Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-23-12: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on October 23rd, 2012 at 2:31 PM


“ ’Sup? What are you shaking your head about?”

I’m laughing at your “Giants and Tigers, it’s on” thing.

“It’s on. I’m fired up.”

Are you a baseball fan?

“Yeah, but not as much now as normal. Just a little more focused on other things, but I’m like anybody else. I like watching Sportscenter.”

What’s the word of the day?

“The word of the day? God. Good question. What’s the word of the day … Hmm. ‘Ear confection.’ Yeah. ‘Ear confection.’ It’s two words, actually. She has an ear confection. That’s what she said. And I’ll be darned if I’m going to correct her. It’s too cute listening to her say it.”

What did you see from the Michigan State film that you liked?

“Oh, certainly wasn’t flashy. But there were some good plays. We played a very close-to-the-vest football game offensively. It was by my own admission conservative. The nice thing about it, as much as we failed inside the red area -- or we could have been better because there were some chances there -- but our quarterback took care of the ball. Other than when it was in essence a meaningless interception at the end of the half. He did play pretty smart. It kept us in the game although it wasn’t flashy. That part I liked, which has shown, the last three weeks particularly, is his growth. About being conscious of taking care of the football, making plays where there are plays, and not trying to create something that’s not there. That was good, and that will help us in the future I think.”

How much of the conservative playcalling was their defense, and how much of it was you playing to your defense?

“Um, probably a little bit of both. We don’t want to get into too much of that, either, where we have to depend on our defense every single game. That’s not fair to the team. But by the same token, you can have what happened at Notre Dame and put them in predicament after predicament. So there’s got to be a balance there somewhere, where you’re still taking your shots and trying to -- and to their credit, they have a great defensive football team. They’ve proven that the last year, the year before, since that regime’s been there, they’ve been a good defensive team. I think it’s a little bit of all of it.”

Getting a couple big running plays -- was that enough to satisfy you?

“No. We needed to run the ball even better. We had some nice plays in there. The biggest thing we had in this game -- I don’t think we’ve had too much of it -- was we had too many tackles for loss, and a couple of them were just simply an inability to block the opponent or safeties crowding the line of scrimmage a couple times or bad play calls. A couple times we ran uphill into a couple plays. Those types of things are always like anything else. The combination of several different things if you just assess the film for every play. We have to eliminate the tackles for loss, because if we’re still working in normal down and idstance, we’ve always got a chance. We’re a good third down team so long as it’s not third down and ten, which we had too many of this game. That was one of our goals was to stay out of that situation as much as we possibly can knowing there were a couple.”

Fitz had lost 16 yards rushing. Was that a combination of those circumstances?

“Yeah. A lot of zone reads. The power reads, they soft played it and bounced back outside and kind of fooled us a little bit and you got tackled. Yeah, and that’s kind of part of the play. That can be kind of a feast or famine play. If they go too outside, the quarterback ducks under and makes a big play, which has happened several times. And then the same play later on, Vince Smith had a long run on [it]. It’s one of those deals. Any time you’re optioning defenders, sometimes if for some reason they fool you a little bit, or they just make a good play, you subject yourself to a little bit of that. It’s well worth it in the end because the big plays can be very big plays.”

MGoQuestion: On Vince’s run from the inverted veer that got 12 yards, was that a designed cutback?

“He ran against the defense. What happened was it was a power read where the end played it soft. He just came back. No, it was not a designed -- it was an instinctive cutback, which is built into the running style of every player.”

MGoFollowup: When Vince cut back, he had Denard as sort of a lead blocker for him. When you looked at how that worked on film, could you consider making that a designed cutback?


[email protected][email protected]: No? Okay … All right …

“No. With Denard as a lead blocker? No. He was just being a football player.”

What did you do against Nebraska so effectively last year? How do you expect that to translate to this weekend?

“A couple things came up in the game. Number one, our special teams provided us with some turnovers. That was huge. And then our defense did the same. So we got to play on a short field a few times, which is always -- oh God, I can’t tell you how much that helps. And we get some big plays in the passing game. It seems like any time we do that, we’re very productive offensively. Our point totals are up. It makes the defense play honest generally. The residual is your run game is better. I think that combination, the turnovers, the big plays, the passing game.”

There are times on defense when Nebraska looks really good, and sometimes not so very good. From what you’ve seen on film, is it because they have a lot of missed assignments or because they run a high-risk, high-reward style of defense?

