Stalled

Submitted by Ace on November 24th, 2012 at 4:14 PM


Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog

21 plays. 60 yards. Zero points.

That was Michigan's second-half offensive output, after Denard Robinson averaged over 20 yards per carry and Devin Gardner a hair under ten yards per pass in the first half. The Wolverine defense held Ohio State to two field goals in that same span despite three drives starting in their own territory, but it was for naught in a 26-21 heartbreaker.

It's too easy to pin a game on a coach, but after this game it's tough to figure out who else is to blame—Al Borges's second-half playcalling is the story today. Michigan's running backs, ineffective the entire year even with a healthy Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, were stymied on three third down attempts in the final 30 minutes. In the end, Vincent Smith mustered just 12 yards on five carries, Thomas Rawls a mere two on his five. That enabled Ohio State to load up against Robinson, still apparently unable to throw the ball, when he entered the game as a quarterback.

There were other problems, of course. Fumbles by Robinson and Gardner prematurely ended drives in the final half; Michigan's last drive finished with a Gardner interception. While the defense put forth a heroic effort late, they were repeatedly burned early by Braxton Miller—who finished with 189 yards on 14-of-18 passing—and had trouble stopping Carlos Hyde (146 yards on 26 carries) up the middle.

This despite prospects looking good early. A 75-yard touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree answered a Hyde score on the opening Buckeye drive. The Wolverines took a 14-10 lead on a goal-line plunge by Gardner. And Michigan's 21-20 halftime edge came courtesy of a spectacular 67-yard scamper by Robinson, who shed simultaneous tackling attempts by Christian Bryant and Travis Howard and broke free from the pack for a vintage Denard touchdown.


Fuller

But the tides turned on Michigan's opening drive of the third quarter, when Brady Hoke took a timeout after initially sending out the punt team following a zero-yard Rawls run on third-and-three. It was Robinson who took the field at quarterback for fourth down; the blocking broke down inside, leaving him no crease to reach the sticks as Ryan Shazier brought him down for a two-yard loss.

From that point forward, turnovers and questionable playcalls doomed the offense. Two Drew Basil field goals represented the entire scoring output of the second half; that was all the Buckeyes needed to secure their sixth straight home victory against Michigan and an undefeated season, one which ended today thanks to a postseason bad.

Michigan will play on, but it won't be in a BCS bowl. The question before this season was whether Al Borges was the right offensive coordinator for Denard Robinson. After this game, the question might expand, to whether or not he's the right offensive coordinator for this program moving forward.

Comments

TIMMMAAY

November 24th, 2012 at 6:47 PM ^

He really doesn't seem to mesh very well with Hoke's style, in my eyes at anyway. He's had his share of incoherent gameplans, but having our best playmaker sit the fourth quarter is indefensible. I don't know what, if anything, will happen after this season. I just hope that Hoke doesn't have that same blind loyalty that doomed Rodriguez.

gforsyth4

November 24th, 2012 at 7:08 PM ^

I agree that the play calling in the second half was stiff and predictable but the fact that he isn't working with his own talent remains. They are recruiting well and are going to have pieces in place for the type of offence they will look to run moving forward. We can't put Borges on the cross for this season. As it has been stated before, last season was a product of huge plays by robinson and hemmingway as well as an overall underdog attitude that had the nation not thinking that Hoke and company could do what they did in the first year with the players they had. 

 

Let's give the staff a break and be thankful for the turn around that was engineered. 

Njia

November 24th, 2012 at 7:16 PM ^

For Al Borges. He had the most electrifying player in college football for two years. DRob's performance against Ohio last year should have told him all he needed to know. Instead, we got pathetic play calling. Obviously, the turnovers aren't his fault, but turning it over on downs absolutely is on him.

So, one more season. He'll have what amounts to his prototypical QB under center, and (hopefully) a bit more oomph from the OL. If he can't get it done next year - B1G Championship Game or bust - time to give him the boot.

MGoRossGrad

November 24th, 2012 at 7:16 PM ^

"...but the fact that he isn't working with his own talent remains....We can't put Borges of the cross for this season."

That is irrelevant.  Borges has these players.  Plainly put, today he did not use this talent effectively.  It was obvious.

The fact that he could not recognize that running up the gut didn't work and Devin/Denard fusion did work is inherently the source of our criticism.  This isn't 20/20 hindsight, Sunday morning quarterback type-deal.  This is a real time analysis that a good majority of us were complaining about in the 3rd and 4th quarter while it was going on.

I don't want to fire Borges.  But how can today's second half be defended?

