More on the Michigan Game Plan

Earlier, we pondered if Michigan’s game plan was simply to keep it close and injury free.  Later WolverineNation posted this article by Michael Rothstein where Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges defended his game plan:

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.

“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.”

Let me offer you some help, Al.  It’s answers like these that get you fired.

To me, it sounds extremely arrogant to say you would have changed “very little” about your game plan when that game plan yielded the results it did.  It’s also not cool to throw your players under the bus in the process.

But wait, there’s more:

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.

Basically, Borges decided to take what Alabama “gave” him and make it work.  Nick Saban called his bluff, stacked the run and dared Robinson to beat the Tide with his arm.  Obviously, it didn’t work.

To me, this is a very uninspiring game plan.  Did he really think that would work?  Did he really think Alabama would not try to stop Robinson?  Did he really think Robinson – a quarterback known most for his feet and least for his arm – and a patchwork group of receivers could beat the Tide defense?  You spent an entire off-season coming up with that?

If you’re playing to win the game, you take your advantage and you use it and make the other team like it.  Robinson is the best offensive player on the team, so Borges’ game plan should have been creative enough to get Robinson in space so as to see if he could beat the Tide defense that way.  Would it have worked?  Probably not, but at least you could say you tried.

Oh, and this part cracks me up:

“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.”


Some of that I can understand, but some of it sounds like a coach trying to sound technical and talk over your head when you start questioning him.




Did Michigan Play to Win with Robinson?

Following Saturday night’s loss to Alabama, ponders a good question:

We also forced the ball to Gardner early in the game, no matter who was covering him. Was Robinson told to go to Gardner? Did Robinson see potential All American Dee Milliner covering Gardner? Either way, these are things that led me to believe we went down to Dallas to try to keep the game close and get out of the game injury free, and neither happened. Luckily for Michigan, this will be the best team we play all year. Also, our goal of a B1G Championship is still in sight. Despite the loss, which many expected, we should still compete for the B1G.

So, did Brady Hoke and Al Borges game plan “to keep the game close and get out of the game injury free?”

I’ll have to admit, as the game was unfolding, the thought did cross my mind.  It was evident early on that Denard Robinson either wasn’t having his number called to run the ball, or wasn’t choosing to (via zone reads, etc.).  I’m also sure that some of how the game unfolded had to do with how Alabama was defending the line of scrimmage and limiting his options to run, but if he’s your best weapon, don’t you have to test that weapon at some point?  When Michigan finally reached the red zone, how did they score?  They let Robinson run the ball.

If this was their strategy, I suppose it was a good one, though Robinson still absorbed quite a beating.  However, not playing to win would certainly be very un-Michigan-like.

Alabama – Michigan: A Few Post Game Thoughts

Some rather obvious musings from yesterday’s beat down:

1) We’re deep at running back:  Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart.  The interesting this is that all four seem to have different styles. Lacy is a hammer with a nifty spin move.  Fowler is a high-powered bowling ball.  Hart reminds me a bit of Sherman Williams, though I’m not sure if I’m totally sold on that comparison.  And Yeldon reminds me of Darren McFadden.

2) Lacy definitely didn’t look to be at 100%.  The staff had to be pleased at how the game turned out and how Yeldon performed so as to somewhat limit Lacy’s work.  On the other hand, turning the ball over as he did at the end of the first half will definitely have an effect on his playing time.

3) AJ McCarron, to me, had a mixed night.  Two touchdown passes, 199 yards passing and no turnovers were a big deal.  But he also seemed a bit uncomfortable in the pocked and at times appeared to be throwing off of his back foot.  His 11 for 21 night throwing the ball (52.4%) was well off his completion mark of a year ago, though you could base that in part on several throw aways.

4) Michigan seemed to game plan away from getting Denard Robinson broke up.  That was a smart plan because he nearly traveled home in pieces anyway.

5) Speaking of Robinson, he earned a bit of my respect last night.  It was obvious early on that it wasn’t Michigan’s night, but Robinson hung in there and finished the game, despite being banged up enough to ask out.

6) As we discussed before the game, the long passing plays by Michigan weren’t a surprise.  And, yes, expect more of that this year.

7) Doug Nussmeier’s debut with the Tide was obviously a success.  For most of the game, you couldn’t tell the difference between he and Jim McElwain.  That’s good and bad.  We still need to get better at keeping offensive momentum when we have a lead.

