Golden Hammer

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

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

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Upchurch

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.

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Michigan punted once Saturday.

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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.]

Photos

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

Orson:

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?

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Upchurch

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.

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.

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:

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This is my ball. Do not take my ball.

Here

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.

WHY DID YOU DO IT RANDOM INTERNET POSTER GUY, WHYYYYYY

Also:

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.

Also:

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Elsewhere

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:

rudy

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:

RT

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.

Comments

robpollard

September 24th, 2012 at 2:01 PM ^

Throwing 24 passes (not incl sacks), when that passer seems to be having a bad day throwing, is not the right mix.  Denard dropped box to throw about 15 times (counting the sacks) in the first half of a close game. That is crazy. 

Denard should run & throw the ball about 15 times a game TOTAl, +/-5, with changes depending upon how things are going (both how he's playing and what the defense is giving).  MSU could not pass against ND, but they certainly ran decently. Why did we think we should throw the ball about 30 times (which was the pace we were on) in a game against a team that we knew could bring a lot of pressure, esp. against our underperforming OL, which Denard has trouble handling?  And why have many of those passes be 10+ yards down the field?

Also, that interception on the Gardner slant was definitely not an "Oh Noes" play. Not a single person thought Denard was running, as he doesn't take a single step (nor even a fake one) toward the line of scrimmage, which is how I understand it being defined. A faked handoff isn't the same thing.

All that said, Denard did not execute on certain plays, particularly the first two INTs and the fumble. Whatever game plan he is given, he needs to do better within its confines.

CompleteLunacy

September 24th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

You're (roughly) advocating anywhere near 15% and 30% passing attempts in a game. We had 38% passing attempts on Saturday. It's not like Borges was even that far off from you're best guesstimate of what we should be doing. Borges deserves some fair criticism, but the way it's being done is way over the top. He adjusted his playcalling in the second half, that gets lost in all of this. And he adjusted when the game was still very much up for grabs. 

The notion that it was as bad as MSU or Iowa last year I just don't get.

snarling wolverine

September 24th, 2012 at 3:27 PM ^

24 passes is not many for a game in which your team is down double-digits for two full quarters.  Everyone - even Brian himself on Friday - thought we needed to air it out to loosen the box.

If we're going to be so one-dimensional that we're only throwing 15 passes a game, we're not going to beat good defensive teams.  We're not that good running the ball.

MosherJordan

September 24th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

The only real criticism of Borges I have is that he didn't bench Denard for at least a series. Not in punishment, but just to calm him down. This loss was mainly on Denard trying to win the game on one play, every time. Even the horrible biased NBC announcers were like, "dude, it's ok to punt the ball sometimes".

Denard shoulders most of the blame for the loss. Defending him by shifting primary blame to Borges is supreme Denard homerism.

MosherJordan

September 24th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

The only real criticism of Borges I have is that he didn't bench Denard for at least a series. Not in punishment, but just to calm him down. This loss was mainly on Denard trying to win the game on one play, every time. Even the horrible biased NBC announcers were like, "dude, it's ok to punt the ball sometimes".

Denard shoulders most of the blame for the loss. Defending him by shifting primary blame to Borges is supreme Denard homerism.

lbpeley

September 24th, 2012 at 1:34 PM ^

UM isn't winning half the games they have the past 3 years without him.

That said, he and he alone is the reason for this loss. His apology is a great indicator that he's very much aware of that fact. Doesnt mean he sucks. Doesn't make him a bad person. Doesn't make his personal story one iota less inpsiring. It just means he played an absolute shitfest of a game against a team that every one of his fans hates more than almost anything on earth.

