Golden Hammer

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2012 at 12:38 PM

9/22/2012 – Michigan 6, Notre Dame 13 – 2-2



Lloyd Carr coached every game like he had a fantastic running game and great defense. He usually had an okay running game and a good defense, so this caught up to him from time to time. When Jim Tressel arrived and showed the men of manball what manball really was, Michigan's downward spiral began. In time, Tresselball would come to signify the exact same thing Lloydball did except without the oh and we lose the most important game of the year every time.

I grew to hate Lloydball.

The moment I threw in the towel is crystal clear in my memory, and by this point probably many longtime readers: punting from the opponent 34 against Ohio State in 2005. It was fourth and four. The clock read 4:18. Michigan had a two point lead. They'd recently had a nine point lead, but OSU ripped off a five-play touchdown drive in under a minute to change that. Michigan's defense had faced four do-or-die drives* already that year and failed on all of them. Faced with third and eleven, Michigan threw a screen to Antonio Bass for seven yards. They punted out of a field goal formation, which was so obvious to Tressel that they put a guy back there to field it. He would have had a shot at a touchdown if the punt hadn't exited the field at the twelve.

Just minutes before—literally in the same quarter—Lloyd had taken his frenzied quarterback's advice and gone for a QB sneak on fourth and one on his own 40. This caused everyone in the stadium to pick a partner with whom to share an incredulous look. This was not the way things went. The fourth down was successful; one bomb to Manningham later Michigan had staked itself to a two-score lead. That only made the knife cut deeper when in the moment of truth Carr reverted to form.


Michigan punted once Saturday.


I'm not sure if it's football in general that has shifted or if it's just Brady Hoke, but when Michigan had a fourth and two around the same area on Saturday, eyebrows were only slightly cocked when Michigan went for it. While Michigan was down 10-0, this was still the third quarter.

Lloyd wouldn't have even thought about it if his defense had given up 139 yards to that point. But he wouldn't have been down 10-0 in the first place. He would have squinted at his quarterback, wondered where the six-six artillery piece had gotten to, shrugged, and told his offensive coordinator to thud out a ten-point win based on Michigan's superior ground game. Only he would have had that faith, because he always had that faith.

But it was true. Take out a knee and ND averaged 3.2 yards a carry. Take out three sacks and a bad snap for Michigan and they averaged 5.1. That's a cavernous gap, one that a dinosaur coach would have driven through to a boring, field-goal-heavy victory.

Instead, we got several more entries in our database of what happens when Denard Robinson gets unblocked rushers in his face.

Is it good? No. Does it make any sense at all to run play action from under center on passing downs? No. Is it ever going to stop? No.

Well, maybe. Michigan did not throw a pass before third down on their two grinding second-half drives before the hurry-up was called for. Do that for the next eight games and run play action off plays you actually run and then Denard might get back to the things he was doing in an offense that was not trying to jam him into a hole he clearly does not fit. I thought maybe we'd learned that lesson after Iowa, but apparently not.

When stressed, people making decisions find it very hard to move away from habit. Everyone reverts to their comfort zone unless they are making a concerted effort to get away from it. Even then, you fall back into old patterns. Lloyd punted. Rodriguez installed a 3-3-5 defense. Borges starts calling plays from a long-ago offense helmed by a guy who was a better passer than runner. Denard throws the ball somewhere, anywhere.

Over the bye week, Michigan will refocus on what they're good at. This will get them through some games. They'll get comfortable with this, think they can install more stuff, and we'll get another Iowa, one they might pull out since the defense might be good and the Big Ten is definitely bad. And Denard will soldier through it, taking barbs from people who don't realize he could be in his first of two years at Oregon now, doing what he was born to.

He's not. He's doing this. This is "this": Al Borges has been Michigan's offensive coordinator for 17 games now. Five were against non-BCS opponents. A sixth was against Alabama and will be set aside. Of the remaining eleven, five were out-and-out debacles: both Notre Dame games, MSU, Iowa, and the Sugar Bowl. That Junior Hemingway rescued two of those doesn't change the fact that in about half of Michigan's games against real competition, the combination of Borges and Denard can't put up 200 yards until bombed out of the gameplan by events on the field.

