Well, breathing time is over. It’s back to work for Team 133 as they return to the road to take on the surprise Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette and begin the B1G season.
Purdue is 3-1, boasts the 22nd best rush defense in the country, has eight interceptions and is another team that has a very stout defensive line led by monster senior Kawann Short. So once again the Wolverines will be facing an aggressive defense in a hostile environment…exactly the type of situation “Big Blue” has performed poorly in time and time again, particularly on offense.
In these situations, it seems like Al Borges’ offense becomes toothless and ineffective. The statistics compared to those in Ann Arbor are frightening and the fans would argue that he fails to put Denard Robinson in positions to succeed. Therefore, Al Borges is in our spotlight in this week’s Friday Focus.
Let’s get down to brass tax. When comparing the home and away offensive statistics, especially those of Denard, in Al Borges’ tenure as the OC, one can’t help to do a quadruple take. See for yourself:
- POINTS – 40.1/20.9
- RECORD – 3-4
DENARD ROBINSON PASSING – HOME/AWAY
- ACCURACY- 60.3%/48.8%
- TDs – 18/8
- INTs – 10/13
DENARD ROBINSON RUSHING – HOME/AWAY
- AVG YPG – 124.3/53.4
- YPC – 7.2/3.2
Those numbers tell the stroy of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quarterback. Of course, a lot of it has to fall on the shoulders of “Shoelace” himself. Let’s face it, he is the one on the field making or not making the plays. However, it is up to the offensive coordinator on any team to ensure that his team and his QB are put in positions and game plans in which they will succeed.
It is painfully obvious at this point, and has garnered more than enough discussion that Denard Robinson is not, and will never be a pocket-passer. He just isn’t.
Yet, so far this season away from A2 when facing stingy defenses with aggressive defensive lines (Alabama and Notre Dame), Al Borges has elected to basically neuter Denard and let him sit in the pocket and launch the ball down field 30 times per game. The results have been ugly. Robinson has missed receivers, made poor decisions, thrown six picks, and has only one TD through the air. On the ground he is averaging a mere 3.25 YPC and one TD in those games. The scheme has to change. Denard playing the role of gunslinger is detrimental to the team. There, I said it.
I don’t think Borges needs to run Robinson 30 times and kill him but there needs to be some coming to grips with the fact that Denard is best when he is running around making plays. Roll him out, have him throw short to intermediate routes, screens, and other high percentage passes to build his confidence and move the chains. If he is forced to stand as a statue this week against Purdue he’ll get harassed all day and make poor decisions once again.
If Borges can learn to utilize his strengths and get the defense on their heels then they can have success moving the ball and, most importantly, not cough up the football. Experimentation time is over. Al Borges has had 16 games to figure out how to use his athletic QB. No excuses. Make it work.
Contrary to popular belief, Denard cannot do it all by himself. Fitzgerald Toussaint proved to be more than capable of shouldering some of the load last year by rushing for over 1,000 yards. When he compliments Robinson and gives the defense another dimension to worry about, the Michigan Offense is very difficult to stop. Borges must get Fitz going this week.
Thus far he has been almost a non-factor averaging only 12 carries per game at a 50 YPG clip which is roughly 4.2 YPC. That is a far cry from his 118/5.7 average from last year.
Toussaint, like many backs, gets more effective with increased carries. Last week against ND was the perfect example where he had 4 carries in the 1st half for 2 yards. In the 2nd half he carried the rock 9 times and gained 56 yards. The moral of the story is: FEED HIM THE BALL!! The more effective Fitz is, the less pressure there will be on Denard, the less turnovers there will be, the more the defense will have to account for, the more points UM will score. He said he wants the ball so give it to him. Denard’s sanity may depend on it.
The numbers don’t lie.
In the last 2 seasons the team and the offense have been pretty, um, not good on the road. Al Borges said that in the bye week he went over every single play they have ran on the road. I hope he found some answers. Whether it be by simplifying things for Robinson and allowing him to be on the move more, and/or getting Fitzgerald Toussaint more involved, he has to fix it…in a hurry. If the Wolverines want any chance at winning the Legend’s Division this season the offense will have to become an asset on the road, not a liability. Your move Mr. Borges.
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