WolverBean

September 24th, 2012 at 1:39 PM ^

I actually thought the gameplan Al designed was pretty sharp. They came out throwing like crazy at the beginning, including a lot of throws to the outside, to pull the linebackers out so they could set up runs to the middle. Against what they expect to be a very stiff front seven and a weak back four, isn't that exactly how you'd want to start? As it became apparent that throwing = interceptions, they adjusted, and went running-game-heavy, but still mixed up the run calls enough to keep them effective. This makes it look like they should have just Carr'd their way through a power running game from the start, but I'm not convinced it would have been as effective if they'd started the game that way. The passing routes looked cleverly designed: guys were open all night, Robinson just couldn't hit them (or the routes weren't executed well; see Roundtree slowing up and mis-judging that Hail Mary pass or J Robinson rounding off a post route that he needed to charge straight downfield on). Robinson had a terrible night, and I don't think you can say the O coordinator bears majority responsibility for that. The argument here sounds "Robinson makes bad decisions under pressure. Borges is responsible for knowing this. Therefore if Robinson gets pressured and makes a bad decision, it's Borges's fault," like Borges needs to keep Robinson from ever being pressured or it's bad playcalling. Newsflash: almost every quarterback makes bad decisions under pressure. That's why defenses try so hard to pressure them. Asking Borges to keep Robinson from ever feeling pressure seems unrealistic to me. ND has a good defensive front, and their blitzes will get home from time to time, especially when our inexperienced TE's miss their blocks and our RT loses a few one-on-one battles (and even Taylor got straight-up beat one time). Calling the Denard one-man-play-action play one or two more times isn't going to radically change the situation.

 

Our offense gained yards without problem all night. Our running game finally got going. Take out ONE turnover and the game is tied; take out the one that directly set up an ND field goal and we win. Our all-universe QB had his all-time worst game, and the game was still in reach until the end. I'll blame fate, karma, and the bloody-mindedness of the unverse, but I don't blame the OC.

mtxgoblue

September 24th, 2012 at 2:09 PM ^

"The argument here sounds "Robinson makes bad decisions under pressure. Borges is responsible for knowing this. Therefore if Robinson gets pressured and makes a bad decision, it's Borges's fault," like Borges needs to keep Robinson from ever being pressured or it's bad playcalling."

 

This x10000000

TyrannousLex

September 24th, 2012 at 2:47 PM ^

The smart guy with the physical tools is important, but the great QB is the guy with ice in his veins ... because he still makes the right decisions under pressure. He's the one that sees an open receiver and an LB coming to crush him and manages to complete the pass without being distracted by the pain on its way.

 

jamiemac

September 24th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

Used to think Marcus Kinght was the most underrated UM receivier in the last 25 years. Now I am giving Junior Hemingway that title

The whole offense is a bunch of misfit toys. When allowed to play to their strengths, good things happen. When they dont play to their strengths, its a disaster

Denard made mistakes. He's holding himself accountable. But a couple of throws, he's never been able to make, nor will he. The coaches need to spend the next two months letting the offense flow through his strengths and build from there.

It's not just Denard. Seems like all the skill position players are just out of place right now as we remain an incomplete team still in the middle of a transition

As bad as Saturday was, Michigan still almost won. Thats what drives the frustration. After the team's 3rd pick in as many passes, perhaps they should tried embarking on a drive similar to the one that started the second half, instead of calling pass plays their QB has proven unable to execute....but then, thats not Borges style either. Despite the yakity sax to close the second half, Michigan almost won.

A little bit better on some of those plays and they do win. So, Denard, just throw it away and make a beeline towards out of bounds and run. Stop threading a needle you and most other college QBs cant thread

dcmaizeandblue

September 24th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

I still don't really see the point here. There are other receivers on these plays they can't all be impossible throws. It also has something to do with decision making. What quarterback has the throw when a linebacker is 2 feet from your face? You just don't make that throw in the first place.  We saw questionable decisions from Denard when the offense was designed around him, it's just a weakness he has. His strengths FAR outweigh his weaknesses in my opinion, but unfortunately on Saturday every one of those poor decisions was punished. One or two of those are dropped or we recover that fumble and I think we're feeling a lot happier today. 

I just don't know how we can look at something as bizarre as what happened on Saturday and blame it solely on the gameplan. If anything it is shared blame but I still put more on execution. When was the last time any team had six straight drives end in a turnover? 

jamiemac

September 24th, 2012 at 2:09 PM ^

So you dont think the O is a bunch of misfit toys that when asked to play opposite their strengths bad things happen?