You can blame Denard if you want. Sure, that happened in 2010, when Denard was a true sophomore and the second-leading rusher was Vincent Smith. I'm more concerned about the guy who isn't gone after this year, the offensive coordinator who vows to never work with a quarterbacks coach again and can't stand it when anyone dares to scream "RUN THE GODDAMN BALL" at him over and over and over and over and over, except whatever the press conference version of that is. Asking about bubble screens and stuff.

One day Borges will have a shining golden hammer of a quarterback, six-four, carved from marble, jawline for days. This man will coolly survey the field after faking a handoff to a two-hundred-thirty-pound bowling ball with knives sticking out of it. No one will run up in his face, because they are afraid the bowling ball has it. He will throw it to another six-foot-four man, this one long and graceful, built for escaping packs of hunters. This will be a good day. Nails are so dead.

Until then, here's to running, punting, and humility.

[Wisconsin: 52 yard, 11 play, four minute TD drive to win. Minnesota: eight play, 75-yard FG drive to win. Penn State: 13 play, 81-yard drive to wi—OH MY GOD MANNINGHAM. Iowa: 9 play, 74-yard FG drive to tie; Ferentz played for OT once in FG range, because he is Ferentz.]


Eric Upchurch

All the INTs:

Bullets Yes More Bullets In The Head Please

Sanity check. I know I may not be entirely reliable on this matter, but stuff coming through my twitter feed from the folks I respect most as college football observers helped me think this was not just a mania. Smart Football:

Nice call Borges. Denard struggling? Let's run some kind naked waggle pass from under center where we let Denard throw vs unblocked DEnd


An Al Borges cooking show would be great if you like seeing someone throw everything into a blender even if it makes no sense at all.

Blaming it on "execution" is horseshit, plain and simple. When the offensive coordinator flat-out refuses to take free yards on the outside and has not once used the devastating play action on which Denard is moving towards the line scrimmage before throwing, it is on his shoulders for not using the tools he has in the way they are most effective.

A third of the way through the ND game, Michigan had run Robinson three times. Instead Michigan threw the ball all the time against a rampant DL. The first INT was a running back in the redzone. On the second, Michigan rolled the pocket and told a redshirt freshman fullback to block Prince Shembo. On the third an unblocked Te'o roars straight up the pocket.  On the fourth he ran a waggle on second and seven, which got an unblocked Tuitt in Denard's face after having thrown INTs on back to back passes.

This is a consistent theme. They go into games doing something other than making their running QB a runner, and then are surprised when it goes poorly. They have the guy turn his back to the line of scrimmage and are surprised when 1) opposing defenses prioritize getting a guy out on him and 2) he reacts poorly. The exception was last year's OSU game, during which Denard threw all of 17 times.

Robinson failed, sure, but he was put in a position to do so by a guy who puts three tight ends on the field on second and goal from the twelve yard line and fools no one with the subsequent play action. Coaches have to execute too. Borges's gameplan was a disaster, again.

Come on Denard. Let's ask Peyton Manning to be Pat White stuff aside, at some point you've got to just eat the ball, or not throw it at a guy so covered you're trying to throw it through the chest of not one but two opponents. That first Te'o interception was probably the worst throw of Denard's career; if one of the two guys underneath it didn't get it a safety in coverage on the corner had a shot at a PBU.

I bet a dollar that someone else was open on that play.

The fumble was the real killer, though. Michigan has just taken their first drive of the half 71 yards and Denard has just made it first and ten at the ND 11, boom ball out drive over everyone thinks of 2010 when Michigan put up scads of yards and usually had ten points to show for it. Down two scores and suddenly running all the time, Michigan really needed that drive to pay off.

Blame Gardner? Some people on the twitter and then Ace suggested that the slant INT was on Gardner instead of Robinson. I don't think that's the case. It looked to me like he ran a fine route and was open and Robinson just missed.

Gardner does have to catch that bomb on the last drive.

When to go for high risk trick plays. When there is a payoff commensurate with the risk. The Gardner pass is fine. You've got a play that is potentially 70-some yards  if everything goes well. The Smith pass gives you at most ten and is less likely to get a guy wide open just because there's far less space. Last year's Smith TD pass was 30 yards out, which gives the WR room to break past the safeties and the RB room to throw it long. Doing that in a constricted space is asking for it when Manti Te'o is raging his way into a running back's face.

