dependent upon his team to create big plays through air that have been set-up by the running and short passing games.

What all this means is that I would expect our 2013 offense to be around a 55/45 run/pass mix, with about 60% of the yards coming through the air.  Based on his history of using freshman RBs and even if Fitz is healthy, I would expect Green to have a prominent role in the offense (100+ carries), primarily on first and second down.  This makes it less likely that we'll have a 1,000 yard rusher.

Gallon should have a good year with big plays, but I doubt he'll maintain the torrid pace he was on at the end of last year.  60 catches and 1,000 yards (16.7 ypr) seems to fit Borges' patterns.  It is also likely that a second pass-catcher--probably Amara Darboh--will have at least 30 catches, and Funchess could have similar numbers.  For all of the talk of backfield passing in the West Coast Offense, only five primary backs have had over 20 catches for Borges, and only two of those had more than 22.

As for DG, I would anticipate that he is an improved QB, even if the rating doesn't show it.  He was in rarified air last year 161.66, but I do believe a rating of 150-plus (top 25 in the country) is probable.  Borges has only had four seasons of QB ratings above 149, and those seasons averaged 10.5 wins.

Success is likely to depend on a strong O-line and successful downfield passing.  The running game needs to be reliable, but not spectacular.  Stronger success corollaries seem to be completion percentage, yards per attempt, and the TD/INT ratio.

Epilogue

I have tried to keep my bias out of this diary as much as possible.  FWIW, my opinion is that Borges is a very capable, if not spectacular, OC.  His success seems much more dependent on his team than his opposition, which bodes well for the future given our successful recruiting as of late.  I believe his weaknesses include recruiting, spread concepts (duh), and imaginative running plays.  I believe his strengths include play action passes, fundamental attacking concepts (how to identify and exploit a defense's weaknesses), and the downfield passing game.  This research has given me neither comfort nor concern about our upcoming season.  I still believe the O-line play will be the key to our offense's success, as I believe DG will be an effective QB if given time and Borges has run the ball effectively with decent blocking, regardless of who is in his backfield.

In the future, I would expect our first-year starting QBs to struggle, and our success to pattern the effectiveness of our O-line.  RBs and WRs will rarely have spectacular years under Borges, but the overall offense should be strong and diverse.

Who is Al Borges? (Part II - THE MISTAKE)

Who is Al Borges? (Part II - THE MISTAKE)

Submitted by Ron Utah on June 16th, 2013 at 9:38 AM

[Ed-S: This series has now reached the Bump Stage. Part I is here.]

"I have never considered leaving Oregon a mistake," [Borges] says. "I consider going to Cal a mistake."

That is a quote from a November 2004 Seattle Times article about former Bellotti assistants. The article is largely about Borges, and is a pretty good read.

Al Borges left UCLA for a $50,000 raise, a two-year contract, and the opportunity to be the OC for the first D1-A program that gave him a shot as an assistant (1982 season).  Born in Salinas, CA, Cal is pretty close to home for Al and must have had a special place in his heart.  That special place led him down a deep, dark tunnel.

Whatever his reasons, Borges headed back to Cal...but it didn't last long.  Tom Holmoe had been the HC at Cal since 1997.  He had been a pro football player, and had coached under Bill Walsh and George Seifert, winning a superbowl as the DB coach for the 49ers in 1994.  In 1996, he became the DC for Cal under HC Steve Mariucci.  Quite a coaching tree, that.

When Mariucci left for the 49ers in 1997, Holmoe got the HC job.  It appeared to be a perfect match.  But the Bears were bad news, and went 3-8, 5-6, 4-7*, and 3-8 the next four years, and won a total of nine Pac-10 games during that span.  And oh, the asterisk.  It turns out that in 1999 a teacher retroactively added football players to a class to keep them eligible, and the athletic department knew it.  Cal forfeited all four of their wins from the '99 season, got hit with five years probation, and lost nine scholarships over four years.

This was the mess Borges walked into.  This is where you have to wonder if $50,000 is enough.

The schedule was brutal--ranked 4th in SOS--and the team was bad.  Holmoe, a defensive coach, allowed a brutal 39.2 pts/gm (6th worst) and resigned after eight games--all losses.  The offense wasn't much better under Borges:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 387 47% 1345 35% 3.48
Pass 434 53% 2514 65% 5.79
Total 821   3859   4.70

Those numbers equated to 18.3 pts/gm (#90 nationally) and exactly one win in eleven attempts.  It is notable that the QB that season was third-year starter Kyle Boller, who posted a 110.3 rating and a 49.1% completion rate.  Tedford would turn Boller into a winner in 2002, but Borges was fired with the rest of the Cal staff.