Thats interesting......

We seem to have a lot of evidence in good and bad results that proves just that, however

Michigan will be fine over the next two months and in the long run. But the reality is we dont have the personnel to do what Borges wants. And it shows in a lot of games.

Engin77

September 24th, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^

Junior was a master at adjusting to balls thrown behind him, or out-jumping the DB for the ball. In a way, his abilities may have enabled Denard to make it to his senior year with sometimes sophomoric decision making skills.

SirJack II

September 24th, 2012 at 1:44 PM ^

I haven't analyzed the game or anything, but it seemed to me that the offensive playcalling was pretty solid throughout. We moved ball pretty well all game. Even the call to have Smith pass seemed all right. It was just a horrific pass (and I'm assuming they've practised this, so it wasn't the first time Smith had thrown the ball this year).

I don't know what kind of playcalling will stop Denard from making gaudy turnovers.  

Profwoot

September 24th, 2012 at 1:44 PM ^

Folks wanting to cite Denard's stats as evidence that execution was the problem seem to be missing the point. Those stats are what you get when your gamplan sucks.

I'm not just mindlessly defending Denard here; the reason the gamplan sucks is because Borges continues to ask Denard to do things that he isn't capable of. I wish Denard were capable of reading a defense and consistently zipping the ball into tight windows, but he just isn't. With that established, continuing to ask him to read a defense, especially in cases where his back is to the defense as he fakes a handoff that everyone in the stadium knows isn't even in the playbook, and he's asked to roll out and therefore increase the difficulty of getting his feet set before throwing, is just bad coaching.

In an era of play packages and even packaged plays, Borges' scheme doesn't make any sense to me. I was pleased to see him coming out with misdirection early, but he went away from it just as quickly. I agree with Brian that Borges seems stubborn -- unwilling to take free yards when he can, and unwilling to create (or just copy) plays designed to accentuate Denard's positives while hiding his flaws.

Like Brian, I assume that we'll be more pleased with Borges when he gets his preferred recruits in. However, I have bad memories of a head coach who was unable or unwilling to work with the talent he had rather than the talent he was hoping to get later. That didn't go well. Similarly, this doesn't bode well for Borges.

SirJack II

September 24th, 2012 at 1:50 PM ^

I do not think Borges et al. are demanding that Denard zip the football into tight windows. I have to think they're aware of what they're working with. I think Denard just has a problem letting plays die. We're the only team in the country that never ever throws the ball away out of bounds when no one's open and there's nowhere to run. Even when Denard got sacked he spent about 8 seconds during the sack fidgeting with the ball as if he was trying to concoct some magic out of the play.

coastal blue

September 24th, 2012 at 1:46 PM ^

This has been the strangest season I can remember. 

If you look at the OOC games as the Big Ten preseason, I really can't take anything from them. 

Alabama is clearly a step above every other team in the country, including LSU. I don't think anyone will come within 3 touchdowns of them all season. 

Air Force, as has been documented, tears up good teams on the ground constantly. Their performance against us was fairly standard of what they've done in the past against ranked teams.

UMass is the worst FBS team and we did exactly what we were supposed to in beating them 63-13.

Against Notre Dame, we threw five interceptions on five straight pass attempts. I have never seen that. Ever. Even if you think that Denard is the worst quarterback in Michigan history, something like that can only be considered a fluke. But suddenly, our defense looked as legitimate as they did late last season. 

And yet, there isn't a single team in the Big Ten that looks any better than our crazy, hybrid, caught between two minds team. 

Who knows. 

 

UM Indy

September 24th, 2012 at 1:47 PM ^

but expected to see a comment from Brian in this article approximating this: "why does our head coach stand on the sidelines with no headset clapping calmly Tommy Amaker style and leave Borges alone upstairs to his own devices?"

BlueMan80

September 24th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

Denard has stated he wants to play QB in the pros.

Al says he knows how to get QBs ready for the pros.

Al calls plays to help Denard develop/demonstrate his pro-skills.