CompleteLunacy

November 24th, 2012 at 10:07 PM ^

That's an incoherent argument. Talent is irrelevant to an OC's success? He has these players, but the system he runs does not utilize these players to th ebest of his ability...and like RR, he runs what he knows. He tried adapting his offense to use these players the best he could, and did generally a decent job of it...but the fact remains it is not the talent he needs for his system.

And I don't think people are generally "defending" Borges for the 2nd half. More of a defense of "keep calm, everybody." As in no, we should not get rid of Borges now. Especially when he hasn't had a chance to fully install his own system with his own talent.

DelhiGoBlue

November 25th, 2012 at 1:12 PM ^

that Borges will be instilled with other wordly intelligence only when "his" players are in the system?  How will having his players prevent him from playing to its own weakness, OL against the opponents strength, DL?  Will having his own players mean he won't call one play after another, all of which are predictable failures? 

HTF did he manage to torch Iowa without his own players?  Lest you dismiss Iowa as a team with a seive defense, they adequately stymied Nebraska's offense.  Borges will not be granted supernatural powers of intelligence with new players, at best we can hope they'll better cover for his ineptitude.

Justdontchange…

November 24th, 2012 at 7:14 PM ^

I would just like to weigh in.  The players played to the best of their ability.  The job of coaching at game time is to call plays which give them the best chance to win. In coach speak we have heard constantly, "there is no question" that that did not happen. Often times this is not easy to figure out.  Maybe nothing you try works. Or maybe the other team takes that something away. But that did not happen here. The formula to give our team the best chance to win was obvious to all except our coaches. Devin at QB and at the same time, all the time, Robinson on the field in some other position. The coaches involved need to check themselves in the mirror and own up to it. But that won't happen. God forbid they would demonstrate by example something they preach to every player.

snoopblue

November 24th, 2012 at 7:34 PM ^

Hoke will never fire anyone. He's too loyal. So get used to Borges. We had the talent to beat them. Our defense looked awful in the first half, better in the second and to be honest we got also bailed out by ineptitude on Ohio's side in the second. Sure, the turnovers killed us but we had a chance and the coaches blew it. Can a QB get some rhythm at all? And can we get Denard and Devin on the field at once? If this is what we get when Borges has his "creative juices flowing" well than thanks but no thanks I'll stick with tropicana.

In college I will never blame a player, even our players who made the most idiotic personal fouls and block in the back penalties. I didn't see a coach rip into them once they got back on the sideline. Of course, I don't know what happens behind closed doors, but I know they have a camera following the player who committed the penalty walk back to the sideline, and if there is a ribbing involved they will 100% show it. (C'mon it's ESPN) I'm not saying go Brian Kelly on a kid, but let him know that he is letting his team down. It's little things like that frustrate me.

maizenbluenc

November 24th, 2012 at 10:11 PM ^

that was Rodriguez's undoing. I believe in the end Rich was fired because he stayed loyal to his defensive staff.

I'll allow Borges one more year with Devin at QB and Shane at back up. If the big game play calling continues to be head into brick wall with QBs who can play his system, then it is time for Borges and the O-line coach (maybe) to go.

hfhmilkman

November 24th, 2012 at 7:43 PM ^

There has been a lot of comments on the tactical play calls.  What I find just as troubling is the strategy and long term player development.  I believe Borges game planning was described as a "GRAB BAG" by someone.  That is what it feels some times.  Borges seems to just call an electic series of plays with no rhyme or reason.  The other item that disturbs me is the decline of the offense at UCLA and Auburn.  I questioned whether Borges could really connect to skill players and was more of an out of touch X and O schemer.  Borges inherited someone else's skill players to have success and UCLA and Auburn.  However, when those players left they were not replaced.  Now I wonder if the same thing is happening at UM.  Mattison seems to be attracting great defensive players.   We seem to be attracting very good Olinemen.  But other then one QB who probably made up his mind to play for Michigan when he was six years old, were not attracting the great skill players.  It is appearing were going to lose out in the recruiting battles for Treadwell & Green.   My question even if we have a great line the next couple years, who is going to run & catch the ball?  Most of the skill players are projects who may or may not turn out.   I suppose I could live with a dominant defense and a barely adequate offense.  A great defense will keep you in every game.  But you still have to score. 

GoArmy

November 24th, 2012 at 8:36 PM ^

You are describing Tressel-ball.  Disclosure - I am an Ohio State fan.

It can work - your first line is the right question.  What is the strategy?  If you are going to go somewhere between Tressel and Wisconsin - 21 personnel, TE/FB Pro-style, West Coast, then keep doing what you are doing.