Jobless, Borges was also obviously desperate, since he accepted an offer from Gerry DiNardo to be Indiana's OC in 2002.  Bellotti interviewed Borges for the Oregon OC job, but Borges took the offer from DiNardo, and left the west coast for the first time in his D1-A coaching career.

This is a long way from UCLA

After a stint at Vanderbilt, Gerry Dinardo turned around LSU.  Before DiNardo's hire in 1995, the Tigers had suffered six straight losing seasons and had not been ranked in the AP Poll since 1989.  DiNardo had immediate success, going to a bowl game in his first season where he beat  Michigan State--coached by Nick Saban.  '96 was even better--LSU finished the season ranked #12--and 1997 was magical, beating #1 Florida and thumping Notre Dame (after losing to them during the season) in the Independence Bowl.  But then he sucked ('98-99), and Saban took over.  We know how that ended.

After a year in the XFL as the HC of the Birmingham Thunderbolts, DiNardo took the HC job at Indiana in 2002, and he snapped-up Al Borges.  DiNardo was an offensive-minded coach, having been a QB, and an OC at Colorado (including when they won the National Championship in 1990).  He had been in college football coaching since 1975 when he got his start at the University of Maine.  But, Indiana.

The Hoosiers were bad, and Borges could do nothing about it.  In his first season as OC under DiNardo, Borges led the offense to 21.5 pts/gm (95th nationally) despite a pretty easy schedule (#52 SOS).  Here's the breakdown:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 427 49% 1413 32% 3.31
Pass 446 51% 3020 68% 6.77
Total 873   4433   5.08

Actually, one could make a good argument that Indiana's passing offense was better than it should have been.  The O-line was bad, and QB Gibran Hamdan--who had the unenviable task of replacing Antwaan Randle-El--spent a good chunk of the season on the turf.  Despite that, the Hoosiers managed over 3,000 passing yards and had two WRs with over 50 catches.  Courtney Roby had 59 recs and 1039 yards.

2003 brought in a new QB.  Matt LoVecchio had transferred from Notre Dame, and had to sit out in 2002.  As it turns out, there's a reason he left ND: he wasn't very good (he had actually transferred after a disastrous performance against Oregon State in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl).  LoVecchio threw 3 TDs and 9 INTs.  No, I did not get that backwards.  The Hoosiers would sink to 14.8 pts/gm and manage only two wins.  Here is the evidence, and it is damning:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 550 63% 1868 48% 3.40
Pass 328 37% 1998 52% 6.09
Total 878   3866   4.40

I'll go into more statistical analysis in Part III, but this was Borges' most run-heavy offense to date both in terms of percentage of plays and percetage of yards.  I guess that's what you do when your QB throws more INTs than TDs by a 3:1 ratio.  Courtney Roby's amazing-ness wasn't even enough to get the passing offense going, and he did not have a single TD catch (there were only four by anyone).  BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the starting RB, but split carries with two other guys, all of whom averaged over 4 yards/carry.  DiNardo would last one more season at Indiana.  Borges wouldn't stick around for it.

Tuberville, I'm going to mind-trick you into hiring me from Indiana

How that performance gets you a job at Auburn, I'm really not sure.  But that's what happened.  In 2004, Tommy Tuberville had to replace Hugh Nall.  After nearly being replaeced by Bobby Petrino in a secret coup (no joke, this is the SEC, after all), Tuberville had to make some changes, and Borges won the job.  Auburn was coming off a disappointing 8-5 season, and Tuberville was definitely in a win-or-go-home situation.

Well, 2004 was a magical season for the Tigers.  Scoring 32.1 pts/gm (#18 nationally, #1 SEC) in the SEC is a good accomplishment.  Coaching a QB to a 172.9 rating the year after he posted a 132.6?  WOW.  Jason Campbell was a talented player, and Borges seemed to get the best out of him.  Averaging an absurd 10.0 yds/att with a 69.6% completion rate and 20/7 TD/INT, Jason Campbell earned himself a first-round trip to the NFL.  Numbers:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 541 64% 2435 44% 4.50
Pass 306 36% 3086 56% 10.08
Total 847   5521   6.52

The Tigers went undefeated and beat VaTech in the Sugar Bowl, but that wasn't the National Championship game.  Unbeatens USC and Oklahoma played a boring game in which the Trojans dimantled the Sooners, and Auburn fans will forever bitch (I don't blame them).

Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown split carries and produced a combined 2,078 yards on the ground, and also pulled-in 55 catches for another 465 yards through the air.  The leading WR--Courtney Taylor--had just 43 catches for 737 yards.  It was Borges' most run-heavy offense (beating his 2003 total) by percetage of plays (not yards) and with good reason: he had two of the best RBs in the game.

The famed "Gulf Coast Offense" had the country buzzing about Borges, and his name was being thrown around for head coaching positions, including at San Diege State.  Yes, 2004 truly was a magical season for Auburn and Al.  The magic would never be repeated.

The 2005 Tigers had lost their QB and two starting RBs.  Their 2002 recruiting class had been strong (one 5* and nine 4*), but their fortune had been steadily declining since then, and the '04 class brought just four 4* players and 15 players with 2* or less.  There was still talent at Auburn, but Tuberville wasn't recruiting as well, and the talent was trending downward.

Starting QB Brandon Cox was a four-star recruit and had some skills.  Kenny Irons had transferred from South Carolina after growing frustrated with his role in Lou Holtz's offense, taking his four-star talent to Auburn.  Five-star Ben Obomanu was in his senior season.  And, while the offense took a step back, it wasn't bad at all--32.2 pts/gm actually bested the previous season's average (though the rank dropped to #30, still #1 SEC) and the Tigers went 9-3, with a shocking opening season loss to Georgia Tech, a 3-point squeaker to LSU, and a tough loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.  Here are the numbers:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 478 59% 2338 47% 4.89
Pass 338 41% 2589 53% 7.66
Total 816   4927   6.04

This was an extremely successful running game.  In fact, it was a half-yard better per carry than the 2004 version, and Kenny Irons did most of the work, racking-up 1,293 yards and 13 TDs on 256 carries.  Brandon Cox finished with a 132.6 rating, and no receiver had more than 33 catches or 494 yards.  This was a good, balanced offense, but it didn't have Campbell, Williams, and Brown.  It was, for the second consecutive year, the #1 scoring offense in the SEC.  And for his good work without the departed stars, Borges was named the Rivals 2005 OC of the Year.

For whatever reason, things started to head south in 2006.  Certainly, recruiting was part of the problem, as Auburn's 2004 class was pretty thin (but the 2006 class would be very, very good).  Also, the strength of schedule jumped to #22 from #55.  There is no doubt that the O-line play suffered, but that alone doesn't explain a drop to 24.8 pts/gm (#56) when you are returning your starting QB and RB.  Here are the numbers:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 467 62% 1936 46% 4.15
Pass 281 38% 2245 54% 7.99
Total 748   4181   5.59

Brandon Cox did see his rating rise a bit to 138.7, and passing game improved in yards/att.  But the running game was not as strong, and three RBs got at least 50 carries, including freshman Ben Tate.  Courtney Taylor reprised his role as leading receiver with 54 catches for 704 yards and 2 TDs.

2007 would be Al's last at Auburn.  His fall from grace would include bad QB play (Cox's rating dropped to 116.0, mostly due to a 9/13 TD/INT).  With Kenny Irons gone to the NFL, Ben Tate took over as the lead RB.  Courtney Taylor had also been drafted.  The schedule got even tougher, moving up to #13.  It's worth noting that SOS probably underrates SEC teams, since they beat each other up so badly.  That said, a loss to USF in week two followed by a stunner against unranked Mississippi State were unforgiveable, even though the Tigers upset #4 Florida and beat hated rival Alabama.  Borges would resign before the Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory over Clemson.

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 537 60% 2055 47% 3.83
Pass 356 40% 2317 53% 6.51
Total 893   4372   4.90

The problem for Borges wasn't just the drop in efficiency--the offense scored 24.2 pts/gm (#85)--but also the great defense.  Auburn allowed just 16.9 pts/gm, good for #6 in the country, and their defense kept them in every game save a 25 point loss to Georgia.  The offense had almost 900 plays and sputtered along at just 4.90 yds/play.  That is not good. The ground game had four rushers with over 200 yards, but limped along in yards/carry.  Rodgeriqus Smith led the receivers with 52 catches for 705 yards and 5 TDs, but there was no Robin to his Batman.

In short: Borges probably deserved to be fired.  He wouldn't be hired again until a guy named Brady Hoke called from San Diego State.

Who is Al Borges? (Part I)

Who is Al Borges? (Part I)

Submitted by Ron Utah on June 13th, 2013 at 3:10 PM

In the recent B1G interview, Al Borges sounded a lot like a man who had just been freed from prison.  That prison, of course, was coaching one of the most dynamic players in Michigan history and NCAA's all-time leading rusher at QB.

