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October 9, 2012Purdue followed Michigan redshirt junior running back Fitz Toussaint's every move in a 44-13 loss Saturday, holding him to 19 yards on 17 carries. That opened things up for senior quarterback Denard Robinson's 235 yards.
Borges envisions a day in the near future when both aspects of the running game are clicking.
"It hasn't really happened this year, but if we keep going like we're going it will," Borges said. "We're best when we can threaten two ways. That doesn't necessarily mean two guys will rush for big numbers each game. That seldom happens. If one guy doesn't get good numbers and another guy does, usually it is a result of how they try to defend you, at least in part. You've still got to block it.
"People will over-defend certain phases of your game and make you play left handed - take away what they do best or what scares us the most, let them play to their weaknesses. That happened a little from their perspective because of what happened a year ago. They were just keenly aware of Fitz."
Toussaint ran for 170 yards against Purdue last year. The Boilermakers played a bit more 3-4 defense than expected, but it was nothing the Wolverines didn't expect.
"The back end was kind of as we anticipated," Borges said. "There's always a little nuance to handle Denard, the kind people borrow from other teams they think might have had some success. They take pieces of that if it fits their scheme.
"But if you watch the tape, they were following Fitz all over the field. Fitz had very few good running opportunities in 17 carries. I went over the whole tape and it was good news and bad news. We pulled a couple zone reads where they were all over Fitz and Denard was wide open, so it wasn't like it was bad. It didn't make Fitz's numbers look very good. He helped us win the game like a guy who has a sacrifice bunt helps you win the game.
"What kind of happened last year is Fitz showed up big, especially toward the end of the season. People had become really aware of him. We don't do a lot of under center running, not like we will in the future. In that regard, because you're doing a lot of gun running, you kind of pick who you're going to defend. Fitz had big numbers against these guys last year. They hadn't forgotten that. You've got to kind of pick a little what your priority is going to be. Last year was Denard; this year was Fitz, so there was a lot for Denard."
Different defenses will continue to defend in different ways. At the end of the day, Borges said, they need enough in the arsenal to counterpunch.
"You can see pretty quickly what's being over-defended and under-executed," he said. "That's where your bottom line is as far as adjusting and play calling. If it's over-defended you need the counterpunch. If it's under-executed, you have to stay with your plan. We might have missed this block, but you can't go south on what we practiced all week because it turns into helter skelter.
"You come back with what you were doing and hope like heck it takes, knowing one play didn't take but you get paid to coach. Fix it up a little bit, maybe next time it works better - you don't want to just abandon your plan. That really from a coaching, play calling and schematic perspective, is the key to offensive football - to discern what is being over-defended and under-executed."
"That's an interesting football play. If you can get them in good scenarios, that play always has a chance to succeed because there's a litany of options," Borges said. "It's just one more play in our arsenal - it does present some problems because the quarterback can keep it or the halfback can run. The two best runners can touch the ball."
Robinson made good decisions in the passing game at Purdue, but knowing when to keep and when to hand off was just as important.
"That's huge in the read game," Borges said. "He graded really well. I'm pretty happy with what he did. The one turnover was probably my fault. It was hard edge on a power read, and we didn't show him enough of that."
That led to a Vince Smith fumble just before the half.
"As coaches and players too, we spent a lot of time trying to fix our problems knowing we weren't playing as good as we could play offensively," he said. "You've got to identify your problems and admit your shortcomings both as a coach and a player and address those.
"We had a lot of time to address them. I think that helped Denard reach a comfort level. Had there been just a week, I don't know, we probably would have been fine. Having two weeks helped ground us."
Borges spent a good portion of the time working on Robinson's footwork and decision-making.
"From a game plan perspective, it's my job to put him in positions to keep him comfortable," he said. "He was smart the whole game, threw a ball away that in the Notre Dame game he would have tried to make something happen. We got a good, nice lead, didn't ask too much early. As he got in a groove, things got going pretty good."