Full Transcript: Borges the Big Plays, Denard

OC AL Borges talks about the Big Plays, about running Denard, about Denard and the O the O coming to life, about jump balls.

Question: After watching the film did you see some missed opportunities and did you kind of go over that with Denard (Robinson) and what did you say to him?

Al Borges: "We had a few. It wasn't just Denard, it was some other deals too. We sputtered so bad in the first half of the game. We had a couple of changes. They're salty on defense now. I don't want to make it sound like I don't want to give them any credit, because they did a nice job. It became real evident early in the game just from the configuration of their defense that they were not going to let Denard run the ball outside. It wasn't going to happen. It happened to them a year ago and they were set up where they were going to force him to beat them throwing the ball for the most part, or running the ball inside. You got to take your shots, and when you get your opportunities your bombs got to land -- and they did eventually. It took us a while but it did. So goes the game. He ran real well a year ago and eventually passed real well this year, even though he did not have a good completion percentage -- but when you're facing a team that is crowding the line-of-scrimmage that much, completion percentage is way overrated. You got to have some bombs land and that may mean missing a few passes before you reach that point."

Question: Early in the game, was there something consistent about his throws that were errant -- footwork or anything like that?

Al Borges: "Yeah generally when he throws the ball bad it is because of his footwork or rushing throws. There were a couple of times when he did that but when he got his feet set and he did it fundamentally right, he made some really good throws. He threw just a gorgeous corner route to Kelvin Grady, right on time, perfect trajectory. He's very capable, but he's still learning all the little nuisances of the offense and in a pressure packed game like that, a lot of stuff going on, it is easy to forget about some little things. All told, he was not bad. He did what he had to do to win the football game. He rushed for over 100 yards anyway, anyway when you consider…I think anybody who thought they were going to allow Denard Robinson do what he did to them a year ago was crazy. That simply was not going to happen. If there defense was really bad that could happen, so he was going to have to beat him another way, and he found a way to do it."

Question: That throw that he made with a defender wrapped around his ankle…?

Al Borges: "It was funny. It wasn't at the time, but the guy was wrapped around his ankle. The guy was dangling at his ankle. He looked left, he looked right, then all of a sudden just spotted Junior and spun a tight ball to him, right in stride, I think he caught him in man coverage; the guy behind him. It was just a phenomenal play. I promise you, I didn't draw that one up. I drew up the start of it, but I didn't draw up the end of it."

Question: How much are you still kind of finding your way how to use him and his talents?

Al Borges: "I think we know how to use him. We said we wanted him to carry the ball 15, 16, 17 times a game, but no promises. There may be games he carries it more, maybe game he carries it less. In terms of how we're using him, I don't have any reservations about that. We've got to get more plays. That's our issue now. I think we've only run like 89 plays in two games. So we haven't worked our tailbacks. Our tailbacks would be getting more carries if we were getting more turns. But how we're using Denard, I got no concerns about that."

Question: So you are not concerned about the tailbacks?

Al Borges: "Of course I am. I'd be more concerned about them if they had more carries and you weren't getting the yield that you wanted. The first game, we got a chance to get them rolling a bit, they weren't doing too bad. But in this game, we just found one heck of a time getting into rhythm, in the first half of the game in particular, and when you're not rhythmic and you're not getting first downs, you're not converting third downs, you don't get the turns, and you don't get the snaps. You're putting your defense out there too much. I had talked to Brady a couple times on the phone. I told him, I'm trying to find something here to get us off. Second half started, it got better. It did it got better, but the first half they did a nice job of defending us, and our execution was lacking."

Question: How much or that was up front?

Al Borges: "It was everywhere. It wasn't just up front. Some of it was them. Some of it was on the flank. It wasn't just the offensive line. Offensive football is about getting in sync, running repetitive, successful plays, gaining confidence, and starting to feel it. It's like a hot three-point shooter. He gets one, gets another, and the rim starts looking big. The rim never got big until the end of the game. As you learn the offense better, guys understand what you're doing better, it starts to flow. We haven't reached that point yet. Remember what I told you before, there're going to have growing pains -- hopefully they're not excruciating growing pains -- and so far we've had some. Three turnovers is my biggest concern -- out of all of the concerns, that's my biggest concern. If you don't do the damage, and we didn't do so much damage we lost the game, you'll get to the point you want to get if you're patient, and I think I'm talking to me more than I'm talking to you."

Question: With Denard, how much of a fine line is there between getting the ball up so your teammate can make a play but also just throwing it up there so they can make a play too?

