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November 26, 2013

News & Views: Borges talks offensive struggles

Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges met with the media Tuesday afternoon. Here are the highlights:

News: The Wolverines' recent offensive woes have been due to "individual breakdowns" all over the field - a missed block, a blown assignment, a dropped pass - that have hindered the offense's ability to put drives together, according to Borges.

Borges: "We had a lot of individual breakdowns that caused a lot of three-and-outs. Too much 10-man football. It's the same story. When we don't play well, we don't get in sync. There were a lot of individual breakdowns that caused that to happen, and at this point in the season, there's just way too much of it. We have to go back to work and see if we can get some of this fixed, because we have the biggest game of the season coming up.

"Yeah, it is. It's different guys every time you turn around. You go through your play kill list, and a lot of different names are popping up. Some of it's experience. Some of it is just us not playing in sync. That's my responsibility. We have to find a way in this football game to get back in sync, because there's a darn good offense in there. A darn good offense that hasn't shown up for a while."

When asked if he has ever seen this type of offensive regression during a season, Borges said, "Never four games in a row. I don't think it's ever happened. I don't ever remember us go like this. You have better offensive years than others. Never do you have exactly the same amount of talent every single year. But we have sputtered so bad in the last four games, I just don't ever remember it being like this."

Views: The Wolverines came into the 2013 season with several big question marks. Namely, 1.) who would step up in the passing game alongside fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and 2.) how would the youth along the interior offensive line gel?

Sophomore Devin Funchess answered the former in a big way.

The jury is still out on the latter.

It's disappointing that the Wolverines are seeing the same kinds of rookie mistakes that they hoped to smooth over in fall camp. By late November, young guys aren't young guys any more.

Redshirt sophomore center Graham Glasgow has started every game; redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis has started seven games and seen playing time in almost all of them; redshirt freshman left guard Erik Magnuson now has five games of starting experience under his belt.

Are they going to be perfect? No. But Michigan should be improving more quickly than it is right now.

News: Borges said it is important to tune out criticism during the season, but that passion is what makes college football great.

Borges: "If I internalized everything a fan said, I'd slit my wrists. You can't do that. This job is about being thick-skinned. We win games and people still complain. That is the nature of the job. That's why they pay us to do what we do. We have to be beyond all that and stronger than all that. Greg has done it a long time, and I've done it a long time. I promise you that, other places I have been, my first name has been a cussword. This isn't the first place where it's been like that, and it just goes along with the job. You're never going to make everyone happy. You do your best to help your team win. That's all.

"I don't read the paper. I haven't since 1993 when I was at Boise State. I used to read the paper all the time, and then 1993, we had a season there in my first year that wasn't very good. To that point, I had been a coordinator for about seven years and it had gone pretty well. You didn't mind reading the paper, but we went there, and it wasn't very good. My papers were piling up in my pantry. I wouldn't even open them up after a while. I said, 'Why am I even getting the paper?' I haven't had one since. I don't listen to talk shows during the season. If you want to be miserable in my job, it just gives you more.

"People are passionate, and that's what makes it great. I did an interview for a book about coaching. And the guys asked me, 'Why do you think the people are the way they are?' Because it's important to them. People care. That is why Michigan is great. People care, and they are always going to care. That's what you want. You want them to care. With the caring comes the passion. With the passion comes the criticism, and that is part of the job. That's the way it goes. You sign up for that. If you're thinned-skinned, you can't do my job."

Views: I really like this answer from Borges. His job is hard enough without constantly checking in with the Internet about how people think he's doing it. Say what you will about the offense this season, you can't deny Borges loves what he does.

News: Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner has thrown just one interception in the last four games - and none in the last three - but he has made his share of mistakes.

Borges: "As a playmaking quarterback, which he is, you have you be able to use good judgment. Give the play a chance, know when to check the ball down, know when to not take a hit that you don't have to take. He's still learning that. Every quarterback is always a work in progress. But he's not making a lot of the same mistakes. Every week is a different scenario, it's a different game and different people are attacking you differently. There is a lot of on-the-job learning, and he has had to deal with that quite a bit at times when the protection hasn't been as good. That has an effect on him, too. I think it would any quarterback."

When asked whether Gardner was a better quarterback now than at the beginning of the season, Borges said, "In some ways, but in other ways, no. His understanding has improved, but we're not getting the performance that he would want or anyone would want. He understands the offense better than he ever has. From his position and every position, we need a more consistent performance, and that is what's keeping us from being what we can be. It's an interesting thing. So many of the things we had done well, we're just not doing well anymore. You have to give the other team a little credit, too, but some of this stuff is not being defended as much as it us being inefficient at times. We have to keep plugging away and do what we know is the best thing. And that's work our butt off, correct each mistake and know that there is still more games to be played."

Views: This team's issues run a lot deeper than quarterback play, but it's the easiest thing to point to and say, "This needs to get better." If the Michigan offensive line improved, I think you'd see an instant improvement in quarterback production.

Of course he's a little skittish right now. He's been sacked 20 times in the last four games. There are 59 teams in the country that have surrendered 20 or fewer sacks all season.

Is Gardner playing great right now? No. But he's not getting a lot of help, either. There were too many dropped passes against Iowa last week, and there has never been enough support from the run game.



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