Instead, Al and Denard should realize that "you are who you are".  Play to your strengths, dance with who brung ya', whatever...  Be true to yourself and use your skills.  I think Mike Vick figured that out eventually after trying to be someone he wasn't.  Then again, he played to his strengths all through college.  It was after that when he went through his identity crisis.

4godkingandwol…

September 24th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

... football is a team sport.  It is won as a team and lost as a team.  Trying to make this a binary -- borges v. Denard  -- debate is so pointlessly internet, that I shake my fist at the internet. 

I will say though,  asking Borges to change the way he thinks is akin to asking Denard to change the way he plays.  It is not an easy thing, and to his credit, he's done a much better job than the previous coaching staff.   

Alas, like with most things, the answers are not so black and white, and to attempt to synthesize them as such is futile.

lexus larry

September 25th, 2012 at 9:51 AM ^

the offense was openly excoriated for exactly this kind of performance under the previous regime.

Why Borges/Hoke et al are now given a free pass from ANY criticism, while withering criticism from the slew of open-minded commenters here on mgo aimed at RR was rampant, is beyond me.

If a commenter didn't like 400 yards of offense and 6 points 3 years ago, and railed against RR ad nauseam, why not today?

BornInAA

September 24th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

In early season games against non-conference you tend to call plays you have been working on to see what the team is capable of when executing against a real opponent.

I expect against the big ten "when it counts" (in Hoke's mind) things will be called more conservatively. Half-back passes by a 5'6" player over 6'+ defenders - I hope that gets put in the "don't try again" file.

Greg McMurtry

September 24th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

That was the slowest run slant I've ever seen and I can't fault Denard for putting that ball where he did.  The ball was where it should be on a route like that--it was just poorly run.  On all the other interceptions I was just in awe at what I was seeing--unexplainable.

swoosh

September 24th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

Out te is 6'7'' and he is not our first option in the redone for a pass? Instead our first option is a 5'9'' to drew pass from our rb standing 5'6'' tall? That was the worst play all I have ever witness. How can anyone defend that call? The lob to a taller WR was our bread and butter last year. Now we don't do it when we should.

Borges take a lesson from Bo, if they cannot stop it, keep running it.

Urban Warfare

September 24th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

As an OSU fan who went throught this same process with Tresselball, let me just say:  It gets better.  Eventually, you will come to love Hokeball.  You will embrace the philosophy that the punt is the most important play in football.  You will learn to appreciate the chess matches that are low-scoring games where each series is simply a way to pin the opponent deeper inside their own red zone, until your defense forces a fumble or interception and the offense cannot help but score .  Most importantly, you will learn the joy that is a new beta-blocker prescription every September.  Someday, you will become so accustomed to Hokeball that you will forget that an offense exists to score, not merely to give the defense short breaks. 

ontarioblue

September 24th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

This loss was 100% on Denard.  Borges calls the play.  It is Denard's job to execute it.  Back to the drawing board.  Tough way to spend your birthday.  Denard is better, and will be better going forward.  Lesson hopefully learned.

MGlobules

September 24th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

(stick a fork in the B1G, etc.) and the way the fair-weather mgobloggers have broken out the fine whine on the guy who just broke Henne's all-time career yards record have made this loss much bigger than it was. Despite a million TOs we outgained them, and our D played great. We were in the game until late in the 4th quarter, and all the ND fans knew it. Lot of people here did not.

Is what it is, and Borges's game plan did not lose the game for us. But I'm disappointed we're not putting Denard in a better position to thrive. Three runs in the first half? Come on.

ND Sux

September 24th, 2012 at 2:11 PM ^

Brian said, ESPECIALLY that drive where Denard fumbled.  I believe if we score there we grab momentum and cruise.  Have yet to see any reason for the fumble...was he even hit? 

Mostly I feel like we outplayed a pretty good team, except the obvious.  We have young guys playing decent, getting valuable experience, and the schedule is more forgivable for awhile.  Defense looked respectable. 

Nebraska is playing well so we have a tough road game there.  I feel all the rest are winnable, and WE WILL beat State.   

Edit: Not suggesting we can't beat Nebraska, I just think it's probably the toughest game left.