The only time I can recall Michigan running a trick play like that inside the red zone was during the 2007 Illinois game when both teams were actively conspiring to lose. With Henne shuttling in and out of the game and Mallett insane, trying the Arrington end-around pass after a muffed punt was a defensible decision. At the end of an 11-play, 78-yard drive maybe not so much.

What is this huddling business again? There's a case that you shouldn't be doing it at all; not only is huddling a useless anachronism but going away from it locks defensive personnel on the field and gives you easier looks as the opponent struggles to keep up. See Oregon, of course.

But even if you're intent on huddling the time to do so has passed when you're down two scores with 6:46 left. There's something to be said for the idea that an offense should be using tempo as much as possible so that in situations like that they are naturals at it. It's a lot easier to slow down than speed up.

Anyway, I had bad flashbacks to that Iowa game as Michigan took 3:19 and used a timeout on their last drive.

OTOH, didn't mind the end of the first half playcalling since in that situation you're worried about giving ND a possession they can use and you've just thrown interceptions on three straight plays. Why throw a Hail Mary with 16 seconds left, though? And what was Roundtree even doing there?



Defense! Woo defense! Also filed under "if you told me before the game…" with "Michigan would punt once": "Notre Dame would have under 200 yards of offense with three minutes to go." Before Floyd stumbled on that third down bomb to Eifert, Michigan had held two ND QBs to 5.6 YPA and two interceptions, with the only completion over twenty yards another tough fade on the sideline.

From way up in the stands I had a great view of the routes developing and nobody was open basically all day. Combine that with Quinton Washington problems like "is not tackling when he bursts into the backfield on three consecutive plays" and you have a soothing balm to apply as you look forward to the rest of the season. I'm actually eager to get to the UFRing just so I can see how the guys on D did. Live I saw Ryan make plays, Campbell make plays, Washington make plays, and that allowed the linebackers to flow freely, with the 3.1 YPC results mentioned above. Kenny Demens looks a lot better when he's not trying to fight off two different blockers on  the same play.

If Washington can translate those plays against UMass and Mattison hype into an impact day on the interior line against a real opponent, Michigan's biggest question that isn't "how will Denard fail to be Peyton Manning this time" is a lot closer to resolution.

Potential caveat: ND's interior OL may not be very good. They got annihilated by Purdue (Riddick: 53 yards on 15 carries, five sacks on Golson, two by Kawann Short) and ND didn't do much against MSU that wasn't deception (counter draw) or Wood getting cutbacks similar to the one he busted for ND's only big run of the day.

Caveat caveat: "only big run of the day." The shot above is Michigan corralling the play I started calling "That Goddamned Counter Draw" after DeAndra Cobb staked MSU to the lead they'd give up during Braylonfest. I call it TGDCD because Michigan has never stopped the thing (except once, I think). They did it up there.

Speaking of…

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointBrady Hoke Epic Double Point of the Week. I have no idea yet, but it's obviously someone on defense. There is a weird lack of stats for such a dominating performance, with no sacks and just two TFLs, one for Kovacs, another split by Morgan and Washington.

For now, Jake Ryan gets the nod for most impactful-seeming impactfulness, but I reserve the right to switch this to Kovacs or Washington pending review.


2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Jake Ryan(ND)

Freshman linebackers. They're basically co-starters at this point. I'm still nervous about them but if the D continues to perform like that in the Big Ten season, expectations for that crew will be enormous next year with four-ish returning starters, all of whom will still be around in 2014.

Demens did rotate in during the second half. He was in on six tackles, Morgan seven. Ross had one and Bolden did not register. IIRC Demens was the preferred option on passing downs, which makes sense since zone drops are often a struggle with young linebackers.

Norfleet. Please do not jump like that again. The air up there is dangerously low on oxygen and people are trying to kill you. Stay low, where you are under the radar and can execute deep infiltration missions.

ND future. I wouldn't get too worried about a full-on return to glory. If that interior OL is what it seems to be and they're flipping between Rees and Golson against the rest of their schedule, they'll drop some games. They'll still probably get that BCS bid so they can get stomped on by someone a lot better.

