Commentary

Borges defends gameplan

Offensive coordinator points to lack of execution in all facets

Updated: September 4, 2012, 3:19 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Al Borges watched his team fail to perform anywhere close to expectations against Alabama on Saturday.

The Wolverines faltered in running, passing and blocking. Still, the Michigan offensive coordinator said Tuesday that he wouldn't have changed much about how he called plays against the Crimson Tide.

[+] EnlargeAl Borges
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesAl Borges said he woudn't have run Denard Robinson any more than he did against Alabama.
"Very little," Borges said. "Almost none. But that's probably hard to grasp because the way we executed the game plan wasn't very effective."

Borges' plan was based on a multitude of factors. Having coached at Auburn, he was familiar with Alabama and its defense. Having seen the Crimson Tide on tape, he knew a game plan featuring a lot of Denard Robinson running the ball wouldn't work. So he came up with a two-pronged system.

If Alabama loaded the box, Michigan would throw. If the Crimson Tide played the box light, meaning six or seven guys there, Michigan would run. For the most part, Alabama loaded up to stop the run -- stop Robinson from running, specifically -- so Michigan went to the air.

It didn't work. Running didn't, either. Against Alabama, if a team isn't efficient, it has no chance to win.

"They left the box light 12 times and [we] had plus-four runs three times out of 12," Borges said. "Then we hit 2 of 10 shots downfield. The only alternative is to plus-one run the quarterback and we did some of that, too."

But Michigan had little success with any of it. Much of it, Borges said, came down to efficiency. Michigan was not efficient at all. Robinson missed reads and made poor passes. Receivers dropped balls. Linemen failed to block adequately. Running backs could do nothing. Robinson finished 11 of 26 passing for 200 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. More than half of his passing yards came on a 71-yard pass to Jeremy Gallon and a 44-yard pass to Devin Gardner.

The running backs, meanwhile, averaged 2.38 yards a carry.

In essence, it was a failure to put together anything workable, no matter what Borges tried. At no point, though, did Borges throw the game plan away and drastically try something else.

"No, not at all," Borges said. "We stuck with the plan the whole game. We kept doing what we were doing and tried some different things after a while because we weren't running into the six in the box very well.

"We tried a few more quarterback runs but that wasn't very effective."

One thing Borges stressed, though, was he would not have run Robinson any more than he did Saturday. The senior had 10 carries for 27 yards.

Part of the reason is Alabama was not going to allow that to be successful. On zone read runs, the Crimson Tide kept someone in the spot Robinson would hit if he held on to the ball, so he gave the ball to the running back.

This played exactly into what Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted.

"The goal of the game was not to let the quarterback run the ball," Saban said. "He didn't have very many opportunities to run it. Even on the zone-option reads, we were sort of making it so he was going to hand the ball off and make somebody else beat us."

Alabama did. Michigan couldn't.

Don't think, though, that just because Robinson didn't run much against Alabama that it will become a season-long trend. Robinson's runs will be dictated by the game and opponent.

It just wasn't happening against the Crimson Tide.

"We'll play that game to game, but I would not have run Denard Robinson any more than I ran him Saturday. Absolutely not," Borges said. "A lot of people think that, but no way, that wasn't going to happen. But certain games he's going to run the ball, I think you saw that last year. There will be certain games he'll carry it 25 times and other games he'll carry it 10.

"You can run him 20 times every game and there will be nothing left of him at the end of the season, particularly when you play opponents like that. That's already been proven."

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter