Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has high hopes that senior quarterback Denard Robinson will be back in action on Saturday. No level of performance by his backup makes Borges more comfortable with leaving Robinson on the shelf.
There is a comfort in having junior Devin Gardner step in and throw for 234 yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota, Borges admitted. That's doesn't impact his desire to see Michigan's starter get back into action.
"There are only three games left," Borges said. "You don't want to wait too long. The kid's a senior. He's ready to go. I want to give him a chance, and I know he wants to play. I don't think we're thinking that way."
Borges noted Gardner is still a possibility as Michigan's quarterback against Northwestern, depending upon what kind of week Robinson experiences with his healing right arm.
No matter what, Borges assured, the backup has to be as prepared as the starter.
"The one thing we do, and I've always done in coaching the position is, as much as you possibly can, have the kid understand that he has to prepare like the starter," Borges noted.
"If they don't think that way, that they're just a play away from being in a game, and if that surprises you, you've got issues now. You've got problems. It's going to be enough of a rude awakening, just to be in there all of a sudden, without having the mindset that is right for that situation.
"That is tough, guys. This position now, I'm just telling you, this position is hard to play. It's to me, probably the most rewarding position to play when you're successful. But it is hard to play. Everything is kind of different, once you get out there.
"It seldom happens exactly the way you do it. Some of it is instincts, some of it is making a play when you've got to make a play, which Devin did a few times during the game. It's hard. It's a hard position to play. It's fun, they love it, but it will test you - mentally, physically and emotionally."
Borges noted that, for the most part, Gardner graded out well in Minnesota, with some obvious exceptions.
"The naked bootleg, the first interception was a bad decision," Borges said. "We have three grades for the way we grade the quarterback - a footwork grade, a read grade and a throwing accuracy grade, and maybe some general comments that go over and above.
"In terms of decision making, with regard to reading a defense, he may have had two or three. That one was the worst, obviously. His decision-making was pretty solid. His footwork was pretty solid.
"He has not arrived. He has a lot of rust. There were a lot of little things that were not done as well as they could have been done. He is keenly aware of it, and he will remedy that situation. Some of our tracks and our footwork was not what it could be in the run game.
"For the most part, when you consider he hadn't played the position in a while, he did a very good job and helped us win the game."
• Borges indicated he did not think a lot of Michigan's offensive line problems at Minnesota involved mental mistakes. He continues to stress linemen completing what they start.
"We didn't have a lot of targeting issues - missed assignments and such," Borges said. "We really only had one game where I thought that was an issue, and that was Notre Dame.
"I don't think it was mental. The biggest thing we've got to do a better job of is finishing our blocks. We're getting bodies on bodies, for the most part. I'm talking more about the running game than anything else.
"We always talk about winning gaps. If you're responsible for knocking this guy out of there, moving him enough so the back can read it, we've got to win that gap. We've got to do a better job of winning those gaps, getting those plays started and giving our tailbacks a chance to go."
• The offensive coordinator liked the fact that both redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint and sophomore Thomas Rawls garnered significant carries at the running back position.
"We want to give these kids a chance to continue to do what we're doing, and see which guy is running hot," Borges said. "Give them enough carries to find out.
"That was a good thing. We didn't get a ton of yards, although we weren't terrible. We rushed respectably, not great. The tailbacks got the ball. They got a chance to carry the ball some. Obviously with our quarterback situation, the tailbacks have to carry the ball more in that situation."
• Borges indicated he respects the defense Northwestern plays.
"Good run defense, extremely sound," Borges offered. "Coach [Mike] Hankwitz [Northwestern's defensive coordinator], I've coached against him before at a couple of other schools. He's a great coach and does a wonderful job. They're seldom out of position, and they play very, very hard.
"That's the way Northwestern has been for a long time. They do things right. They try and make you run a lot of plays to beat them. It will be a really good test for us."
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