Al Borges combs through every playcall in past 2 years in search of answer to road woes
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan's offense has been riddled by a cacophony of errors on the road the past two seasons. The result: 20.9 points per game.
It averages 40.1 at home.
It comes a little surprise, then, that each of Michigan's four losses during the Brady Hoke era have come outside the Ann Arbor city limits.
As the Wolverines prepare for another road game, this one its Big Ten opener at Purdue, offensive coordinator Al Borges has set out to discover one thing: Why?
It's easy to point to quarterback Denard Robinson, who is completing only 48.8 percent of his passes away from home (compared to 60.3 percent at Michigan Stadium) and has 13 picks in seven games. He averages 3.2 yards per carry on the road, compared to 7.2 at home.
But Borges said that's too simplistic. He acknowledged there have been too many turnovers -- six in the loss at Notre Dame, including five by Robinson -- but that Michigan also has lacked a consistent running game to supplement its quarterback.
"People, when things aren't going well, want to point to one thing all the time, and it's very seldom one thing," Borges said Monday. "It's normally a bunch of things and I think that's probably what happened."
And then there's the playcalling.
Borges has come under some fire for his calls against Notre Dame, notably an ill-fated red-zone halfback pass that resulted in a pick and also his usage of Robinson.
Borges, in an effort to deduce what is plaguing his offense on the road, spent the off week combing through every play he's called in 17 games at Michigan. His goal was to reveal how his playcalling -- the situations he's putting his players in -- differs in home and road games.
"I took every single play we ran and evaluated it," Borges said.
Borges didn't reveal his findings, but did walk through his process.
He said there are three types of playcalls: No. 1 is a play that favors the offense, No. 2 is one that could go either way and No. 3 is one that favors the defense.
"As a playcaller, believe me, as hard as the fans are on me, I'm about eight times harder on myself," Borges said. "If it's even close, I'll call it a No. 3 play.
"We meet with the players, we'll go over even the plays I didn't call well. You got to understand in football, if you're honest with yourself and your honest with your team, the players don't just lose the game. Everybody loses the game -- or wins the game. So you got to show them, 'This is where I put you in a bad situation,' so they trust you, and (know you're not) blaming them for the mistakes."
There are two things Borges menioned that will put players in a better situations on the road.
First, the Wolverines need to get back to owning the line of scrimmage. He said Michigan tried some deep balls early against Notre Dame, but wasn't finding success. Turnovers became an issue.
In the second half, Michigan decided to grind it out up front and with running game. It scored only six points, but moved the ball better and committed only one turnover.
Second, Borges said the Wolverines need to avoid third-and-longs. Robinson is a weapon on manageable third downs, because of what he can do with his legs, and Borges would like to exploit that.
Third-and-longs make the offense more predictable, which leads to a higher failure rate. That means incomplete passes, and possible turnovers.