It truly hurt and was terrible, just horrible what happened to your RB Fitz Touissant.  Tactically - yeah - lining up and pounding out of the I is my favorite play; however, you didn't have the backs to run that on that D.  PA and a pass would have made sense.  I was pretty surprised that UM tried that several times.

To the bigger question - you need to decide if you are going to play like USC, Stanford, Wisconsin, Alabama - Michigan of the 90's - or if you stop right now and play like A&M, Oklahoma State, OU, Oregon, OSU, Clemson, or even WVU.

I personally love the I based TE/FB run game and even though Ohio state is winning and scoring, I still don't like this Urban Meyer spread offense as much as I liked Tressel-ball.  Maybe it's because I'm old-school or just old.

That said, it does feel like Michigan is still in transition - Dick Rod had some offensive athletes, and staying with some sort of spread/ power run based offense would not be that much of a course correction for UM.

You have a good class and that QB Shane Morris is excellent and can do a lot of things.

Ohio State seemed lost at times offensively - or more accurately - Braxton Miller was still relying on his skills mostly vs. his progressions.  Game really could have gone either way.  OSU choked after a couple of gift turn overs.

I spent a lot of time thinking of how Denard was going to smoke OSU on jailbreak screens, quick trips/ quads screens, then Roundtree on the backside.  Didn't really see any of that and Ohio State was getting smoked by UCF, Purdue, and Cal and those teams are not in the same league as UM.

I do think UM has to seriously consider their offensive strategy going forward.  You are a national program and will recruit nationally.  Coach Hoke has done a good job in Ohio, and Meyer is ticking off a base of Ohio HS coaches by passing on some good Ohio talent.

That said, Michigan has historically done well in TX and there are tons of QB's, RB's receivers, OL types out here.  There are QBs from California out there, as are some great RB's.  Take a national view and - as much as I hate the spread and love the Power Run game, UM probably needs to go that way because this spread game is here to stay.  Either compete and go Big and Play an Alabama/ Stanford style game which UM did in the 90's or go spread and get an OC like Kliff Kingsbury or other proven innovators because Michigan still has a buzz and this was going to be a transition year and you have a good class coming in and Hoke recruits his ass off.

I wish OSU and UM both ran Power I but that is not going to happen until the game cycles back in a decade or more.  Other than Nebraska, OSU and UM are going to lead this conference for quite a while. O'Brien can coach at PSU - look at what they did without 10+ players.  They will be not half bad despite the scholarship reductions.  If UM had a Bill O'Brien type, that would work, too.  Just seems like UM is not yet set on who they want to be offensively.

Hoke can recruit.  He is loyal - I actually like that - got a kick out of him in his short sleeves today.  He's got stones and I called him names last year and I actually like him.  He seems like a great guy and the real deal - BBQ's for the recruits, loves the Michigan tradition and won't ever let the program or the players or his staff down.

There have been two tight games two years in a row.  These two teams will settle in to who they are going to be next year and they will be playing in Indianaoplis both next year.  I just hope they don't ever move The Game from the end of November to October or something idiotic like that just for this stupid conference game which will be boring no matter what is at stake.

This Rutgers, Maryland B1G 14 to 16 bothers me.  I liked the old days, or at least adding Nebraska and PSU whcih are good fits.  Otherwise, I like it that UM and OSU tee it up the last game of the year.  Every year.

Go Blue! Go Bucks!

DonAZ

November 24th, 2012 at 10:06 PM ^

Coming as this does from a self-professed Buckeye fan, I find I don't really have much disagreement with it.

To your point about Michigan deciding what it's going to be ... I'm pretty sure Hoke has Michigan-in-the-90's in mind.  That's when he was here coaching, and it just seems that's the style he holds dear.  That's okay, provided the offense has an OL and a running game, and a QB that makes cheating safeties pay for their cheating ways.

In an ideal world that QB would also have great mobility.  And as for the QB I'd rather they be great passers and good-enough runners, rather than great runners and so-so throwers.

I'm not nearly good enough at X's and O's to know what the future holds in terms of football offense, but my sense is there is a shift away from the pure skitterbug spread and more towards a power game.  How far the shift will go and what shape it'll take I'm not entirely sure.

Bodogblog

November 25th, 2012 at 9:47 AM ^

There's no question where this team is headed offensively: smashmouth West Coast. Featured elite TB, Huge offensive lineman who maul, tall wide receivers who block and go over the top off play action, and multiple TEs who block, motion, and move to the slot. And in a few years with Michigan recruiting it will work gloriously with Borges.