Funchess. Didn't really have much impact; I'll pick up the Mandich thing the next time he takes a significant step towards it. Did feature in this picture:


This is my ball. Do not take my ball.


Inside The Boxscore:

In the week preceding this game, some random internet poster guy asked what was the worst performance you’ve seen by a QB. I ran screaming from that post, but couldn’t escape the images of Demetrious Brown throwing seven interceptions – SEVEN INTERCEPTIONS!!! - in a game against MSU many years ago.



When I was 16 and learning how to drive, my Dad, trying his best to impart some constructive criticism without being overly harsh, said, “ST3, your driving lacks a certain smoothness.” I think it’s wonderful how Devin Gardner has moved over to WR to help the team, but at this point in his career, I think his route running lacks a certain smoothness.

Hoke For Tomorrow:

The results of this game and a record of 2-2 are not indicative of the abilities of this team, and it would do every Michigan fan good to forget about what has happened and to concentrate instead on what can be accomplished in the BIG.  I rest easier after seeing the O and D-lines gel and play very well.  Denard will bounce back.

The rest of the BIG continues to look shaky, to say the least, and Michigan should be licking their chops against the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and I dare say Michigan St at this point.  Ohio has obvious problems as well, letting UAB run wild on them. Michigan should have distinct talent advantages against Northwestern and Purdue.




I'll skip all the articles about how Michigan turned the ball over a lot, since I think you probably know. More photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Sad Panda at MVictors. MVictors on the press box atmosphere:

It’s well known that the media is prohibited from cheering in the press box but it’s not just a collection of writers upstairs at Notre Dame.  After Denard connected with Gardner on a third down conversion in the first half some dude belted out, “DAMN IT!”.    When Denard took off on a run later in the game, I heard, “GET ‘EM!”.   And so on.   I’m actually glad this happened because it created some much needed lighter moments on the glass.

Maybe it was the guy in seat 652:


Also, that Webb tweet that looked like it was from my account? Not on purpose:

Speaking of tweets, after another turnover (I think Denard’s fumble?) this came from Sam Webb’s feed.   It was retweeted 28 times instantly:


The beauty – it wasn’t a case of Sam grinding the keyboard in frustration.  It was a legit accident as his phone went sideways and spit out Matrix code.  Love it.

…unless the phone is also a Michigan fan.

The Daily has a great article about Denard's family in the stands:

The group sat in the family and friends section of Notre Dame Stadium. Steve wore his best friend’s varsity jacket. The two girls wore “Shoelace” and another Robinson-themed shirt.

This section is different. Here, the hits sound louder. The mistakes sting more.

From here, you can reach out and touch the bass drums in the Michigan band. When a Notre Dame wide receiver was open on the goal line, the parents shouted and pointed, so Thomas Gordon bumped over and covered.

Robinson’s supporters sat in the fifth row, tucked in between friends and family of freshman linebacker James Ross III and the family of fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd.

Robinson’s parents come to games “very rarely, very rarely,” J.T.’s father, James, said. Normally the Robinson clan gathers in Robinson’s grandmother’s house in Deerfield Beach, Fla. around a television.

“Every Saturday,” Durrel said. “Everybody (goes). I can’t even tell you who don’t go.”

Daily's Luke Pasch on the thing. Both the HSR and Maize and Brew Nation are on the "oh, God, Denard had to apologize to everyone" angle. TWIS preview.

Would you like frustrating losses scored? Of course you would.



September 24th, 2012 at 1:51 PM ^

And, we have heard all the talk about how Denard has improved as a passer and how he was going to cut down on his interceptions.

There was a picture in today's paper showing 3 muslims hurling objects during a protest in Greece.  All three were displaying better mechanics than Denard. 


September 24th, 2012 at 4:44 PM ^

1.  We threw the ball much less often in 2011 than we did in '10, in large part because we weren't constantly playing from behind.

2.  After week 5 in 2010, Denard's stats for the rest of that season were pretty much the same, on a per-game basis, as he's recorded under Borges.  He had an exceptionally strong start and it inflated his season numbers, but his production declined sharply as the year went on.  



