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Borges: Our offensive philosophy isn't very popular these days

During last years loss to Michigan State, Al Borges admits that the Wolverines were outmatched physically across the board.

The Spartan defense held the Wolverines to just 82 yards rushing and 250 yards of total offense on the day, something that Borges knows that they have to improve on coming into this weekend's match up with the Spartans in The Big House.

In their past 19 games, the Wolverines have failed to rush for 100 yards just three times, and are 1-2 in those games. Their game against Michigan State last year (a 28-14 loss) marked the first time in the Brady Hoke era that Michigan failed to reach the century mark on the ground. Their other two games were against Virginia Tech (a 23-20 win) in their January Bowl game, and their 2012 opener against Alabama (a 41-14 loss).

Over the past five games, the Michigan run game has been impressive., running for over 200 yards in four of the five contests. Four out of the past five games (against Illinois, Purdue, UMass and Air Force) Michigan has ran for over 200 yards, During that span, the only game that they came up short of the 200 yard mark was against Notre Dame, where they ran for 161 yards against a top 25 run defense.

This weekend, Hoke and the offensive staff have put together a game plan that hopes to take advantage of a Spartans defensive scheme that will likely look similar to the one that they put together last season that successfully stifled the Wolverine offense.

"You just study their schemes and work on how to attack their schemes," Borges explained. "You've got to practice what you think they're going to do, have hopefully some good, calculated play calls that put you in some advantageous situations, hope the lesser play calls aren't disastrous so you can line up and play again."

"I've been coaching that way forever and I'll always coach that way, whether it's Michigan State or whoever. You've got to study, study, study and hope your players understand what you're teaching them. Go get them. Don't over evaluate, don't under evaluate. Let the kids play fast. That's really the key."

In today's landscape of college football of up tempo offenses, focused on getting eighty plus snaps, and putting up 50 or 60 points per game, Borges admits it's not likely that they'll put up 500 yards a game. That's just not the way that they're built. Their approach of grinding it out while trying to get the most out of every possession, taking the occasional shot at the big play, is a little different than today's norm. 

"We're not an up-tempo team. We're not likely we're to have 500 yards a game. We don't play that game. We want to make sure there's a balance in the game, keep our defense off the field. We want to run the football, convert third downs...play what Brady calls Michigan football...it's not very popular these days."

"Our plan is we want to possess the ball as much as we can, score as many points as we can but not to the point we're so obsessed with running 80 football plays that we could have three and outs that could keep our defense on the field."

Twenty points will be the magical number for the Wolverines on Saturday, and they shouldn't need eighty snaps to get to it (the Wolverines are averaging just under 64 plays per game and 34 points per game). Under Brady Hoke, the Wolverines are undefeated (15-0) when scoring 20 or more points, and winless (0-4) when scoring less than 20 points.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

 




"A lot of people say they're an attacking defense because it sounds good"

In their first season at Arizona State (5-1, 3-0), Todd Graham and his staff have stuck with the plan of playing an aggressive, attacking style of defense.

The Sun Devils are clearly getting after it each week, ranking second in both tackles for loss (nearly 10 per game) and sacks (just over 4 per game). Tomorrow's game against Oregon (6-0, 3-0) will be a huge test for them, on both sides of the ball.

Graham noted that he took a look at Oregon's film during their off week before the Colorado game, saying that while the coordinators focused on the Buffaloes, he's still a fan of the game, and that it's in his nature to be looking forward to a big game like this.

After practice yesterday, Graham explained that when they first got together as a staff, they asked themselves "who do we need to be to beat the best in the Pac 12?" and then designed their systems accordingly.

"So we designed our systems around how we think the best way to do that is. There is no doubt in my mind that there is no way that your going to beat a team as good as they are by sitting there. No doubt in my mind, they're too hard to defend."

Graham says that their defense will still be aggressive tomorrow night, but naturally won't be able to do as much because of Oregon's tempo and making sure that they can get everything communicated properly.

"I told you from the beginning that we're going to be an attacking defense. A lot of people say that just because it sounds good, but that is actually who we are."