What's clear from the interview is that Al is giddier than Heiko watching a bubble screen at the thought of running "his" offense with predominantly "his" players.  But, what the hell does that mean?  In Part I (of three), I'll give Al's background and coaching career through his time at UCLA.  Like most of my diaries, it's long, but if you want to know Al's football past, it's thorough.

So, let's go back, waaaaaaay, back...

Al Borges started coaching football at Salinas High School in 1975.  He was 19-years-old.  He didn't get his bachelor's degree in physical education until 1981.  This is a guy who has always been a football coach, and always wanted to be a football coach.

After six years working as a HS assistant, Al moved into the college ranks as an assitant at Cal, but only spent one season there--probably unpaid.  His first big break (if you call it that) came at Diablo Valley College, a two-year community college in California's Bay Area.

FYI: This is not the Big House

After spending two years as the Tight ends/receivers coach (1983-84), Al got his first job as OC.  Obviously, Diablo Valley College--which seemed destined to have a cool mascot like the "Blood Devils" or something, but ended-up with the "Vikings" and a green/white (gross) color scheme--didn't pay well, since Al worked part-time as a defensive assistant for the USFL's Oakland Invaders.  The USFL, if you're wondering WTF that stands for, was the United States Football League--a pro football league that played in the spring and early summer, because in the '80's we didn't have message boards to keep us busy in the off-season.

In any event, in 1985, Al Borges was the OC for the Diablo Valley College Vikings, and he must have been pretty good at it, since Portland State hired him to do the same job in 1986.  Maybe he felt comfortable with the mascot--the Portland State Vikings.

Portland State is a Division II school that was wildly successful, in a Buffalo Bills kind of way, during Borges' time there.  While Al and HC Pokey Allen (no, I did not make-up that name) were building the program in 1986, the Vikings went 6-5 and scored 288 pts (26.2/gm).  In '87 and '88, Borges and Allen led one of the most successful teams in DII history, putting up 406 and 474 pts (29.0 and 31.6/gm) and reaching the DII Finals both years, only to lose.  As good as those teams were, Borges' last two offenses would best them--scoring 471 and 502 pts in '91 and '92 to average 33.6 and 38.6 pts/gm in his final two seasons with Portland State.  Sadlly, both seasons ended in semi-final losses in the DII playoffs.  Pokey's work was good enough to get him inducted into the Oregon Sports HOF.  Which is pretty good, I guess.

Al then followed Pokey to Boise State, where the move to Division I-AA took its toll.  Their first season they were 3-8 and managed to score only 210 pts.  By year two their system was humming again, and they went 13-2 and scored 433 pts (28.9/gm) on their way to the I-AA Finals...which they lost.

Tired of second place trophies and ready for D1-A football, Al took an offer to become Oregon's OC in 1995.  Al had big shoes to fill--he was taking over for Mike Bellotti (who had been promoted to HC).  The Ducks would go 9-3 in Bellotti's first year as HC, and scored 326 pts (27.2/gm, #39 nationally) on their way to #18 ranking by AP.  And here's where we get our first statistics:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 350 42% 1225 29% 3.50
Pass 483 58% 3026 71% 6.27
Total 833   4251   5.10

Under Bellotti, Borges was decidedly pass-heavy.  And it's not like their passing game was that great.  Tony Graziani was in his first year as a starter, and posted an underwhelming 110.95 rating with 13 TDs and 10 INTs.  He averaged only 6.1 yds/att.  The ground game was even worse, averaging a paltry 3.5 yds/carry, with the leading rusher (Ricky Whittle) getting most of the work and finishing the season with 1021 yards.

But Borges must have done something right, because he was offered the OC job at UCLA, which, at the time, was kind of a big deal.  And there was obviously no bad blood between Borges and Bellotti, since Bellotti would later try to bring Borges back as OC (Borges had alread accepted the Indiana [wtf?!] job).

At UCLA, Borges earned his reputation as a QB guru and pretty-darn-good OC.  Working under HC Bob Toledo (now the OC at SDSU), Borges had another lackluster opening season, going 5-6 (though they did beat USC).  The offense averaged a very respectable 30.0 pts/gm (#30).  Here are the numbers:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 461 56% 1677 40% 3.64
Pass 359 44% 2553 60% 7.11
Total 820   4230   5.16

The starting QB was Cade McNown, and he wasn't very good at it.  McNown finished the season with a 115.24 rating, throwing for 2424 yards, 12 TDs, and 16 INTs.  His 52.4% completion rate and 7.2 yds/att weren't so good either.  Primary RB Skip Hicks carried the ball 224 times for 1034 yards--a 4.62 avg--and scored 17 TDs.  