September 24th, 2012 at 1:13 PM ^

What happened Saturday isn't surprising or all that heartbreaking.  Michigan was playing at night at ND as something like a four point underdog, and they lost by seven (Gibbons' missed FG would have made it four).  I wish that wasn't the way things went, but this was not a paradigm-shifting outcome...I think the biggest things we learned from the specifics of the game were that the OL and DL can be okay.  I'm more confident in Michigan's ability to win the (bad) Big Ten this year than I was before the game. 


September 24th, 2012 at 2:32 PM ^ wathced other B1G games earlier in the day. I mean, MSU could not have looked much worse , OSU wasn't much better, and Iowa is in a downward spiral. I didn't see the Illinois game, but that had to be ugly, losing to LA Tech by 4 TDs.

Michigan needs to be able to go at least 6-2 against this motley collection, whatever the problems the team currently has. It's as low as I've seen the Big 10 in decades.


September 24th, 2012 at 2:45 PM ^

the schedule is tough, with games at Purdue, Nebraska and Ohio. Team 133 needs to develop an attitude, as they started to in the 2nd half Saturday. If there's a silver lining to a one-score loss littered with red zone miscues, it's that everyone's got a lot of work to do in the next two weeks of practice and the conference games to follow.


September 24th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

6 possessions in a row end in a turnover and you don't want to blame it on execution at all? Denard was making great throws at the start of the game and we were doing what we should, punish the ridiculously depleted secondary. Unfotunately every questionable throw had the worst result possible, but the bad decisions to throw those balls were not the OC's.


September 24th, 2012 at 1:56 PM ^

ND will almost certainly use T'eo to spy Robinson so that they don't give up a ton of easy scramble stuff, which means more man free. Gallon, Gardner, Funchess, and company will have to beat their opponents; Borges will have to exploit the man to man that should be coming, and the line will have to give Michigan time.

Oh, right, and Denard has to keep calm and throw accurately. No big deal.

So when Borges does exactly what needs to be done, but we have a senior QB who still can't plant and throw (or even make smart reads in the option game), it's the OC's fault? What kind of sycophantic world do you live in that you still think Denard is not the problem?


September 24th, 2012 at 2:29 PM ^

Emotional preconceived notions will win out even here, because you can freely contradict your own ideas.  If Saturday's game didn't even move the needle a little (and from tweets to this it hasn't), it's going to be hard to take any of the other analysis serioiusly, other than for entertainment purposes alone.  Because it's become readily apparent Denard could sacrifice a kitten to Satan at the 50 yard line and somehow it'd be Borges fault.


September 24th, 2012 at 3:08 PM ^

That line about "blaming it on execution is horseshit" got a raised eyebrow from me. Sure, maybe the playcalling wasn't great, in fact it was just plain bad at times, most obviously in the 2nd quarter...but six effing turnovers later and execution is NOT part of the problem? Not sure I can agree with that. It wasn't like Borges told Denard to run plays he wasn't used to running in practice, and he certainly didn't tell him to force it into tight coverage. At some point Denard has to elevate himself above his own weaknesses against good do that. Denard did it against Ohio and Nebraska. Denard couldn't do that on Saturday. 

Borges adjusted his playcalling and the offense clicked better in the 2nd half...but Denard was clearly still struggling, especially throwing attempts, despite being significantly reduced. Sometimes your most dynamic player has a bad game. Payton Manning had 3 interceptions in the first quarter a couple of games ago. They're rare, but they happen.

(Sidenote: yes Denard had just 17 passing attempts against Ohio, which was 25% pass, 75% run. He had 25 on Saturday, or 38% pass, 62% run...that's not exactly anywhere near Payton Manning passing attempts numbers either. In fact, Payton with Denver had 52 (!) passing attempts on Sunday, or 29% run and 71% pass. So...yeah. That's hyperbole..) 


September 24th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

My guess is that Denard performs well in practice to the point Borges and Hoke feel confident he will do this in games and when the games start Denard can't reel the adrenaline in and makes some bad decisions.  

The more depressing thought is that Borges is not utilizing his strengths in an attempt to try and wedge him into HIS offense.

The Hail Mary with 16 seeconds was moronic.  We had plenty of time to try and get in FG range.