But we don't have that this year. Very frustrating that the coaching staff called plays in the second half as if we did. 180 lb. RB right into the middle, argh. 4th and 3 with no threat of pass, using pitch-action misdirection when our QB famously never, ever pitches. Really terrible, bad enough to make one question whether the coaching staff is more stubborn than practical.

Maize and Blue…

November 24th, 2012 at 7:51 PM ^

     It is also the coaches job to put his players in a position to both succeed on the field, and to win the game. Borges failed on both counts, for his playcalling put his players in situations where they were at a mismatch disadvantage, the o-line could not block the defense, Borges knew this, yet called plays right into the teeth of the defense's strength, and it was these calls that led to the turnovers that doomed the team - run Denard into the teeth of the defense, big hit, fumble - leave your quarterback outnumbered in the backfield due to a blitz, with no safety valve to dump the ball to, big hit, fumble - calling the same route over and over until the defensive back jumps the route, a double move out and up might have gone for a touchdown, but instead, interception. Instead of putting his players into a position to succeed and win the game, Borges set up his team and put it into a position to lose, which they did, and that is the mark of a bad coach who goes from place to place because he cannot hold a job but for friendship.

     There I have vented and am done.

  

Kevin Holtsberry

November 24th, 2012 at 8:51 PM ^

Take away the big Roundtree and Robinson plays and Michigan has like 137 yards in first half.

I think it is a little over-the-top to just blame Borges for loss because of poor play calling in the second half. Yes, I think running up the middle was foolish and I wish there was more creative use of Denard and Devin. But the difference to me was turnovers and Carlos Hyde. Hyde allowed Ohio State to grind out yards. Michigan had no answer.

Michigan had the opportunity to win and didn't make the plays when they needed to. The only difference between this game and Northwestern is a miracle throw.

fergusg

November 24th, 2012 at 9:08 PM ^

Great post. Thanks goes to you, Brian

and Heiko (and whoever else I forgot) for all the work this year. Without you the year would have been ...well you know.

Thanks guys.

newtopos

November 24th, 2012 at 9:12 PM ^

Relying on a couple big plays to keep things close, without the ability to move the ball....  I looked at our first downs per game today, and it's my new favorite statistic to show how much we are regressing under Borges.  (I admit that I have never been a Borges fan; I wish we had brought in someone else to complement the excellent Mattison.) 

2010: 22nd in country

2011: 50th in country

2012: 93rd in country

Being familiar with Borges' long history (we hired Gerry DiNardo's OC -- hooray!), I don't see this ending well.

 

 

 

massblue

November 24th, 2012 at 9:17 PM ^

He called a good game in the first half and his calls in the second half were not great, but given the informatin available at the time, he made the right calls.  On two 3rd down inside runs, the line did a poor job of blocking and the D-line had shifted to cover the edge.  Imagine if Borges had called for the pass and it had fallen incomplete.  People would be up in arms about the conservative play calling.  The difference today was the OSU's running back. That is it.  It is true that Gardner can throw a nice ball, but he is not experienced enough to do it against a tough defense.  I believe, Borges play calling was better than the play calling of OSU's OC.  Let's remember that we a had QB who was playing his 4 game of his career.

UM Indy

November 24th, 2012 at 11:10 PM ^

Brian has said it ALL YEAR, and it's true, the interior O line is weak. We haven't run up the middle successfully all year. What made Al think this was all of a sudden going to happen in key short yardage situations in the most important game of the year in the most hostile environment we play in? Especially after having success in the first half doing exactly the opposite. Don't care how you slice it, it didn't make sense.

Blarvey

November 24th, 2012 at 9:45 PM ^

The running up the middle was stupid, but what bothered me the most was how often we went playaction. OSU in no way respected us running up the middle (nor should they have) so what is the point in wasting the time in the dropback? Why not put him in the gun and let him throw for the the underneath stuff that is wide open? If their DL is the strength of their D, don't give them an extra step by faking a handoff.

chris16w

November 24th, 2012 at 9:51 PM ^

I agree with you at the end there.

For years teams in the NFL like the Steelers and Bronocos have adopted an RB-by-committee approach because as long as you have a stout OL, any competent RB can hit the gaps that are created.

On 2nd and 2 or 3rd and 2, Borges should be able to call a play to put the ball in the arms of the tailback, but the play of the OL took that away.

Same as when we had Jay Hopson coaching LBs - we replaced him and Stevie Brown turned into a good LB. With our current OL coach, the same OL players that were competent last year have regressed week to week.