 

 




How Andy Reid told Todd Bowles he'd be taking over as defensive coordinator

Yesterday morning, Eagles defensive backs coach Todd Bowles got the news that he'd be named defensive coordinator after Andy Reid decided to let go Juan Castillo in Philadelphia.

Bowles went through his usual morning routine, working out with a few other assistants before getting to the office at 5:30am and grabbing some breakfast.

It was then that Reid called Bowles into his office to tell him of the new direction that he wanted to take the franchise, with him running the defense for the rest of the season.

“He said he’s going to go with his gut and he felt it was the right thing to do.” Bowles said.

After serving as the interim head coach for Dolphins for the last three games of the season last year, Bowles said that he developed an understanding of the tough decisions that a head coach has to make.

“I sat in his seat for three games last year and being a head coach is not easy. You’ve got to make unpopular decisions at the time and hope they become popular. It’s no different than everybody else that has to make decisions when you’re in that seat. You’ve got to make that call. That was a call he made, and I don’t think he had any help from anybody. It’s just something that he told me.”




Wednesday TV - Games resume tomorrow night

No games on tonight, but we'll have five college games (including two D-II games) and an NFL game tomorrow night.

Eastern time listed.

NFL:

No games

College:

No games

High School:

No games




FootballScoop staff is headed west

A few months back we embarked on a Pac-12 Tour (sponsored by our good friends at Overtime Software). Off-season tour was excellent; but the coaches told us we needed to come back for a few games. Thus, this weekend we're hitting 4 Pac-12 teams...Thursday night we'll be field-level for Oregon at Arizona State and then Saturday night we'll join the fine folks at Arizona as they host Washington. No confirmed appearances scheduled yet on the worldwide leader but you never know what might happen...stay tuned. 

To get you mind right for Thursday night's matchup, take a look at a couple of stats that we found interesting...

-Strength vs. Strength: Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelley and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota currently rank 1-2 in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Each will face his stiffest test yet as Arizona State (89.4) and Oregon (107.3) also lead the conference in pass efficiency defense.

-Strength vs. Strength, Part deux: Oregon is second in the Pac-12 with 541.7 yards of total offense per game. ASU leads the league in total defense, surrendering just 272.7 yards per game.

-An area where Arizona State will try to take advantage: If Arizona State is able to pull the upset it will be because the Sun Devils consistently put Oregon in bad down-and-distance situations. Arizona State ranks No. 2 nationally by forcing 9.83 TFL per game, while Oregon is No. 102 in the country with 6.83 TFL allowed per game. Of course, when you're as explosive on offense as the Ducks are 2nd and 12 can just mean De'Anthony Thomas' latest touchdown run goes 62 yards instead of just 60.

-Score First, Score Last: Todd Graham's team is 5-0 when scoring first this season, and carries a 62-10 first quarter advantage into Thursday night. Arizona State also enjoys a 64-7 scoring margin in the fourth quarter in 2012. Meanwhile, Chip Kelly's squad has outscored the opposition 112-19 in its six games and holds a 109-28 advantage in the second half over their last four games.

-26-0: Under Chip Kelly, Oregon has never lost in 26 games played between Week 2 and Week 8 in his four seasons as head coach.

- Streaking Ducks: Oregon has the longest road winning streak in FBS (11), and has scored 30 or more points in 19 straight games - also the longest streak in FBS. Oregon is 38-2 when scoring 30 or more under Kelly.

- Stingy in the Red Zone: Oregon has allowed Pac-12 opponents only four touchdowns in 16 trips inside the red zone in 2012.

Suggestions for post-game wind-down in Tempe and Tucson are welcomed below, via email or on Twitter




Proof that defense wins games

St. Stanislaus HS (MS) and Poplarville HS (MS) staged a shootout for the ages on Friday night in Bay St. Louis, Miss.  Poplarville rallied from a 60-49 halftime deficit to win 82-80 in regulation. The 162 points eclipsed the previous of 145 points set in 2000. 

"It was pretty wild," former Itawamba Community College (MS) offensive cooradinator and current St. Stanislaus coach Gabe Fertitta told the Biloxi (Miss) Sun-Herald. "I've never seen anything like it. It was the perfect storm. The flow of the game is hard to describe."