I'm not sure if Denard would be great at Oregon, but football deserved to have Denard and RR together for 4 years.   I don't care if it was at Michigan or Arizona or Ball St. whatever these 2 were perfect together.   It is true that RR abandoned some of the zone read stuff with Denard that 1st year but he understood Denard and got the most out of him.  Go back and watch the last drive against ND in 2010 and tell me Denard can't pass.   To realize he did that as a Sophmore compared to that mess on Saturday is a just a shame.   Walsh and Montana were the perfect mix.  I think Denard and RR would have been as well.



September 24th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

1) Brian, I think when you do the UFR you might find that Notre Dame ran a stunningly conservative and vanilla offense for most of the game, which may one of the reasons the defense looked so good. Not to say that they didn't play well, but when ND ran the same run play three times in a row in the early fourth quarter it made me go "hrm". You'll probably see major RPS edge from michigan.

2) WRT (1), I think it's funny that you mention lloydball b/c early in the 3rd quarter I started thinking "Brian Kelly is playing Lloydball here," and I suspected he was doing it on both sides of the ball, basically grinding up clock through the defensive sets and what he was doing on offense. I think that his very conservative playcalling reflected this attitude - use up clock, don't cough up the ball, win a close one.


September 24th, 2012 at 3:22 PM ^

and this is what drove me so crazy on Saturday.  The offense ND ran said to me:

1---ND does not trust either of the qbs

2---So ND will run a VERY conservative offense

3---But it does not matter because Michigan will not score enough to catch ND


It reminded me of what Perles did in the M-MSU game where Demetrious Brown threw all the interceptions


September 24th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

it's the easy thing to do since saying anything bad about denard is illegal in these parts. the halfback pass was wide open. smith, also a senior, made a bad decision. the other 3 int's were terrible decisions on denards part. he wasn't pressured much at all on the first int. the throwing lane was wide open and he threw it right at 2 nd players. the gardner slant was a terrible throw. again, not nearly the pressure you describe. te'o is barely near him and coming in low. the throwing lane was wide open. the 3rd int, there was a good amount of pressure. but you know what, don't throw the damn ball. eat it.

in the 3rd quarter, borges went to running all the way down the field. how did that end? denard fumbled. is that borges fault too?

when tate had 5 turnovers against osu in '09, who did you blame? tate. a freshman qb. you didn't blame calvin mcgee. why? you love denard. nothing is ever his fault.



September 24th, 2012 at 4:36 PM ^

tate was considered to be a good passer and decent runner (yay ND game).  so if RR would have called tate to run 25 times only to see him get pounded several times causing 5 fumbles, i think RR and Magee would have been crucified (even sooner then they were).


September 24th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

I'm not sure I understand criticizing Borges for calling plays that Denard and the offense don't run regularly.  Three of his four interceptions were thrown from shotgun, which is where Denard "excels."  His fumble was on an option play, IIRC, or at least a designed QB run.  So 80% of Denard's turnovers were on plays where he should feel comfortable (the other was on an I-formation PA bootleg)...but it's the fault of Al Borges?  And the Gardner slant INT was on the "QB Oh Noes" play that everyone around here always begs for (or at least a variation, since it was zone read action).

Borges did fine.  Denard didn't execute.  Offensive coordinators call plays, and the players have to make them work.  If passes aren't there, then it's up to the quarterback to make the necessary adjustments, find somewhere else to throw the ball, scramble, throw it away, whatever.  Denard didn't do those things, and he ended up 13/24 for 4 interceptions because of it.  The end.


September 24th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

The slant to Gardner was not a "QB Oh Noes play".   Your other points are valid don't try and lump it in.

I think Brian's main point was that over the last 1.5 years Al has come up with gameplans that may be philosophically correct he has failed to understand his personnel.  

Iowa- Their Dline and LB's suck let's run it down their throats.

MSU- They will not let Denard beat them with his legs they will blitz the run to death.

Alabama-Will not let Denard run.  Need to pass deep.

All of these gameplans in a vaccum look good except.

Iowa-We can't power block

MSU- We were in a tornado.

Alabama- They are better.

Oh and 1 more reason those plans were ill conceived.......WE HAVE DENARD!!!!!!!!     Run the BALL with DENARD!!!!!

Magnus you said this.

"Borges did fine. Denard didn't execute. Offensive coordinators call plays, and the players have to make them work". 