“I don’t think they play a high-risk, high-reward type of defense [Ed-S: According to the one Bo Pelini clinic I watched it's a funnel D--only high-risk if the designated tackler gets run over. Think Michigan D circa 2002.] I think they’re like some defenses. You get yourself out of positions at times. They’re schematically a very sound football team. This head coach is an excellent football coach. He knows where they should be, you know. But just like anything else, we design our offensive plays a certain way. Doesn’t always happen that way. We put ourselves out of position. We don’t block somebody. Somebody makes a play. That’s probably happened to them a few times, but I can promise you from a schematic perspective, they fit all the runs the way they should. They’re basically in the right position most of the time. Their coverage is sound. They don’t do anything that you look and say, ‘Oh my God, we can take advantage of that.’ That’s really not very smart. They don’t do any of that stuff. It’s the way the game goes, is they don’t always do what you tell them to do. We don’t always call the perfect play, so …”

You took some shots against Michigan State. Are those plays that you really need to make in order to be a championship level team?

“Yeah. It’s when you’re a running team, which we really are, there’s always points in the game where you have to have some bombs land or at least put the fear of the good lord in them that they have to play looser. Sometimes maybe it doesn’t even hit, but otherwise it just gets tougher and tougher to run the ball. It becomes a simple numbers game. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that seven guys can’t block eight, eight can’t block nine. You always have an extra guy in there, and the way you get that guy out of there is to make him play looser because there’s a passing game. When we’ve played best, we’ve done that.”

MGoQuestion: It looked like Michigan State anticipated the conservative playcalling and was sending a lot of run blitzes at you. Were there times when Denard audibled into a better play?

“No. No. We were pretty much going to stick with the plan. There was not going to be a lot of audibling in this game. There was a couple instances where that could have happened, but to say on a consistent basis -- we had designed the plan to block up to handle most of what they did, so we did not want to turn this into a chess game on the line of scrimmage. Because then we’re going to start throwing more passes maybe than we want to throw or put ourselves into more second and ten situations and all that stuff. The plan just wasn’t set up that way. Other plans are. Other plans are different, but not this game. When we’ve lost to this team in the past, and we only have one game, but I think it probably goes beyond our game a year ago, but it was getting sacked, throwing incomplete passes, tackles for loss, you know. So we set our plan up although not as flashy as everybody wants, so that that simply didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen. That’s one of the reasons, one of many reasons -- not the least of which our defense played great -- that we won the game. Now it may not be as pretty as everybody wants, but we are going to do what it takes to win football games here. And if it’s not as pretty as everybody likes, well so be it. That’s how we’re going to coach football. Some games are going to be better than others.”

There was very little rotation with the running backs. How come?

“Yeah, playing in big games, you know. We’re still -- don’t get me wrong -- we’re still looking for opportunities to play Thomas. That’s still on the shelf. But I just think -- and Fitz was running pretty good. He popped through there a few times and darn near broke one. Did break one, didn’t quite take it all the way, but he was starting to feel pretty good about it and we wanted to give him every chance to break another one.”

Are you confident the offense will be able to maintain its composure on the road?

“We’ll find out. We’re going to practice that possibility, put our kids in crowd noise situations, which we do every week. We even do that for home games. We practice crowd noise for home games. But truth be told is you really can’t create that the way it really is. So we’ll find out. We’ll go down there and some adversity will hit, I’m sure, because it does every football game, and we’ll preach to them about how important it is to maintain your composure, and hopefully it’ll take.”

Have you ever been to Lincoln?

“I’ve been to Lincoln twice, but not coaching there. I’ve been just visiting there. I visited their staff when I was at UCLA. I think we had a recruit there a few years back when I was at Boise, so I’ve been to Lincoln. I’ve been around the facilities. I knew the coaches of the former regime. I know some of the coaches on this one, too, but I’ve never coached there.”

Do you think it will be harder than coaching in South Bend?

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I haven’t been there. I’ve been in so many hostile environments, what with coaching here and coaching in the SEC. It really doesn’t matter. It just matters how our kids respond, you know. But they're seasoned now. We’ve been around the block on these things a little bit, and the quarterback, some of the key positions, have been around the block, so hopefully we’ll handle it well.”

It’s not easy to win games without scoring a touchdown, but what does it say about this team that you did that?

“Well, it’s like I said, it goes back to simply you do what it takes to win the game. Sometimes it’s just not as pretty as you want. It happened in the Sugar Bowl. Same thing. We didn’t play well at all. But we found a way to make a play when we needed to make a play, and that’s what happened the other night. I can just remember a lot of games like that. I remember when I was at Auburn, we beat Florida back in -- I guess it was ’06 or ’05. I don’t remember anymore [Ed-S: '06] .We didn’t score a touchdown, but we ran 70-something, 78 or 79 plays. They ran 50-something plays. It wasn’t very pretty. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t very pretty. We didn’t score a touchdown. I think we returned a punt or blocked a punt for a touchdown. I don’t remember. But we did what we had to do to win the game, and we converted some key third downs. We held onto the ball. It doesn’t go with the trend of football now. The trend of football now is get on the line of scrimmage, go as fast as you can go, run as many plays as you can, get 500 yards, and see if you can outscore your opponent. I said last week, we haven’t bought into that here. We’re going to play the way we play because we want to have a nice, balanced effort. So it’s not always as flashy as everybody would like.”

Does that perception reflect reality? When you look at the top five, three or four of them don’t run up tempo offenses…

“But some of the fast tempo teams are winning, though. Oregon’s pretty good. But it’s how you decide you want to play. How do you want to win? No one says you can’t win doing it that way. You can. But we aren’t going to do that here. We feel like we can recruit and coach good defense here and recruit and coach good offense. We don’t need to play that way to win. And that’s what we’re going to do. That being said, we can facilitate up tempo offense. We can do that. Be able to do that within our scheme, but it’s just not how we choose to go about it. There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat.”

MGoQuestion: How would you evaluate how you ran the two-minute drill at the end of the game?

“I thought they did an outstanding job. Outstanding job. We always go over that again and see where clock management or were there any issues, and we didn’t really see anything. The only thing [is] I wish we wouldn’t have caught that one pass, you know. We had to use a timeout, but all the instincts of the player is to catch the pass, and I understand that, but that aside, I think we got into a second down and when we threw the route to Drew, and then we killed the ball with … how much time was left when he kicked it? 11 [seconds]?”


“Nine? Yeah. So it turned out pretty good for the most part.”

What about your little guy Drew. He had a pretty good day.

“Mmhmm. What’d I tell you guys?”

You said you could eat soup off the top of his head.

“Well I can. Gallon, too. There’s somebody else -- oh, Norfleet. I forgot him. He’s another one. They heard the press conference and all of them reminded me of all the short guys on the team. I told you the other day, if you want something done to send Drew. Because Drew tends to get it done. And he got it done in this game. He made several clutch catches. That’s just him. That’s what he does, and we ask him -- he has a role within our team. He just executes it usually pretty good. He nags [Ed: Maybe I misheard him, but I think he said ‘nags’] at the other team not necessarily by making a lot of big plays, but by making a lot of little plays. I’m a baseball fan so I compare him to David Eckstein. You remember David Eckstein? What does he do? He hits when you need hits. He doesn’t bat very high, but he helps his team win. So he’s kind of the David Eckstein of football. To me, anyway. That probably doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me.”

So who ya got in the World Series?

“Where am I from?”

Where do you live?


“Where am I from? Territorial loyalty. I grew up with Willie Mays. Willie McCovey. Orlando Cepeda. Gaylord Perry. Juan Marichal. I think that answers that question.”

How many games?

“No predictions. I won’t give you predictions here, and I won’t give you predictions there, because you’ll hold me up as soon as I do. I do like the Tigers, though. I will say that, but not in this series.”



October 23rd, 2012 at 3:11 PM ^

Eveyone has their own opinion and it is strongly colored by the outcome.   We won so the"play to your defense" sounds great to about 60-70% of the fan base, but if that kick sails wide he's being hung by about 90% of the fanbase.

Not letting Denard audible out of obvious horrible plays when you have tells on your play based on personnel is just as bad as the snap jumping of the last few years.  

It was a bad job by the coaches in this game.   They didn't give the kids the best chance to win.

Saying the 2 minute drill went great is a disturbing.  


October 23rd, 2012 at 5:26 PM ^

But I agree with this 100%.

How is it an offensive gameplan to say "we knew that our defense could hold them so we aren't really going to try to score points."  NO!  What if a fewof those bombs connected with MSU receivers?  What if Drew drops the pass that set up the FG (actually, with Denard, what if it got batted down at the line)?  We lose.

I agree with a gameplan that says "we can hold them on defense, so let;s not take too many risks and give them free points off of turnovers" but there is that and then there is running into a stacked line over and over and over and over when it is clearly not working.

Re: the 2 minute drill.  yuck.  That was a terribly run 2 minutes.  I doubt that he really thinks it was good - perhaps he just wants to build up Denard's shaky confidence?  He can;t really think it was good, can he?

Finally, as to the audible issue, I can actually see Borges' point. I love Denard, but he makes terrible decisions, and seems to be fooled by coverages.  I don't know if I want him making the call to change the play at the last minute.  Otherwise, I cosign your post 100%.


October 24th, 2012 at 12:11 AM ^

I thought the 2-minute drill was great. While everyone in my section of the stadium was screaming to snap the ball, i was yelling to take your time, get the right call, make sure the protection is called, and not take sacks. This is what happened. I agree 100% with Borges in that the only negative was Fitz catching the ball, but like the coach, I also realize that the kid's instincts took over. We had plenty of time at the end, we only had to spike it once thereby not giving away downs. It was a good two-minute drill. We only needed a field-goal, guys.

We got all of our called plays run, we didn't take a sack, we had no procedure penalties, including on the spike, which is tough to execute after a huge pass play and before a huge potentially game-winning kick. And most importantly, we got in field goal range.

Mind you, I was calm even while this was going on. What the hell is everyone so worked up about now? You wanted us to run a play more? Two? For what reason? And at what cost? Should we call poor plays, should we hurry shit up and potentially mix up communication, whould we snap the ball faster and not have all of our blockers on the same page?


October 23rd, 2012 at 3:14 PM ^

I hope he is saving the non-conservative adjustments for ohio. they come out with the same plan as msu and Denard just hits the slot receiver all day until they adjust, opening the run game


October 23rd, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

Before we all criticize Borges and the offense don't forget that he's running a offense that isn't his speciality. It would be like Chip Kelly or RR running a pro-style offense. I think it's pretty impressive what he's done with this offense. Essentially the 2011 offense was just as good as the 2010 offense. We're scoring points against shitty defenses and struggling against good defenses. The same thing happened to RR. The difference now under Hoke is the team has a good defense and can suddenly make field goals. Even A offense like West Virginia's can't score against good defenses. They've face two decent defenses all year and got shut down in both games.


October 23rd, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^

And so maybe the underlying theme here is that for whatever reason, the personnel right now are not very adept at running complicated offensive schemes. That play was probably NFL style where both the QB and WR needed to make the correct read of a blitz and adjust the hot route accordingly. Only one did = tragedy.

My complaint about Borges's scheme so far is that it might just be too complex. I like Harbaugh's innovation of having a hot read on every play, and i think that Denard would probably benefit greatly from scheming like that.

Maize and Blue…

October 23rd, 2012 at 4:43 PM ^

Borges runs the West Coast offense which is predicated on both the QB and WR making the correct read otherwise things can turn disasterous.  Bill Walsh is credited with creating the offense and claimed it takes three to four years for a player to perfect.  In other words, it's about the stupidest offense you can run in college football because a top notch player is only going to be around three years.


October 23rd, 2012 at 5:35 PM ^

I think you might have overstated it a little, because it can work and it's mostly not implemented in college to the degree its implemented in the pros. That and it doesn't look like Borges is a true ideologue when it comes to offense judging by his entire career. He clearly likes to throw the ball and prefers stretching vertically to horizontally.

That being said, we probably agree that general concepts and schemes need to be simplified for all but the smartest players to grasp and implement effectively at the college level. Hence liking Harbaugh's package plays that always have a hot route read. Same concept as WCO, Pro Style reads in the passing game but simplified for better percentages at execution time.

Blue boy johnson

October 23rd, 2012 at 6:13 PM ^

You are the last person I would find credible evaluating a coach. You go on rants but you seem not to know of what you speak. If I remember correctly, you wanted Beilein fired because he couldn't recruit, and specifically couldn't recruit a big man. Also when Hoke was hired, I think you were one of the loudest proclaiming what a horrible hire Hoke was, with his losing record and his lack of pedigree, and what not. Why should I think you are blowing anything but hot air in this instance. I'm pretty confident you know as little about the West Coast offense as you do about Coach B or Coach Hoke.


October 23rd, 2012 at 3:55 PM ^

can basically be summed up as, "I don't trust my QB not to throw interceptions against good defenses. Therefore, we will run the ball, and run the ball, and not pass to open up the run because if a blitz gets home, they may well get a free INT for their troubles." I think the ND game had an even more profound effect on Borges' outlook than we think. That, and the gameplan against the other suffocating defense we faced this year in Alabama was to pass to open up the run -- and it didn't work at all. I'm not sure why a cerebral guy like Borges didn't want to play chess against a worthy competitor in Narduzzi -- seems like he'd thrive on something like that -- but it's also possible that the game plans come from Hoke, and that Hoke wants to be conservative and rely on the defense, so that's what Borges calls. It'll be very interesting to see what the gameplan against Nebraska looks like.

[Edit] In fact, I'm convinced a lot of the "stay conservative to win" stuff is coming from Hoke, not Borges. Read between the lines here:

The trend of football now is get on the line of scrimmage, go as fast as you can go, run as many plays as you can, get 500 yards, and see if you can outscore your opponent. I said last week, we haven’t bought into that here.

and here

No one says you can’t win doing it that way. You can. But we aren’t going to do that here.

and here

we can facilitate up tempo offense. We can do that. Be able to do that within our scheme, but it’s just not how we choose to go about it.

I read all of this as "Our offense has the packages installed to play up-tempo and score, but we choose not to use them." And in this case, "we" means Hoke.


October 23rd, 2012 at 6:17 PM ^

And if we're talking about that specifically, it's worth mentioning that audibles at the line are not a panacea.  You can't call an audible without the defense being aware of it, at least as far as I'm aware.  So unless you go with the Peyton Manning approach (always perform something that looks like an audible) you're giving the defense the chance to get out of their play or stay in it.  That in itself might be worth something depending on how well you can play that bit of game theory. It might not.

The biggest help is probably against a particular blitz that for whatever reason abuses your protections.  I don't think that was really a probem last Sat.  State pretty much played their base plus their usual array of blitzes and had success.  Nothing we weren't ready for though.

And maybe this goes without saying but neither Magee nor Borges felt comfortable with giving Denard such responsibilities, that's at least some evidence that it was detrimental to team success to practice audibles rather than something else.

EQ RC Blue

October 23rd, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

People keep offering up with RichRod did as a solution to our woes against MSU.  They seem to forget that in RR's game with Denard against MSU, we had only 50 more yards and 5 more points than yesterday (including a TD in the 4th quarter down 21) -- and additionally that Denard threw 3 picks that day. 

Maybe Denard as a SR > Denard as a freshman, but, on the other hand, there is now a lot more film and scouting on Denard.  Pat White's QB rating and average yards per rush went down his sophmore to junior years (although they were both quite good).

Criticizing Borges (and Hoke, of course) for the offense may have merit, but arguing for what RichRod did seems pretty empty.  I think Hoke would much rather take the game Borges/Mich/Denard had yesterday than the one RR/Mich/Denard had three years ago. 


October 24th, 2012 at 11:33 AM ^

Borges isn't RichRod.  I get that.  But some guy named Sun Tzu wrote a book a few years ago; Borges should've had a chance to read it by now.

"Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak."

In football terms, this is NOT playing power with spread-option players.  This is about deception, getting your opponent to target your strengths and ignore your weaknesses.  It's about the draw and the play action, and more importantly, getting them to workLook like you are going to run, then pass.  Look like you are going to pass, then run.  You won't have your blockers exactly where you want them, but perfect execution is NOT the key to victory.  It is very, very difficult to achieve perfection.  But if you can get the defense to execute worse, you get the same result as perfection -- sometimes better results.  Sometimes MUCH better.  That is why guards pull on a play action.  The guard will probably wind up blocking air, and the running back will have to block an edge rusher.  So why do they do it?  Because if you can get the back seven to step forward and in, just one step, the QB won't have to make a perfect throw to hit an out or fly route.  And we know this QB cannot reliably make perfect throws.

And mind you, that's a philosophy you can implement in a high school team.  The classic pro set is, philosophically, about establishing a strength, playing to it, and then when the defense's hand is forced, burn them for selling out.  A college-level spread team can execute various run-pass or pass-run options based on keys that don't even rely on the defense to guess wrong, but force them to be wrong.

