In Defense of Al Borges

Submitted by FrankMurphy on September 2nd, 2012 at 3:22 AM

[EDIT: Mods, can you fix the formatting of this thread?]

I have been one of Al Borges' biggest advocates on this board since Hoke hired him. This game has not shaken my faith in him. The reasons are best explained in a post from the MGoArchive that you would all do well to go back and re-read. Specifically:

Again, none of that is to say Borges can't succeed at Michigan ... but the current situation just isn't in his wheelhouse. Based on the last half of 2005 (when Cox, Irons, and the AU receivers were at the height of their powers) and what he's done at SDSU this season with the Lindley-Hillman-senior wideouts package, I'd say the prototypical Borges offense is one with an accurate (and not necessarily strong-armed) pocket passer, big NFL-type receivers on the outside to stretch the field, and a single stud running back as a home run threat out of the backfield. It seems like aside from Darryl Stonum, Michigan doesn't have any of those things.

What's ironic, says Alanis, is that Michigan used to have those things in bunches. Give Borges Henne, Hart, Long, and Manningham/Arrington, and you're going to have one of the best offenses in the country, hands-down. And maybe he can work some magic with Denard (or Gardner), and Hopkins, and Stonum/Miller/Jackson/whoever. But I can't shake the feeling that Borges is the right guy in the right place at the wrong time.

In other words, Borges was hired not for last season or this season, but for the long haul. This man turned Cade McNown and Jason Campbell into first round draft picks. Post-Borges, McNown is out selling insurance somewhere and Campbell is hanging on by a thread. And Borges is on the same page with Hoke, moreso than he was with Bob Toledo or Tommy Tuberville. Think about how chronically frustrated we were with Carr, Terry Malone, and Mike DeBord, and think about what Borges would have done with the weapons that Carr and Malone/DeBord had at their disposal. Now think about what Borges will do with Shane Morris and (fingers crossed) Laquon Treadwell.

Even given his limitations in dealing with our current personnel, he has performed admirably. Last year, we averaged more points per game than we did in 2010. He has done a much better job adapting his offense to our personnel than Rich Rod et al did in '08. As for the 'Bama game, yes, the repeated ineffective Vincent Smith runs were frustrating, but honestly, what was Borges supposed to do? Had Denard's passing been consistently effective at any point during the game? Would you rather Borges have Denard throw even more interceptions or worse, get himself killed by 'Bama's front seven? Facing a defense like that with our top running back suspended, Borges' options were severely limited. You can shake your fist at fate and fermented malts for taking one of our biggest offensive weapons out of Borges' toolbox.

So lay off the man. The players and staff will lick their wounds, learn from this loss, and move forward. Put the pitchforks away, everything will be just fine. These coordinators will get us to the promised land.



September 2nd, 2012 at 11:03 AM ^

He doesn't seem stubborn to me at all.  He clearly prefers more stuff under center, but he obviously eschewed that during the second half of last year and for virtually the entire Alabama game because Denard is more comfortable from shotgun.

Is he capable of making mistakes?  Sure.  But no matter what Borges did last night, it wasn't going to work well enough.  Not with Alabama's defense, our middling receiver corps, and missing our starting running back.

Autocracy Now

September 2nd, 2012 at 11:00 AM ^

This was a championship level team with deep talent and we were missing some critical talent for most of the night. Could we have done better? Definitely. After Countess went out and it was clear the defense was completely outmatched, it seemed like Borges decided to take the safe(r) route. Likely he didn't run Denard because he didn't think it would be worth risking it and the box was consistently stacked. Fine, I can respect that decision--in the long run that is probably the right thing to do.

What I don't understand is Borges not even trying more of those short passes and bubble screens that we know Denard can usually hit, and which certainly had a much better chance of being effective than "Devin Smith" smashes up the middle. I do think it was the right call to keep testing those deep routes. Those are the only reason we got any points on this team and I think Bama underestimated Denard's arm strength. Denard designed runs probably could have gotten us more yards, but I don't have a lot of faith we would have scored with them and it could have resulted in our starting qb being injured for ND. I'm more worried about our D.





September 2nd, 2012 at 11:01 AM ^

In defense of Al Borges:

1. One team scored more than us against Bama all last year.

2. We are a running team that could not run block against a superior defense.

3.  I'm glad he didn't run Denard that much when he had a hurt shoulder, and later a hurt back.  Our players were getting physically mauled by that defense, and we have three total scholarships quarterbacks.