Al Borges: "That happened in both instances. You've got to understand something, and I've changed my thinking on this as a coach over the years, particularly on deep balls. I remember way back when I was coaching at Oregon with Chris Peterson, and we were talking about throwing the ball deep, and I used to always have the philosophy that if you're going to throw it deep, overthrow them so the ball's not intercepted. I remember Pete telling me, he says, we got a couple guys who can go get it. He goes, let us touch it. I argued with him. Today, he was totally right. The ball has got to go up in an area where he can touch it. Now, you have to make it so that only the good guy can get it, so when it is a jump ball the worst you can get is an incomplete pass. Now we didn't get that one time, but the other few balls where the ball was up and it was in the vicinity, it was one versus one, we won -- or we wouldn't have won the game if we hadn't pulled a few of them down. No we don't want to throw it up for grabs, but we want to give our receivers, who are good receivers: Jeremy Gallon who's not a big tall guy, but can go get high balls, and Junior Hemingway, who is a big guy. We want to give them a chance, and Roy Roundtree too for that matter. We want to give them a chance to get the ball. I don't know where is that fine line? Throw it where only the good guy can get it. That's what I'll say, but I want the good guy to touch it."

Question: How many plays a game would like you to have?

Al Borges: "70 plays. I told you guys, we're not an 80 play no huddle team. That's not us. We want to control the game from the huddle, keep our defense off the field if at all possible -- which we have done a poor job of so far but we will eventually get better at that - and have the ability at times to go no huddle. I've thrown 110 plays before. I've run obviously fewer than that. You want to be around 70 to 72 plays. If you're controlling the clock, taking care of the ball, you'll win."

Question: Is this the least amount of plays you have run in a two game stretch in your career?

Al Borges: "Without question, but we only play three quarters of one game."

Question: Was it significant to you at all that the pass that won the game was very similar to the one that they showed earlier before the game started of Desmond Howard running that corner route and catching the ball?

Al Borges: "I didn't even think of that, but if I saw both, it would probably bring a tear to my eye right now. No, I thought it was cool. I remember the play you're talking about with Desmond, and it was awesome, so was Roy's. Roy went up and got the ball, and he got interfered with and still caught it. Now, that's competitive juice. That's impressive."

Question: What does it say about a guy like Roundtree that that was his only catch of the game and yet here he was in a big moment, he stepped up?

Al Borges: "That's the way receivers are going to be in our offense. There are going to be games that they catch a lot of passes. I haven't had one yet. Believe me, there are going to be games that they catch a lot of passes. There are going to be games that they don't catch as many passes, but you have to stay in the game. Not complaining about not getting the ball. Understand that sometimes you're not getting open or the protection there or whatever, stay in the game because you may have to make the play in a crucial situation that wins the game and he did that. Moral of the story."

Question: Does Junior Hemingway give you a different dimension than any other receiver that you have?

Al Borges: "Yeah because he's rangy. He does. He's a big, strong powerful, good hands, strong hands, can get up and take the ball away from people. We threw one ball down the middle that might have been considered ill advised and probably was a little bit where both safeties were closing it, but it was up there where he could get it. Would I coach him not to make that throw, probably but by the same token, it gave our guy a chance to make a play and Junior is good at it. He knows Junior is good at it."

Question: Had the pass to Roundtree not worked out with eight seconds left, how much say would you have had to try and run another one rather than go for the field goal?

Al Borges: "No, that's Brady's decision. That wasn't mine. Up to that point, I was just spitting out calls. But at that point, that's just Brady's call whether you want to kick ir or not."

Question: Was it your decision with eight seconds left?

Al Borges: "Yeah we're going. I'm going until he says stop. You don't have time to stop all the time and he's great about communicating, and telling you what the heck's going on. I hear people saying how come he doesn't have a headset on? I talk to him during the game so many times, and he keeps me abreast and during game management, he's on it. He may not wear headsets all the time, but I know exactly what he's thinking all the time."

Question: You haven't had a chance to take the pulse of your running game, your running back, but do you have a feel for who might be the guy you might be relying on?

Al Borges: "Fitz (Toussaint) played pretty good the first game and then hurt his shoulder. I'm hoping he's back this week. Michael Shaw showed some stuff too. The answer to that question is no. I do like some of the stuff we do, but we just got to get some rhythm running the ball and we just haven't done that with our backs. Now a little bit with Denard but our backs and you'll see it. I think some of that is going to be getting back to running a little bit more under center. Not doing that all the time but having that…we're still so much more shotgun than we are under center and as long as you're in the gun, you're tailbacks are not going to be featured as much. Maybe balancing that out a little bit, I do not know. We'll see how it goes. Like I said, I commit to nothing, because I know once the game starts things change."

Question: How valuable has Vincent Smith proven to be so far for you as a third down back?

Al Borges: "He plays probably between 20-25 snaps a game, and he is invaluable. He blocks so much bigger than he is. He has really good receiving skills. He has great football IQ, so he doesn't make many errors, and he's tough. That toughness resonates with our team, it does. They like Vince. He doesn't say anything. If there ever was a leader by example, I think Vince is that leader."