Seattle Maize

November 24th, 2012 at 9:57 PM ^

Here's the problem with the people on this blog - whenever things don't go michigans way they look for a scapegoat. Did Borges call a too conservative game, yes. Did the offense turn the ball over 4 times, yes. Did Ohio dominate the battle at the LOS in the second half, yes. We simoly need a better offensive line and more talent all over the field. The good thing is that it is coming. It is incredible what this staff has done with a bare cupboard they were left with. Our record doesn't show it but we are better than we were a year ago, and we will be better next year. Hoke and his staff are digging us out of a massive hole and we are well on our way. Back away from the ledge.

MosherJordan

November 24th, 2012 at 11:00 PM ^

Not gonna happen. The board has skipped hyper-speed and gone straight to ludicrous. I expect this from the masses, but it's sort of sad to see Ace give in to it. Thankfully, Dave Brandon doesn't give two shits what people on this board think, and neither does Brady Hoke, and that's what's going to prevent us from turning into ND.

User -not THAT user

November 25th, 2012 at 12:02 AM ^

...by the coaching staff that made the decision to move Devin Gardner to the receiving corps instead of keeping him as the backup QB.  If he had been getting ANY reps throughout the season at his proper position he would have been a suitable option at QB when Denard got hurt against Nebraska and some of the passes he missed on today against Ohio would have been thrown well enough to have kept drives alive.  Figure he'd've also built up or maintained enough of an awareness with his pocket presence so that he's either getting rid of the ball sooner or at least holding onto it when he gets hit so that he isn't turning it over so much.

He showed great progress playing the position as a starter and helping his team get wins against teams with inferior talent, but he was being asked to do too much too soon.  I feel a lot better knowing he will have (hopefully) a full season of bowl preparation and the off-season to prepare for the starting QB job for his senior year, but his coaching staff betrayed him badly this year.  The kid is classy enough not to complain about it, but I'm not.

Ohio's a good team, and so are the Catholic schoolgirls, but Michigan really should have won both of those games.  The offensive gameplanning failed the team both times.

Man, when I saw Denard break that run I just KNEW the Wolves were gonna take this one home.  He deserved so much better a senior year than what he ended up with.  Hopefully he'll be able to give us one last show in a bowl game (probably in Florida against a mid-level SEC team).

User -not THAT user

November 25th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

...they had two years to get used to the idea of Tate being gone. 

Actually, that makes the decision to move Gardner to WR that much more questionable.  How many times did Devin get playing time at quarterback last season when Denard would get dinged up?  They bet the mortgage that Denard would be healthy for the entire season and lost.  It wasn't bad luck that he was hurt deep into B1G conference play this year; it was good luck that a player who takes as much of a beating on game days as Denard has in his four years at Michigan didn't pick up a serious injury until late in his senior season.

Onas

November 24th, 2012 at 10:19 PM ^

Does anyone really think that Hoke is going to fire Borges?

I've had a worry in my mind for some time that maybe Hoke is just a guy who hires folks that he is familiar with like some have accused Carr of doing. It's just been a lucky coincidence that one of his friends is Greg Mattison.

YoOoBoMoLloRoHo

November 24th, 2012 at 11:00 PM ^

So the OSU coordinator had so many more weapons? A 6-7 team that arguably lost 3 of their 4 best players (tatters Herron, Posey and Adams) on offense that installed a whole new offense in the off-season?

Al's had this group for 2 years and we were anemic vs Bama, ND, MSU and Neb. Even worse is the simple fact that players are regressing (Fitz vs last year, Roundtree vs 2 yrs ago, Funchess vs early games).

Our scheme is incoherent, the RBs present 0 threat and the pass game is inconsistent. Lack of talent is an issue, but Al owns the poor execution.

Rufus X

November 24th, 2012 at 11:08 PM ^

...of a inside trap using Vincent Smith, Lewan flat out missed the block of the backside linebacker on the play. It actually would have worked. But not having the greatest offensive player is the winningest program's history sit out the 4th quarter in his last game against the hated rival is, simply, inexcusable.

chitownblue2

November 24th, 2012 at 11:22 PM ^

We got abused in the trenches all day. We had a QB that could physically not throw, without whom we could not run. Our Personnel tipped our play call because of this. Borges had both arms tied behind his back today.

might and main

November 25th, 2012 at 7:44 AM ^

If we're getting abused in the trenches then why in hell would you try to run up the middle? And sorry, but we had a QB who *could* throw but never had the chance to get comfortable because every frickn time he completed a throw he was pulled from the game.

But yeah, our personnel *did* telegraph our play calling because every frickn time Denard went in it was obvious we would run.

We may have gotten out-played, but we definitely got out-coached.