1997 was a different story altogether, and could be labeled as Al's "coming out party."  McNown had been the goat of the '96 team (justifiably so) and no one expected much of him in his third year as a starter (he was bad in '95 too).  Skip Hicks was still the starting RB.  But UCLA would go 10-2, and finish the season as Co-Champs of the Pac-10, beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, and end-up with a #5 ranking in the AP poll.  Again, the numbers:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 497 61% 1986 38% 4.00
Pass 320 39% 3185 62% 9.95
Total 817   5171   6.33

Remember, QB sacks count as rushing yards for some unexplainable reason, so a 4.00 yd/play rushing average is pretty bangin'.  Hicks averaged 5.0 yds/carry on his way to 1282 rushing yards and 22 TDs.  McNown averaged 10.0 yds/att, threw 24 TDs, and only 6 INTs while he racked-up a 166.0 (!) rating.  To put that in perspective, that would have been the fifth highest-rated QB in 2012.

The best part of that '97 team?  39.8 pts/gm (#3) with only two losses: an opening defensive stinker (lost 34-37 to WaSU) followed by a 24-30 stumble against Tennessee, who finished ranked #3 in '97 with a guy named Peyton Manning.  That game--against a very good Tennessee defense--was the lowest output of the season, which included a 66-3 win over Texas in week 3.  Also of note, two WRs--Jim McElroy and Danny Farmer--combined for 88 (47%) of the team's 189 catches and 1,637 yards (51%).  

They managed all of this with the 6th-toughest schedule in the country (SRS).

1998 was a near carbon copy.  Finishing 10-2 and outright champs of the Pac-10, the Bruins' passing game was stellar again in McNown's final season.  While the season did end with a disappointing 31-38 loss to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and a #8 AP ranking, UCLA pumped out 39.7 pts/gm (#5) and had very good numbers:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 447 57% 2038 39% 4.56
Pass 333 43% 3240 61% 9.73
Total 780   5278   6.77

McNown would finish third in Heisman voting, posting another monster season with 3130 passing yards, 23/10 TD/INT, 9.7 yd/att, and a 156.9 rating.  But Borges deviated from his "workhorse back" pattern in a big way: the top three rushers had 635, 503, and 420 yards each.  The top guy--Deshaun Foster--was a freshman who wasn't quite ready for the complexities of the position, but was darn good (5.5 yds/carry).  While Borges prefers a workhorse back, 1998 proved he could adjust for a talented freshman.

In 1998, the Bruins' schedule was rated the 5th-toughest (SRS).

1999 is probably a year Al would like to forget.  Losing McNown and saddled with a terrible O-line, the Bruins could neither run nor pass effectively.  Cory Paus started most of the season at QB, but Drew Bennett and even Ryan McCann stole some reps as none of these dupes could run the offense.  UCLA stumbled to 20.9 pts/gm (#90) and went 4-7.  In this case, the numbers don't lie:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 409 53% 1193 33% 2.92
Pass 366 47% 2406 67% 6.57
Total 775   3599   4.64

Not much to say here, except that everyone sucked.  Deshaun Foster's sophomore season was plagued not only by the aforementioned terrible O-line, but also a sprained ankle and ended with just 375 yards and 3.4 yards/carry.  Paus was awful; his 107.8 rating is one of the worst for a Borges QB.  They were just really, really bad.  The lone bright spot was a freshman WR named Freddie Mitchell, who had 38 catches for 533 yards, but not a single TD.

2000 was a step up, but certainly not a return to glory.  The Bruins would finish 6-6 and lose to B1G nemesis Wisconsin 21-20 in the Sun Bowl.  Paus and McCann once again shared the QB job, and the O-line was still not very good.  UCLA managed 29.4 pts/gm (#40), although their SOS was rated #1.  Again, the numbers tell the story:

  Plays % Yards % of Yds Yds/Play
Run 421 54% 1105 28% 2.62
Pass 363 46% 2904 72% 8.00
Total 784   4009   5.11

An anemic running game--even with Deshaun Foster as the workhorse back--made it tough for the Bruins to have any offensive success.  Foster spent the season running for his life behind another bad O-line, and the QB play was shaky at best (though Paus did finish with a solid 145.7 rating in his second year starting for Al).  Freddie Mitchell caught 68 passes for 1314 yards and 8 TDs, with a 19.3 yds/rec.  He and fellow WR Brian Poli-Dixon caught 114 (58%) of the 198 completions and accounted for 2014 (69%!!!) of the receiving yards.