Question: You talked about how excitable Denard was at the beginning, did you have to calm him down? Did his footwork improve in the second half?

Al Borges: "No. He's always the same. He's upbeat and he's going. Every time he comes off the field, he gets on the phone and starts explaining to me and sometimes we agree, and sometimes we don't. But he's great. I told him at the end of the third quarter, I said, I'll find out if you're a quarterback now. I'm going to find out if you're a quarterback now, because we're losing, and if we've got a chance to get back in this thing, we'll make something happen here. He answered the call."

Question: What would you call your offense?

Al Borges: "If ever we were a hybrid, we're a hybrid now. I was kind of calling it that before a little bit, but we were so much more of a West Coast offense I guess. God I hate that word. If you need a label, I guess that was it. We're a mixture of spread and West Coast offense, a little bit of both. You got to use the skills of the quarterback. The quarterback has got a skill set that you have to tap and that dictates that you have to be in some looks that I haven't been in as coordinator as much. Have been in but not to the degree that we are here."

Question: Is the shotgun to non shotgun ratio about where you want?

Al Borges: "No. I would like to be under center a little bit more than we are, not a lot more, a little bit more so that we can feature our tailbacks a little bit more and take some pressure off Denard."

Question: Do you worry there is too much pressure on Denard?

Al Borges: "Oh yeah. The best teams don't depend on one player. They have that one player that can win for them. Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, John Stallworth; Joe Montana, Jerry Rice. It has never been one guy. It always got to be somebody else who has got to do something. So yeah, I worry a little bit about that. But by the same token I know when push comes to shove I want the ball in his hands."

Question: Is the jump ball something that you put into the game plan, as our best threat downfield is just throw it up there and hope that Junior gets it?

Al Borges: "No. We don't do that. There is structure. For example, the first touchdown was two vertical down the sideline off of play action pass. What happened is that we motioned to a stack O-lineman and Junior broke clean but Denard came off the play fake and couldn't see him. He got blocked a little to the left; otherwise, he would have thrown it up right now and thrown to him probably in stride. When he came off, I asked him, why didn't you get it to him right away. He said, I got blocked. He's not real tall, so some of those issues can come up with him. All he did was kind of front out a little to his right and then saw it and saw it one-on-one and so he threw outside and high and you saw what happened. It isn't how you draw it up but that one could have been. There are things that happen particularly in the passing game that you just can't account for. Whether it is protection, coverage, whatever that sometimes your quarterback has to make compensations for."

Question: Do you think you tried to hit the homerun ball a little too often in that game? Like on the second interception, there were some underneath routes that were open and he tried to string it in…?

Al Borges: "What happened on that play I think what happened we had a crack post call. The safety bit it, but he didn't see the backside safety. That happens too. We had John McColgan running a wheel up the sideline. That's just pain in the offense, just keep doing it and he'll get it. He's a smart kid. He's got a good football brain. It doesn't take a lot but he needs to body learn our offense. He's body learned another offense and ours is a little different."

Question: Did he hit the fullback on the same play coming the other way when the fullback was open on your sideline?

Al Borges: "No that was a different play. We are talking about a wheel route and the one he hit John on later was a little spider pass where we slipped the fullback in the flat."

Question: Were you surprised that Gallon was as open as he was on that last drive?

Al Borges: "Yeah, I probably was a little surprised. When you're calling plays, I don't really think about that very much. I see the result and think about the next play; 15 years ago I'd be jumping up and down, some guy would be like, ‘Al call the next play!' But not anymore, even before and I remember telling Roy Manning who does our signals. I said, if they score here quick, we're going to last three. The last three plays so get them ready. If they do not score, great, we'll win the game, but get ready. You talk about surprised or excited or whatever; you won't see me jumping up and down in that box much until the game's over. I shouldn't say that maybe once in a while."

Question: If you are in a similar situation in another game is the last three the same three?

Al Borges: "No, no-no, that changes every week. It depends on how they defend you late in the game. That's part of our film study is to see what kind of defense they are in at the end of the game. Sometimes they're not in the defense you think, but you got to have a plan for everything you do in play calling that way you can spit it out fast and you can't let the emotions of the game cloud your judgment."

Question: You said Denard was going to have to win the game in the fourth quarter if you're down, was it more so along the lines of what he was comfortable with what he did last year playing out of the shotgun?

Al Borges: "No. What he's comfortable yes, but not nothing what he did last year. We just had a certain amount of plays that we run in that situation and he knew what they were before we called them because we practiced them. The one thing about the quarterback that you got to do as much as you can anyways is don't throw too many surprises at them come game time, because he is a lot less likely to execute. Let him know what you're doing in every situation and if he is briefed well enough, he'll have half a clue. That doesn't mean he'll execute it, but at least he'll know what to expect from you as a play caller."

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