I think I finally figured Borges out.  He's running spread plays, but he's stuck in a pro set philosophy.  I was always talking about how someone can have 30 years experience and not learn anything for 29, and it seems Borges is just that guy.  He thinks if he can just get those plays working perfectly, then the defense won't matter.  The perfection comes first, THEN he'll start to add deception.  But he can't get to perfection first, so he does the exact opposite of deception -- he doesn't pull the guard on a pass, for example, because he needs that guard where he is to take on the pass rusher.  He wants the base play to work so badly he's willing to literally tell the defense what to do.  So instead of one guy always being wrong, or four guys maybe being wrong, all eleven know exactly where the ball's going to go.

EQ RC Blue

October 24th, 2012 at 1:05 PM ^

One, I didn't argue that Borges's (and Hoke's, let's not forget) plan was perfect or couldn't be improved.  I only said that this constant "hey, why isn't Borges doing what RR did against MSU" ignores the main data points, that Borges did as well with Denard as RR did, perhaps better when considering the TO's (at least if you have a good defense and can afford more low-risk-low-reward offense).

Second, Sun-Tzu wrote a lot of things.  Some of them include: “One may know how to conquer without being able to do it;” “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious;” and “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the
opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”  I don't know what the offensive personnel is capable of, and it's easy to say "we should do this" and "we should do that," but whether the team could actually execute those items well and consistently, and what risk failure to do so carries with it, are not so clear to me.

Another author, Dale Carnegie. not quite as famous but more recent than Sun-Tzu, noted: “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain--and most do.”  There may have been better game plans than the one Borges/Hoke used, and maybe other coordinators would have the offense at a better point now, but most of the complaining on here is just that. 


October 23rd, 2012 at 4:13 PM ^

I think the choice between choosing the risky route of having Denard throw downfield a lot and doing what they did Saturday is a false one.  Checking into a bubble screen is not risky.  It's a long handoff...I should say that I like Borges and that I'm sure his socks know more about football than I do, but I'm very much with Brian as far being frustrated at Michigan's unwillingness to take advantage of uncovered slots by just throwing the bubble screen.


October 23rd, 2012 at 4:22 PM ^

It doesn't have to be a check/audible.  You could just actually call a play from time to time that makes the opposition defend the wide receivers in the short flat instead of being able to completely ignore them, overload the run, and crowd all the throws that would result in big gains if linebackers and safeties had to occasionally respect/defend an attack on the perimeter of the defense.


October 23rd, 2012 at 6:21 PM ^

This is one of the major changes in the offense from RR to Borges.  RR ran some kind of 3 step (lots of hitches, curls and slants...very basic stuff) for free yards a couple times a game.  He coached it and we executed it very ably.  It's almost completely gone from the offense at this point.  


October 23rd, 2012 at 6:46 PM ^

That stuff opens up everything else the offense is doing in the ground game and through the air.  People acted like the QB Oh Noes!!! stuff was just team's fearing Denard's legs but there were big plays available on simple routes over the middle when Tate was the QB and when Denard didn't even move toward the line.  You see Arizona sans Denard (Scott can run a little but he's more like Tate, a nice scrambler and change up to keep the D honest) getting plenty of plays like that too, in both the pass and the running game, where winning a 1on1 matchup or breaking through the line instantly puts a player off to the races.  Oregon has gotten those plays even when they had Thomas at QB who hardly ran at all.  Making a team defend the entire width of the field is a low risk way to open them up to big plays.  Instead of doing that, we are forcing runs and downfield throws into more crowded space.

If MSU had to spend time getting off blocks and defending short combination routes on the perimeter, those passes to Dileo that netted nice gains on Saturday maybe break for TDs.  If one fewer guy is able to linger in the box or if a safety has to hesitate thinking about a quick WR screen then the backs and Denard get an extra half second and a lot of extra room to pop through the line and off for a big gain.  If we went to multiple tight end sets to gain a numerical advantage in the box that would be one thing, but we keep running multiple WR out there and then not even attempting to make teams pay for leaving the short flat totally undefended.

It would seem to be a simple addition to the offense, I don't understand why Borges would object to it (this isn't something that is alien to NFL or pro-style college offenses), and yet for whatever reason we seem to keep butting our head up against the wall against teams that aren't respecting the way our offense lines up.


October 23rd, 2012 at 4:25 PM ^

Clearly we're not coaches, because neither myself or any other fan who watched that drive at the end of the game was thinking "Outstanding job. We always go over that again and see where clock management or were there any issues, and we didn’t really see anything."

In fact, I believe I've read numerous threads to the contrary all over this site since the gameended.

That said, we did win so it's a success from that perspective.