4. If you thought we were a national championship contender, you just got your wakeup call.  This is what it looks like when consistent top 3 recruiting classes go up against ones anywhere from 10-30 (the RR years) when elite coaching is a factor.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:09 AM ^

Honestly I think we're all grasping at straws to make us feel somewhat better after an embarassment so here's mine.....Denard had very comparable numbers to McCarron. 11-26 for 200 1 Td 2 Ints to 11-21 for 199 2 tds. Musburger said something that struck me. He mentioned McCarron "managed" the offense all game long and didnt turn the ball over. He reminds me of the Ravens back in the day with Dilfer. "Don't screw it up for the Defense" essentially. We are comparing last year to one game so far... against the #1 D, the defending National Champs, etc. Another fun stat...UM fared better than LSU in the NC game by not only crossing the 50 yd line but also scoring 2x. Hell Bama may not give up 2 more tds all year. 


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:26 AM ^

Alabama will give up more touchdowns if/when they face a better passing attack.  Their coverage was not particularly stellar, and their pass rush wasn't out of this world, either.  Denard side-stepped the rush a couple times, but he often had lots of time to throw the ball.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:32 AM ^

I haven't posted in any of these threads yet, but if anyone blames anything other than "Alabama had better players than us" either didn't watch the game or is an idiot.

Take both QBs out of the game. Bama got 6-8 yards every time they ran the ball. We got 0-2 yards. That's about the difference right there.

Seattle Maize

September 2nd, 2012 at 11:54 AM ^

Borges was and is in a tough spot with Denard.  Denard is an amazing athlete and a great person but has his flaws at QB - Mainly accuracy and decision making.  Borges basically needed to simplify the passing game enough to make sure that Denard could make some reads and not throw 5 picks against an NFL caliber defense, which made the passing game predictable and ineffective.  Borges also couldnt realistically run Denard into the teeth of that defense - He would have been seriously injured.  

I dont understand how people can say that we would have had more success running Denard - What holes did you see in that defense?  They knew he couldnt pass well enough to be a threat and had 11 guys waiting to take his head off if he ever crossed the line of scrimmage.  

All in all, Michigan played with heart and was just physically outmatched.  We need more talent on the roster - Specifically the upper classmen.  The good news is that talent is coming in spades starting with the current Freshmen class and continuing on!


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:03 PM ^

and get Denard hit more often?

You run Denard as many times as necessary in the last game versus Ohio.

You run Denard 20 times in mid season showdowns versus MSU & Nebraska.

You don't get him hurt in an OOC game that you have little chance of winning.  We were dominated on the line.  Denard didn't see much space on the few carries that Borges called.



September 2nd, 2012 at 12:22 PM ^

To those who are complaining that Borges didn't run Denard enough: did you see any lanes that Denard didn't exploit? Do you think that running Denard into that wall of a front seven would have accomplished anything other than getting Denard killed?

The bottom line is that we played the deepest, most talented team in the country, and we lost because we're not anywhere near their level talent-wise. Anyone who blames Borges for that is just looking for a scapegoat. 


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:43 PM ^

the general consensus was that Alabama was the better team, and that for Michigan to be successful it would have to take advantage of the relative inexperience of the Alabama defense.

I was officiating a wedding in the middle of nowhere so i didn't get to watch the game, but i gather that what inexperience Alabama showed was in the secondary. Therefore, Michigan's best chance was to take advantage of that for either yardage and/or to force Alabama out of stacking the box. It also appears that Borges attempted that but the execution wasn't good enough to make Alabama adjust, opening up other facets of the game.

If there's only one chink in the dragon's armor, you've only got one shot to slay it. Miss and you get roasted. Next week is another game.

Generic MGoBlogger

September 2nd, 2012 at 12:48 PM ^

but remember this was the guy that was raving about Thomas Rawls from day 1 of camp this August and we saw six rushes from him.  I've noticed from last season that Borges seems to get frustrated with a gameplan if there isn't immediate results. 

Franz Schubert

September 2nd, 2012 at 3:56 PM ^

Michigan could not have won the game with any gameplan but Borges failed. Denard Robinsons skill set was not utilized properly and in fact his weaknesses were highlighted in this gameplan. Robinson needs to have a short and quick passing game which targets the outside of the defense rather than sitting in the pocket and trying to throw downfield repeatedly. Its simply not his skill set. Borges just reverts back to what he prefers offensively rather than what has been successful. Hopefully this will be the last time he needs a reminder. If there is one thing im frustrated with is 160 pound V. Smith running the ball up the middle! I remember RR did the same thing.