True, but OC's should also call plays that put their players in the best position to have success.   I think you can agree PA roll outs do not put Denard in the best position to succeed.   Is Denard to blame for not improving I think so, but at some point you have to swallow your pride or your frustration and just do what is best for the team and not stubbornly call the play because it is open.  I have no problem putting Bellamy in if you want that gameplan, but if you leave Denard in play to his strength.






September 24th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

What is Denard's strength?  Running the ball.  We tried that.  It didn't work so well.

The slant to Gardner was a VARIATION (like I said).  It was a play action fake with Denard and Toussaint as running threats on a zone read-type play.


September 24th, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

Run QB Leads and Powers with Denard with some Toussiant mixed in.   When the Safeties and LB's start cheating you hit them with some wide open quick passes.     Rinse.  Cycle.  Repeat.     Denard can hit open guys with no pressure.   Only way to make that happen is to run Denard a ton to get them to cheat.  

Like I said before if you don't like that gameplan fine  play Gardner or Bellamy.   That gameplan with our current talent will create the most points though.  Run it.

This goes back to the Alabama game.   Maybe they would have shut down Denard.  Probably would have shut down Denard but that's our offense.   You at least have to run it 1st to see how they defend it.



September 24th, 2012 at 4:45 PM ^

why do you conclude that running did not work out so well?  solely on denard's fumble?

take out the sacks and we averaged > 5 yds a pop.  had we run more instead of pass, we likely win.

we all know denard misses reads and throws interceptions, yet we continually put him in positions to do so.

it's like complaining about prince fielder missing a suicide squeeze bunt instead of just asking him to hit the sac fly (even though he probably practices a few bunts every day in BP).


September 24th, 2012 at 1:52 PM ^

On each of the first four interceptions there is an defender in the thrower's face. Three of them are unblocked, the other was a very good pass rusher against redshirt frosh FB Kerridge. That's a failure. The alternatives there are sacks.

Denard screwed up. Borges did too. You don't have a "fine" game by putting Denard in a position no QB excels in over and over. 

The converse of all the people criticizing me for not criticizing Denard enough are the people who think Borges was "fine" in his fifth complete debacle in 11 attempts. But it's all on Denard, okay. Ron Zook had a fine game, you guys. John L is fine, you guys. 


September 24th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

as bad as you make it out to be. the third int i will give you. but you know what, denard should eat it then. take the sack. the other two were terrible throws/decisions.

borges called a beautiful drive until smith threw the first int.and another great drive to start the 2nd half but denard fumbled it away. you are not objective at all when it comes to denard. he stunk on ice saturday. all borges is doing is asking a frigging senior QB to actually make decent decisions in the passing game.



September 24th, 2012 at 4:52 PM ^

i actually like the first drive.  borges mixed it up.  gardner pass/interference.  gallon misdirection.  denard and fitz runs.  we drove to the ND 43 then punted.  i was amped, thinking here we go.  it only stalled when he asked denard to throw out of the pocket.  he was 0-3 on that drive.

i don't think a mis-direction play was run the rest of the game.  adding that gallon or norfleet option makes the D stay home and opens it up for denard and fitz.


September 24th, 2012 at 2:15 PM ^

I understand that you disagree but contually calling ND 2011, with 500+ yards of offense, "a debacle", continually amazes me.

Also, I think we need to remember that Michigan is playing an opponent. Calling normal plays that DENARD does well may not work because there are 11 people trying to stop him from doing it. There isn't a magic offense that works - coaches against us game plan too. Teams don't fail to score against VT because their coaches are idiots, they fail because Bud Foster is a genius, VT grows elite defenders on trees, and they have such an institutionalized defensive scheme that every player and coach knows what they're doing I'm their sleep. Everything I just typed could apply to Norm Parker at Iowa. Narduzzi isn't quite the tenure, but I think these items are largely applicable.

This isn't meant to completely exculpate Borges, but he struggled against VT and MSU because they have good defenses, and good defenses make things harder. Those things include pressuring the QB.


September 24th, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

I mean, off the top of my head, 200+ of those yards were:

a) the pass where Denard was being ankle-tackled, yet still completeing a throw to Hemingway with the kind of "MAKE PLAYS" throw that worked great in 2011 and poorly in 2012 ,

b) the throw to a double-covered Heminway when he just went up & got it (another "MAKE PLAYS" throw) and

c) the bomb to Gallon which was an inexplicable breakdown by ND with less than 30 secs left.

