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

might and main

November 26th, 2012 at 6:30 AM ^

My biggest problem was that Devin had proven his worth at QB and had our offense pretty well clicking again in the previous games. He was making great decisions with the ball, keeping drives alive with his feet and throwing very well. He can run and throw so just having him in there makes the D have to guess. At the same time we have probably the greatest threat in a runner in the nation with Denard. How in the world don't we exploit both of those? Have Denard in the slot half the game, in the backfield the other half with another back as well. Quick passes, screens, a reverse, the option, quick pitch, just get him the ball in space, instead of running Smith up the middle. Stop the stupid play action that fooled nobody including my dog but made Devin more at risk and backfield blocking more important.

Sure, asking Denard to do something like this wouldn't be easy and wouldn't come naturally. But Al is the genius, and once it was clear how well Devin was playing at QB, I just can't understand how you mess with that success.

burtcomma

November 25th, 2012 at 1:49 AM ^

and get real.  Most intelligent observers had us picked for a 9-3 to 8-4 regular season given away games with Alabama, ND, Nebraska and OSU.  We had at best a mediocre offensive line all year, and we lacked talent, size, and speed at WR.   Lost Countess early, lost Denard late, and Gardner showed you in NW and OSU game why he was not the best QB and why he was moved to WR to start the year when he played decent defenses.  Gardner will be better next year, we likely will have some more targets for him at WR with some size and speed, and we have a lot of talent coming in that will play and provide better depth.  We are at least 1-2 good to great recruiting classes from where we need to be to challenge for the B1G title each year and occassionally challenge for the national championship play-off.  Our defense is still short of playmakers and size and speed, but that is coming too.  How about a tad bit of patience given that we just now graduate a group of guys who had pretty lousy (by Michigan standards for sure) 2009-2010 years where we lost to anyone who had a decent defense as well?  

Blue in Yarmouth

November 25th, 2012 at 8:04 AM ^

are one thing, hind sight is another. if there is a UM fan that can honestly look back on this season and say we shouldn't have been at least 10 and 2 I think their lying to themselves.

The only game we got legitimately out played was Alabama and the Nebraska game after Denard went down. Saying 8 and 4 is ok simply because that was what had been predicted while ignoring what actually happened during the season is a little silly.

Also, if it is fine for people here to back Borges despite the results on the field than you have to accept that others here don't. We disagree, it doesn't mean any of us are stupid. Maybe some are just more tolerant of mediocre results.

I simply can't understand why Borges continued trying to run Rawls and to a lesser extent Smith. Honestly I just think he has not been a great play caller...it's as simple as that.

WolvinOhio

November 25th, 2012 at 8:49 AM ^

Because he didn't have anyone else, and neither of those guys can run over a D lineman - at least I haven't seen it. The O line just didn't open any holes for them on the inside. Whether that was bad coaching or lack of talent, I don't know. I think a little of both. Ohio's O line made their RBs look like stars - they simply ran straight ahead and were untouched until they got to the secondary. When you hear Kovach's name being called time and again for tackling a RB, that's bad.

jmblue

November 25th, 2012 at 11:12 AM ^

 

if there is a UM fan that can honestly look back on this season and say we shouldn't have been at least 10 and 2 I think their lying to themselves.

 

We could have been 10-2 - but it would have taken a lot of good fortune.  Should have been 10-2?  No, that's being a homer.  We lost to teams that went 12-0, 12-0, 11-1 and 10-2.  Why exactly should we have beaten any of these teams, when none of the games were at home?

 

 

Don

November 25th, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

None of our losses were of the last-second variety—Bama was a blowout, Nebraska was out of reach by the middle of the 4th quarter, ND possessed the ball for the last 4 minutes, and OSU had the ball for the final 3+ minutes.

By comparison, our winning FG against MSU came with 9 seconds left, and our game-tying FG in regulation against NW came with 18 seconds left.

In other words, we were closer to 6-6 than we were to 10-2. Thank God for brunettes and Brendan Gibbon's imagination.

Drbogue

November 25th, 2012 at 8:16 AM ^

Disheartening loss. But think of it this way: Michigan losses in 2012 are the following -

Undefeated ND going to National Champhionship

Likely National Champion Alabama

Likely Big Ten Champion Nebraska

12-0 Ohio State, Probational National Champ

 

Gotta say, at least we didn't lose to NW!