It was a so-so season at UCLA, and it would be Al's last.

Denard Robinson - On Track to Finish 3rd in All-Time UM Career Passing Yardage?

Denard Robinson - On Track to Finish 3rd in All-Time UM Career Passing Yardage?

Submitted by markusr2007 on January 5th, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Assuming he can stay healthy another season, Denard Robinson appears to be in position to overtake Tom Brady, Jim Harbaugh, Todd Collins and perhaps even Elvis Grbac in all time passing yards at Michigan.

As of the end of the 2011 season, including Sugar Bowl, Denard Robinson is ranked 7th all-time among UM QBs having thrown for a career 4,931 yards, 40 touchdowns and 30 INTs over 38 games played. 

Currently ahead of Denard Robinson:

6th Tom Brady, 5,351 yards, 35 TDs, 19 INTs over 40 games

5th Jim Harbaugh, 5,449 yards, 41 TDs, 22 INTs over 49 games

4th Todd Collins, 5,858 yards, 37 TDs, 20 INTs over 48 games

3rd Elvis Grbac, 6,460 yards, 71 TDs, 31 INTs over 48 games

2nd John Navarre, 9,254 yards, 72 TDs, 31 INTs over 50 games

1st Chad Henne, 9,715 yards, 87 TDs, 37 INTs over 47 games

Robinson should easily surpass the passing records of Brady, Harbaugh and Collins next season.

Robinson needs 1,530 yards to surpass Elvis Grbac. Not impossible, but highly doubtful that Robinson gets 32 TD passes next year to break Grbac's career TD passes.

For the passing records of Navarre and Henne to fall, Michigan will have to wait until the next freshman phenom QB comes to Ann Arbor to start all 4 years.

Another 1,000 yard rushing season for Denard Robinson might place him close to or above TB Tyrone Wheatley (UM's #4 all time leading rusher with 4,179 yards).This along with the passing yardage numbers above...que ridiculo, no?!

 

Learn from yesterday, live for today, Hoke for tomorrow - JNW

Learn from yesterday, live for today, Hoke for tomorrow - JNW

Submitted by Lordfoul on October 9th, 2011 at 11:54 AM

 

 

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” 
Albert Einstein

 

Learn from yesterday...

6-0 starts for Michigan are rare.  

Most of my life (33 years) has been spent rooting for a Michigan team that would win most Saturdays, live in the national rankings, and stub their toe early in the season.  4-0 or better starts have only occurred 11 times in those 33 seasons:

4-0: '78 '96 '09

5-0: '85 '95 '99 '10

6-0: '86 '97 '06 '11

The starts to the  last three seasons have been a stretch that Michigan fans have not witnessed since the dawn of the Carr era.  That exciting time back in the mid-90s culminated in a National Championship with the two seasons before ending in disappointment.  We have had the disappointment x 1,000,000 these past two seasons (but thanks for the excitement RR); perhaps we are on the brink of something special again.

Looking back reveals that the last 4 teams* to start the season undefeated through six games have gone on to have very memorable seasons:

 

'86 - Jimmy Harbaugh guarantees victory over Ohio and delivers as Michigan goes 11-2 losing the Rose Bowl to a tainted ASU team.

'92 - Gary Moeller with a senior Elvis Grbac goes undefeated, winning the Rose Bowl over Washington and finishing 9-0-3 in the days before overtime.

'97 - Michigan goes undefeated  at 12-0 and clinches a NC, winning the Rose Bowl over Washington St and a Heisman for one Charles Woodson.

'06 - Michigan starts out 11-0 leading up to the Game of the Century against #1 Ohio; Bo dies and Michigan ends up 11-2 after a loss to USC in the Rose Bowl.

 

That would be 1 National Championship, 3 B10 Championships, 3 11+ win seasons, and 2 wins in 4 Rose Bowl appearances.  These are good tidings indeed.

*1992 not included in the 4-0 or better teams because of a tie against ND in the season opener.

 

Live for Today…

Halfway through the season, several Michigan players and coaches** should take pride in  accomplishments thus far:

1.      Brady Hoke – My pride in my team and the way it is coached couldn't be higher right now.  Brady Hoke should be the clear front-runner for coach of the year at this point.  He is the glue.