October 23rd, 2012 at 4:53 PM ^

I have already said how I feel about Borges and it is dumb to say get rid of him, but dayuuuuuum!  He basically admitted to neutering the offense and that the two minute drill was run "outstanding."  This makes my brain explode.  Les Miles is salivating about how we ran the two minute drill Saturday.  It is EXTREMELY STUPID to let the game essentially come down to one play because you run three plays in around a minute.  I don't have to have an up tempo offense, but this two minute shit will cause me to explode if and when it causes us to lose a game and Borges defends it again.

The official beer of Borges:


October 23rd, 2012 at 6:35 PM ^

Actually curious, not facetious-dickhead curious, how M could attempt 30 passes without challenging the defense in the air in a way that Brian or BWS found useful.

Again, not being a smartass, but it would just seem to the casual box-score reader that this wasn't a run-only gameplan.


October 23rd, 2012 at 8:54 PM ^

Breaking it down to just "Run!" and "Pass!" is gross oversimplification. It's about tendencies.

Imagine you're assistant to Pat Narduzzi. Your job, having watched Michigan film incessently over the last few years, is to tell him your best guess for what Michigan will do on any given down. Let's try the first series:

  • 1st and 10 on Mich 10.
  • 2nd and 9 on Mich 11.
  • 3rd and 1 on Mich 19

It was Run Denard, Run Toussaint, Run Denard. How'd you do? Next series:

  • 1st and 10 on Mich 19
  • 2nd and 10 on Mich 19
  • 1st and 10 on Mich 41
  • 2nd and 7 on Mich 44
  • 3rd and 5 on Mich 46
  • 1st and 10 on MSU 45
  • 2nd and 13 on MSU 48
  • 3rd and 15 on 50

Answers are Run Denard, Gallon screen, Gallon end around, Run Denard, Pass to Kwiatkowski, Denard run, screen to Toussaint, pass short of the sticks to Gardner.

See the pattern yet? Michigan will run the ball unless backed into passing, in which case we'll try a screen or end-around thing on 2nd down and only do the thing where routes come into play on 3rd down. Just one of the plays from the first two drives broke tendency: the pass to Kwiatkowski. If you guessed over 50% correctly above, well, you've watched Michigan play football.

One more complaint that I thought would be a Picture Page. What is the one defensive play everyone knows State loves? The Double-A Gap Blitz. Chris Norman personally told me it's their favorite blitz. They reiterated how much they love it at Big Ten Media Days. Narduzzi's video on 4-3 over defenses mentions it as a powerful reaction to a heavy running team. And everyone from MSU Blogs to this blog to Chris Brown has covered it. So tell me what you were thinking when you saw this pre-snap motion from the MLBs...

DOUBLE A-GAP BLIIIIIITZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!&&!!!!$$$!))!$!!$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This happens with 9 seconds on the playclock. At home that's enough time to audible out of anything up the middle to that thing you practiced audibling to a million times when you guessed MSU was running that blitz they so love. Like, oh, a fake handoff wheel to Toussaint?

Enter my alternative reality. In this reality Michigan spent 6 reps on Wednesday, 4 reps on Thursday and 4 reps on Friday practicing this play they could run out of any shotgun formation when they catch MSU using their favorite blitz. The second they see it Denard yells "Jello! Jello!" they set for 1 second, then run a max-protect fake handoff wheel to Toussaint. Denard steps into the pocket like he's gonna run, then hop-throws it to Fitz on a wheel. Roundtree the Great Blocker cracks the poor safety who of course bit on Denard, and it's up to a cornerback's ability to tackle Toussaint in space whether this play goes 12 yards or 56. 

Instead we stick with the zone run (no read--everyone was blocked). A killer block by Lewan and good blocks everywhere except by Kerridge (Gholston smartly and deftly stepped inside and made Joe whiff--why you offer scholarships to fullbacks, Brian) means there's some room for Denard, but since Gholston is just sitting there unblocked it's unlikely Robinson can take advantage of the room outside him, so he picks away then tries to run up the back of Mealer's block until Mealer's guy disengages and tackles for no gain.

10-man football and whatnot, but after an offseason of chatter about the play that State battered Michigan with last year (and the year before and year before), how is there not something planned for it?