A "debacle" is probably too strong, b/c there were some nice play calls/designs (e.g., the throwback screen to Vincent Smith for the TD), but particularly the 1st half of that game was terrible.

Also, small point, but we had about 450 yards that game, not 500+.


September 24th, 2012 at 3:38 PM ^

This is a very valid point, very valid, and something I was trying to point out earlier in a roundabout way.  I was mentioning the game against Iowa last year and maybe this ND game (?) as two instances of Borges trying to outsmart good DC by doing things that go against his tendencies.  I'm not sure if this is true, but it seems that way.  Thoughts?


September 24th, 2012 at 2:25 PM ^

It's not entirely an offensive coordinator's job to keep rushers from getting to the quarterback.  Sometimes it's the OL coach's; sometimes it's the OL's; sometimes it's the QB's.  If a rusher is in Denard's face, sometimes it's okay to take a sack, scramble, or throw the ball away.  I don't care who your offensive coordinator is - a defensive front with Nix, Te'o, Day, Lewis-Moore, and Tuitt is going to get to the quarterback.

I'm not saying Borges was perfect.  But I'm also not going to blame all of Denard's stupid throws on the offensive coordinator.  I'm sure Borges didn't teach Denard to throw into triple coverage or overthrow everyone on a Hail Mary.


September 24th, 2012 at 5:04 PM ^

i find it hard to believe that denard takes sacks and throws the ball away in practice when pressured but never does it in a game.  if in fact he does all the right things in practice but fails to do so in the game, then it's time the coaches finally realized this and stop putting denard in this position during games.

sure, it's denards fault for missing reads and throwing INTs.  but the coaches keep putting him in positions to do so by having him sit in the pocket and go through progressions.  focus on the run and simplify the passing scheme.  boom.  done.


September 25th, 2012 at 6:25 AM ^

I'm sorry, but if he can't make a "read" that allows him to hit Devin Gardner on a slant, then there's nobody to blame but himself.  There are certain plays you have to be able to make as a quarterback.  If you can't, you should either be benched (which I'm not recommending) or you just have to deal with the mistakes (which is the point we've reached).  Denard throwing interceptions is, unfortunately, a necessary evil....because we don't have a better option.


September 24th, 2012 at 4:24 PM ^

The converse of all the people criticizing me for not criticizing Denard enough are the people who think Borges was "fine" in his fifth complete debacle in 11 attempts.

Didn't he basically give us the game plan you wanted us to run on Friday?  It looks suspiciously like your definition of a "debacle" is any one in which Denard doesn't play well.

I love Denard and all, but maybe we shouldn't assume he's a Heisman-level QB who can only be stopped by his own OC.  His unwillingness to give up on plays and try to force throws where they shouldn't go is the common denominator on most of these interceptions.  Yes, he was pressured, but you don't have to throw the ball at your intended receiver in that case.  Take the sack, try to scramble, throw it away - any of those is a better decision than blindly heaving it into coverage.  A 3-year starter at QB has to be able to understand that.



September 24th, 2012 at 4:34 PM ^

potentially 7 (those 4 plus the 3 others) sacks against an excellent front seven that averaged 2 per game in 2011.  Assuming, as you do, that every one of those sacks is Al's fault, then he called a bad game.  But it only became a debacle when Denard turned those 4 potential sacks into turnovers and tacked on a fumble.    When defenses stop the run against Denard, he is prone to collossal melt-downs.  ND was stopping the run (at least until Nix got hurt) and Denard had a melt-down.  If Hoke had gone Lloyd-ball people would have flipped as ND stacked the box.


September 24th, 2012 at 5:13 PM ^

was ND consistently stopping the run?  we avg > 5 yds per rush (taking out sacks).  we still avg > 4 yds per rush taking out the 30 yd fitz run.  we consistently ran the ball well.  our drives stalled when we passed the ball.

denard was 6-7 on the one first half drive.  7-17 with 4 INT the remainder of the game.  i would rather lose with denard running the ball and making the occasional arm punt than what i saw that night.