2.     Greg Mattison – The defense continues to improve and despite looking overmatched at times they never quit.  The half time adjustments against JNW were remarkable, forcing 2 turnovers and shutting the Wildcats out for the second half.  If not this season, coming seasons will feature a top-10 ranked defense and a return of Michigan dominance.  Mattison = Gary Moeller++.

3.     Al Borges – Naysayers can go sit in the corner because Mr. Borges is having none of it.  Al Borges is having the time of his life, making use of the treasure trove of speed and talent left to him by Rich Rodriguez.  His understanding of the talent he has, and how to most effectively make use of it, grows with each passing week.  He has this team rolling, and even a 3-turnover 1st half can't derail their confidence.  I can't wait to see what he has in store for little brother.  Al Borges is a Mad Magician.

4.     Junior Hemingway – Senior Junior is what bails out the shortcomings of a Denard-led offense.  His ability to go up and get jump-balls stretched the JNW defense and forced them to give up more space for Denard's feet to do what they do.  We are lucky he stuck around, because without him this team is probably 4-2.

5.    Denard Robinson – Junior Denard overcomes his mistakes.  Credit has to be given for how he shook off that dreadful first half to win the game for Michigan in the second half.  There has never been a player like shoelace, and there will never be one like him again I bet.  His humble attitude, always positive, always smiling... it allows for turnarounds like we saw yesterday.  You just can't keep him down.  He obviously took the coaching-up at half time and came out a different player.  I told my wife before Devin Gardner's TD that Denard was not really injured bad, he just wanted Gardner to get his shot.  Just remarkable.

Also of note:  Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree (nice to see some production), RVB, Kevin Koger, Jordan Kovacs (Probably the only player that could rip off the QB's helmet without drawing a flag), Devin Gardner (clutch TD run), every position coach and basically everyone on the team.  Great job guys.

*Adding coaches in here this week because this team is truly a reflection of their hard work and dedication.

Hope for Tomorrow

 

Of those 4 seasons, the current one reminds me most of 1997 so far.  Much like in 1997, Michigan is coming off of consecutive seasons that started hot only to end in disappointment.  In '97 Michigan started the season ranked fairly low by the standards of the time, and had to win over hearts and minds with each passing week.  There was a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire win over Notre Dame after trailing at half time.  There was a gritty, come from behind win over a B10 opponent (Iowa) for the 6th win that overcame a two-score half time deficit.  That '97 team got better with each week and won through a very tough November schedule that included Top-5 ranked Penn St and Ohio teams.  

I remember that '97 Iowa game well.  That was the game that showed the difference of that team, of that season.  Instead of folding yesterday, Michigan again showed that fight and persevered to stay undefeated.  This team is starting to believe in itself and I am feeling big wins in their future.

I realize that this team is not on the level of the '97 team, but if you squint you can see some similarity.  The '97 team had a dominant defense centered around a Heisman candidate that supported an offense with several nice pieces to it.  This 2011 squad may have the opposite in a sense, though it is far too early to predict this team's ceiling.  The upcoming opponents are perhaps less intimidating than those the '97 team faced down the stretch, so there is reason to hope.  Championships are a distinct possibility; which ones remain to be seen.

 

Go Blue and stay safe.

Minnesota game wrap (with pics!)

Minnesota game wrap (with pics!)

Submitted by SFBayAreaBlue on October 3rd, 2011 at 12:27 PM

Blah, blah, punching bag, blah...

I thought it was going to be easy, I didn't think it was going to be that easy.  And while it might be fun for a little while, by the 2nd half it was kind of embarrassing and pointless; unless you're a second stringer.  We got a glimpse of some of the younger players, so I guess that's good from a program standpoint, if not from a viewer's POV.  

You had me at hello...

Ok, so maybe I hadn't ever heard of you before you got hired, Mr. Borges.  But what you did on Saturday, well, I haven't smiled like that since 1947, and I wasn't even alive in 1947.

You found a way to effectively use two of our best (highest rated) players on the same play.  You sowed confusion and hesitation into opposing players and DC's.  You called a halfback pass that was freaking WIDE OPEN.  

To be true, I was a little worried about some of the playcalling in the first halves of the previous games.  But after demonstrating so much flexibility and creativity in that game, you've won me over.  

My hat is off to you, sir.

It's the simple things ...

At its core, football is really just about blocking and tackling.  Almost anyone can draw up a play (or copy it from someone else). But it really is about how well the players execute that makes the difference between good teams and bad teams.  Of course, it is easier to execute when your guys are bigger, faster, and more talented.  

Denard's first TD was a good playcall, but the blitzing OLB didn't take himself out of the play like he was supposed to.

denardbreaktackle

He almost brings down Denard from behind.

denardbreaktackle2

But I'm really impressed with the increase in Denard's leg strength this year.  He's broken through a lot more arm tackles than last season.   Other than the blitzer, we've got a hat on a hat.  It's up to the QB to make one man miss, and he does, because he's awesome.

denardbreaktackle3

And the highest praise I can give a WR is to note when they sustain blocks downfield.  Here we've got three guys making me think good things about them.

This next play is a type of sprint draw to Shaw

wall

The blocking is setup perfectly by the fake and there's a wall to the outside.

gallonblockshawoops

Unfortunately Shaw misreads this great crackback block by Gallon and dances too much. He loses momentum and gets tackled for a modest gain.  (more on this later)

When your players are too small, or slow, or confused to execute properly, you end up looking like Gophers.  

minnyblocking

The Minny O-line has actually gotten their assignments correct and have a small crease opened up. The pulling linemen has to choose which of the run-blitzers he needs to pick up.

minnyblocking2

He chose ... poorly.  And the rest of our front seven collapse the hole.  

And when you've got guys like Mike Martin and Will Campbell that can just run over people, that's nice.

bwcfree

If you're wondering who was supposed to block BWC, it's that lump of white that RVB is trampling over while he drives his own blocker into the backfield.  

bwcfree2

That looks painful.

So underneath all the fancy chalk talk, it really helps to have guys that can win one on one battles, and go to the correct places. It's all just blocking, tackling, and misdirection. 

Blocking,

vincentchoices

Tackling,

rvbfree

And throwing to guys who are wide open.

dileowideopen

Blocking,

damnref

Tackling,

brinkfumble

And throwing to guys who are wide open.

vincewideopen

Blocking,

shawsweep

Tackling,

countess

And throwing to guys who are wide open.

kogerwideopen

 

The RB Committee. 

At this point in the season, Fitz and Vince have clearly established themselves as options #1 and #2 on the depth chart.  I think Fitz can be that everydown back we need, but we'll have to see how well he holds up against non-laughable bigten defenses.  With his TD trifecta, Vince just proved he's not a runningback.  Vincent Smith is just a football player.  And a damn good one.  

Shaw... step into my office son. As a senior, you should be a team leader.  You have track star speed.  Your ball security has dramatically improved from the RR era.  And we can really tell that you run with great effort and determination.  But dude, STOP DANCING.  You're not a dancer.  

You're wasting all that great speed because during the time that you should be accelerating, you're two footing around in the backfield.  You're not setting up and reading your blockers well enough.  And you're still lacking that certain leg strength to run through arm tackles.  

When someone grabs Denard's jersey, he runs so hard that the jersey rips away.  You looked like someone hooked a towing cable to your bumper.  

You've got a lot of potential.  But just cut down on the moves.  Make one cut and get upfield.  Or better yet, make one cut and race fools to the sideline.  Chris Perry made a career of that.  And learn to fall forward fergodsakes.  Instead of trying to dance around the tackler, deliver a blow and fall forward. If we really are going to play man ball, the difference between a 3.3 ypc average and 4.0 ypc average caused by simply falling forward is going to be a big deal.  

And that goes for all the youngsters too. 

Hopkins looks like he might have a bright future as a B.J. Askew-esque FB.  It's just Minnesota, but he got one of those fabled 'double blocks' that all FB's dream about.  And he seems to catch the ball pretty well.  

And we learned a little bit about Rawls, albeit in garbage time.  Early returns show good balance, decent speed, but not terribly explosive or shifty.  He kinda reminds me of Kevin Grady, but not quite as chiseled.  Let's just say he's got a low aspect ratio for a tailback.  Looks pretty strong around the thighs and midsection.  I'm thinking he could eat himself into a starring FB role in a year or two.  

Etc.

  • If Denard is called "Shoelace", maybe Devin can be called "Shoeless"

shoeless

  • The FG kicking is quietly becoming a non-ulcer-inducing facet of our team. 
  • However, the kickoff coverage still sucks, I'm so glad we got to practice 11 of them this game.
  • I really like it when crowd's continue to sing a song after the band/PA system has to cut off.  But there's a time and place for it.  Livin' on a Prayer should be reserved for something like near the end of a close Redwings game where the line "We're halfway there" makes sense. Leading by 40+ in the third quarter calls for something more like "Sweet Caroline" because "Good time never felt so good." (Even if it is cliche')