October 24th, 2012 at 11:52 AM ^

Why audible?  Why tip them off?  Let them commit and guess.  The OL has committed to run blocking, but the receivers and entire backfield can see that coming if I can see it.  Why the hell do smart guys like Dileo and Devin (who is a QB) need an audible on a blitz that obvious?  Go right ahead and let the OL do its zone run thing, which means there's no time for a fake handoff, but as soon as Denard gets the snap Toussaint motions into a wheel route and catches a forward shovel pass.  The linebackers are already moving inside so they're not relevant, the receivers can automatically go into run-block mode without some damn Pavlovian call so even "broken play" execution should get them a first down.  And if the defense is totally caught off-guard, it's a free TD.  The next time the offense lines up like that, I'll bet the LBs don't take a single step forward before the snap.  And if they do?  Hell, burn 'em again.

The point of the audible is to get everyone on the same page quickly, but I find that sort of OC paranoia incredible immature if there's an obvious key.  What's the result if the uncalled audible doesn't work?  Chaos?  I doubt it.  Worst-case Denard makes something happen (which the play called for anyway), or throws a shovel pass into Fitz' back.  The run wasn't going anywhere as designed.

But really, this means Borges can have a trap this screamingly obvious in his face and he'll go right on blaming the players for the play not working.


October 24th, 2012 at 6:02 PM ^

With you right up until the end. One of the greatest things about Borges and this staff in general is you'll never see them blaming the players for their mistakes. He said a lot about how he's not going to be flashy and he took credit for calling a conservative game that agreed to take its licks when MSU caught 'em in the right call. But "blaming the players for the play not working" is something I have never seen from Al Borges.


October 24th, 2012 at 6:08 PM ^

Having read it, and read some of the other good posts on this thread by Purple Stuff and Reader71, and thought about it some more, I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea whether I liked the game plan or not. 

One small observation: I feel like in the offseason videos and in the Alabama game, you saw a lot of quick slants, which would be the kind of thing people are calling for as first-down changeups with low Denard Derp risk. So one obvious defense — that there's only so much time to install plays, and maybe Borges/Hoke wanted to work on other stuff — doesn't necessarily hold water. That play is in our sack of plays. (Also, it's the simplest thing ever.) 

On the other hand I'm reminded by all this by a line of Scot Loeffler's from an old HTTV: "You can't let the defense dictate what you do every time." Which is to say, maybe MSU would not have minded if we had gone to those kinds of checks, because they felt they had a talent advantage on the outside, or that their linebackers were fast enough to quickly drop in front of those passes. I am _not_ an "RR offenses couldn't beat good defenses" guy, but certainly MSU and OSU were able to effectively counter RR's counters in a way that left Denard passing poorly. Those two games combined: 53% accuracy on 47 attempts, 6.4 YPA, three INT, zero TDs. Or put simply: "Mark Sanchez numbers." Anecdotally, we've all been traumatized by Denard winging what should be an easy quick TE out directly into the hands of an outside linebacker. Which is all to say, obviously checks have checks too, and maybe Borges/Hoke felt that strength on strength would beat check on check in this situation, which is not an indefensible position when your guy running is Denard Robinson and your receivers are odds and ends going up against a very good secondary.

Sten Carlson

October 23rd, 2012 at 7:33 PM ^

After reading this, Brian's PP's, and all the comments, I've come to the conclusion that Borges was profoundly effected (and/or criticized by Hoke) by the ND game.  I think he really thought that he had developed Denard to the point that he could throw an effective counter-punch to the "Stop Denard from Running" scheme perfected by Narduzzi.  In that game, it became totally obvious that sending Denard into the teeth of a stacked box, hoping to get him loose, playing field position, and relying upon the defense, is better than handing a weak offense the ball six times and all but guaranteeing a loss.

I think a lot of people are forgetting that Borges dialed up some very effective passes -- most of which Dileo caught -- but most weren't ecexuted properly.  I know it's not productive to play the "what if" game, but the deep ball Gardner couldn't haul in, and the end zone pass to Gallon were just a fraction off.  Further, serveral times the offense was poised to take control of the game, they committed penalties that stalled drives and got them off schedule.  If those two are caught, the penalties aren't committed, and even one of MSU's fumbles is recovered by Michigan, it's a lopsidded win, and Borges' game plan is lauded.

With a defense as sound as Michigan's, an offense as anemic as MSU's, and a QB's as INT prone as Denard, I think the coaches made the right decision.  The only reason the game was close was because Michigan missed on nearly every downfield shot, and on several turnover opportunities.  Bottom line though, it was enough to win.