Ron Utah

November 25th, 2012 at 10:55 AM ^

It is no secret that the authors of our beloved site long for a high flying, no huddle, spread offense. Long has Borges been the object of criticism on this board and every defeat has been placed at his feet. While there were some questionable play calls in the game and Al certainly bears some responsibility for the loss, to say it is his fault is--at best--shallow and biased.
In my opinion, this type of reporting is representative of a fundamental misunderstanding of team sports, of coaching, and of the character and soul of football. It reeks of the video game age--so many people now believe that simply calling the right plays can win you a football game.
Logic, of course, knocks down this soft argument, but for so many the ease of pinning the game on one coach is both irresistible and ego-satisfying, since the obvious implication is that a fan recognized things that our OC did not, and could have made better calls.
But take a moment and think about what happened in the game, and about the reality of football in general. Borges led the team to 21 first half points. Mattison, whom the writers and lemmings on this board worship, allowed 20 first half points. If the defense had prevented even one TD, we win this game. But ignoring the obvious defensive deficiencies allows a simpler explanation: it's all Al's fault.
While I would never pretend I think Al called a perfect game, his calls worked gloriously in the first half. And instead of examining why they did not work in the second half, people just blame him.
How about some actual analysis? How about some honest review of what happened? I would love to believe a better OC could have won us this game. Then fixing our problem is just getting a new coach (which isn't easy, but that's another post). But there are deeper, more important things going on here and, unfortunately, they are missed because it's easy to blame Al.

Low Key Recidivist

November 25th, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

Nice Drew Sharp impersonation Ace,

Hard to hang this one on Borges.  He didn't cause the fumbles, get Toussaint injured or block up front.  The middle of the line simply wasn't winning the LOS.

If the results are the same next year, we should have this discussion, but not now.

MGoBlue96

November 26th, 2012 at 1:22 AM ^

line was weak (which has been the case all year), Al thought it was good idea to run up the middle on crucial plays in the game anyways? That makes perfect sense. Besides the questionable playcalling, the biggest mistake Al made in the game was not having Devin and Denard in the game at the same time more frequently. By playing them seperately he was tipping UM'S hand as to whether OSU should of been looking for a run and pass. Not hard to play defense when you know what it is coming.

imafreak1

November 25th, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

This is probably a good reason to delay publication for more than an hour after a tough loss.

Venting spleen all over the mgo front page may be an honest 'fans view' but unfortunately this isn't any more insightful than the shit that is spewn all over mgoboard.

imafreak1

November 25th, 2012 at 5:07 PM ^

I disagree with his main idea that play calling doomed Michigan. But he didn't flesh that view point out at all anyway. This is just the usual "I hate the play calling" post--versions of which can be found all over this site. 

I am left with no idea what the author thinks the coaches should have done other than 'be better.'

TyrannousLex

November 25th, 2012 at 12:04 PM ^

There's plenty of deserved criticism to go around, including a defensive unit that gave up as much in the first half as it has averaged for whole games. The constant switching of QBs cannot be good for rythym, which is probably rather important for a QB. And, yes, the second half playcalling was mystifying.

I don't know if this is Borges or Hoke (or varying degrees of one or the other in certain situation), but when i see real criticism of the offense it's mostly explainable by stepping back and looking at commonly accepted football strategy and tactics. A team should be able to run inside, and some would say that a team must establish that to open up other parts of the game. Clearly, Michigan cannot do that this year. There appears to be a stubborn desire to play by theory rather than take what's given. On the other hand, there seems to be an overly quick retreat from things that don't work just right that may not be common football tactics. So we watch Devin get blown up because Denard in the backfield doesn't pick up blitzes, and then we never see Denard in the backfield again. (I'd like to think that this would have been predicted and we'd see V. Smith in that same backfield because he's really good at that.)

If there's one giant criticism that's well placed against this offensive coaching staff, it's that they do not do a good job of taking what they're given by defenses. Why? I don't know and none of us ever will.

All that being said, the reaction of this place is the saddest part of it all. A collective nervous breakdown from a group that prides itself on being intellectually and morally superior based on education and educational allegiance is ... well, it's damned funny in a Gogol's "bitter laugh" kind of way.

Don

November 25th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

It's not just us too old/too young/skinny/fat/never-played-the-game knucklehead fans who are gnashing our teeth about the offensive playcalling. FWIW, I asked Jamie Morris on-air this morning if his fellow alumni teammates were expressing any opinions, and he said (I'm paraphrasing here) he was inundated with texts, emails, and phone calls from his brethren players basically saying WTF on the offensive scheme and tactics.

TyrannousLex

November 25th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

Plenty of deserved criticism. But to find rational discussion of the deserved criticism on this board since yesterday afternoon requires wading through huge quantities of incoherent rants and calls for people up to and including the head coach to be fired.

So i'll say it again, a group that publicly prides itself on intellectual and moral superiority based on educational affiliation is crying like a bunch of babies and lashing out at whatever it can find to fault. Yes, that's the saddest part, and if Jamie Morris wants into that group, that's his decision.

Funny how the players are expected to be "Michigan Men" but the fans don't seem to worry about holding themselves to the same standards. The last day and a half might was well be RCMB. At least UM players aren't making fools of themsevles on Twitter.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 25th, 2012 at 12:13 PM ^

One thing that sucks about the internet age is the silliness you see on display.  We lost a road game to an archrival and an 11-0 team with nothing to play for but this game and the regular season.  Our offensive line is meh.  Our running backs are worse than meh.  We lost by 5 points.

Who's all-but-entirely responsible for that entirely understandable loss?  An assistant coach.  Jesus.