8) Kudos to Cade Foster on his 51-yard field goal.  That has to breed a lot of confidence for him.

9) Michigan’s left offensive tackle, #77, had a long night.  A couple of false starts, a holding penalty, an injury and facing Adrian Hubbard made for a long night for him.

More to follow…

Have a nice Sunday,

Roll Tide

Alabama vs. Michigan: A Few Final Thoughts

One more day and our questions will be answered, but until then there’s time for a few more things to discuss… 

1) I don’t expect Alabama to shut down Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense.  Some may discount his competition or point out a few tough games where he didn’t perform well.  But on the other hand, he’s an extremely talented player who is a senior.  That counts for something in my book.

2) But on the other hand, remember back in the 2009 preseason when all we heard about was Tim Tebow’s improved throwing mechanics?  How he was going to be a much better passer that season?  Mechanically-speaking, it never happened.  There hasn’t been quite as much conversation about Robinson’s work to become a better passer, but there has been quite a bit.  It’ll be interesting to see if he’s made any progress.

3) I think Brady Hoke did the right thing by holding Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark out of tomorrow’s game.  Those situations are the kinds of things you have to handle along the road to building a successful program and this time Hoke got it right.

4) I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Michigan hit on a big play or two, especially early in the game.  The Tide defense had a lapse or two early in games last year – Florida and Ole Miss come to mind – but the staff usually does a good job making corrections and getting things under control.

5) I really think it would take a 100+ yard rushing and 200+ yard passing night from Robinson for the Wolverines to win.

6) Despite all the Robinson talk, how AJ McCarron and the rest of the Tide offense plays will probably have a bigger impact on the game.  If we turn the ball over, make silly mistakes and fail to get into a rhythm offensively, we’ve got trouble.  But if our running game is working and some sort of rapport shows between McCarron and his receivers, it may not matter what DRob does.

7) My biggest concern about the game?  Two things:  One is the play of our corners.  They will have a tough job defending against the deep passing threat, plus being able to give run support for Robinson.  Second is the play of our receivers.  We need a consistent go-to guy.  One benefit of playing a team like Michigan to open the season is you get to find out who your go-to players are early on.

Roll Tide!

Paul Finebaum of the North

If you haven’t seen it already, you should take a look at this Minimus Opus from Detroit columnist Bill Simonson.

In an effort to drum up some attention, it follows the expected “my team will win all the games, our player is the best ever and your coach stinks” pattern that, ultimately, drums up some attention.

This may be my favorite part:

It begins with Alabama on Saturday night. Robinson will have a huge night in Michigan’s upset of the Crimson Tide. Alabama coach Nick Saban never has faced a quarterback who can run like Robinson.

Hoke and his staff know how big this game is. They are treating it as if it were a national championship game. Eight months to prepare for the Crimson Tide will be a factor in the Michigan win.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison also will be key in beating Alabama. He knows how to game plan against an opposing offense as good as anyone I’ve ever seen, college or pro.

Saban has won titles based on running the football, stockpiling talent and recruiting, and not a lot of out-of-the-box coaching.

Well, duh, certainly having eight months to game plan is a factor.  It’s not like Nick Saban and Brady Hoke traded film last week and decided to start thinking about the game.  And while Greg Mattison did a fantastic job last year, as I look back at his career, I only see one national championship on his resume, Florida in 2006.  Surely stockpiling and recruiting at Florida had nothing to do with that season.

The dig at Saban, which continues in the comments, is that he can’t win without talent, and that he’s somehow deficient in the Xs and Os department:

Although I don’t necessarily agree w/ the whole article I do like the points on Nick Saban and coaching… I do think our coaches have the edge there… I mean think about it, Saban has won NCs w/ ridiculous talent every time… If he was such a great coach, how come he didn’t win one in MSU or couldn’t do anything in the NFL? I’ve had this argument w/ other people before… I mean think about it, if you’re a decent or even bad coach, you could potentially win in the SEC w/ all the talent those teams get every year… I mean Chizik, yes Chizik, won a NC after not having many winning seasons at Iowa State.
Yeah, Saban should show everybody he’s a great coach by…not recruiting!
You have to love this stuff.  It means the season is getting closer.