St. Stanislaus opened the game with a touchdown and, playing without its top two kickers, attempted a squib kick that Poplarville fumbled and the Rockachaws recovered. St. Stanislaus scored on the ensuing possession, attempted another squib kick and again recovered after a Poplarville fumble. Another touchdown put the score at 18-0 before Poplarville's offense took the field for the first time. 

Plenty of players submitted a half-season's worth of offensive statistics in the game. Poplarville running back Jiquan James rushed 37 times for 401 yards and five touchdowns. As a team, the Hornets totaled 639 rushing yards and 846 yards of total offense.

In a losing effort, St. Stanislaus quarterback Tyler Allen connected on 25-of-37 attempts for 443 yards and seven touchdowns. The Rockachaws also had two running backs combine for 393 yards.

On a night when the final score resembled an NBA game, Poplarville head coach Chris Teal cited his defense's three forced turnovers in the third quarter that were pivotal to his team's comeback.

In holding the Rockachawks to just 20 points in the second half, Poplarville built a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter but didn't secure the win until recovering an onside kick with 54 seconds to play. 

St. Stanislaus, who is still searching for its first win in 2012, hopes that 80 points will be enough next week.

"We needed to score 83,'' Fertitta said. "We just didn't get the job done.''




Fitzgerald agrees to a pregame "nap time" for team

The Chicago Tribune did an interesting article last night on some of the changes that Pat Fitzgerald and the staff made to Northwestern's game day schedule for their 3:30pm ET kickoff against Nebraska in Evanston, which can be seen on ABC.

After what Fitzgerald and the staff felt like was a sluggish start against Boston College in week three (which was also a 3:30pm ET kickoff), Coach Fitz sat down with the members of his Leadership Council, and asked them what prevented them back from having a a fast start.

Players told him that the game clashed with their usual nap time.

Normally players show up at the football complex at 6:50am for meetings, followed by a practice from 8:50am to 10:30am, then they head to class and grab a nap in the early afternoon.

So Coach Fitz and the staff decided to rearrange the schedule a little bit to see if they can correct the slow start. For Saturday's match up, Northwestern will get in breakfast a little earlier than normal, and allow the players to take a brief nap at around 9:30am.

When asked about it, Fitz noted that he could hardly believe he agreed to allow a nap six hours before kickoff.

"Unbelievable. This is what I get paid to do. Seriously. Create nap time. It's pathetic."

How this one shakes out remains to be seen, but credit Coach Fitz and the staff on addressing why they started slow with the Leadership Council, and then taking their advice (however unconventional it may seem) on getting the issue resolved. 

 




"Offensive football is all about 11 guys doing their jobs"

After squeaking by Northern Iowa and Utah State, and losing a close to close game to Oregon State in their first three games this season, it seems that the Wisconsin offense is starting to hit their stride.

They have put up at least 31 points in three of the last four games, including their last two Big Ten games (Illinois and Purdue), and have held their opponents to 14 points in their past two conference wins. Last week against Purdue, the Badgers racked up 467 yards rushing, their highest rushing total since Bielema took over in 2006.

The Wisconsin State Journal points out that the Badgers (5-2, 2-1) have averaged 33.2 points over their past four games, after averaging just 16.3 points through their first three contests.

First year Badger offensive coordinator Matt Canada noted that all eleven guys were finally able to put it all together against the Boilermakers, as they averaged a gaudy 8.3 yards per carry.

"I say it in good days and bad days, offensive football is 11 guys doing their jobs. We ran the same plays, it's just 11 guys did their jobs. Nobody likes to hear that, like (there is) some magic potion, but there's not."

"I don't live in a box, but I try to in a sense. I'm very critical, good days and bad days. I think our players have understood that. We just have to keep going. You have to keep believing in the plan and where you are. You've just got to keep moving forward and grinding on the plan."

Bielema noted that one of the reasons that he hired Canada was his calm demeanor.

"One of the reasons I was intrigued to hire him, he's a pretty even-keel guy," Bielema said. "Probably reminds you of another guy that used to be in the same position." 

That approach looks like it's starting to pay off. We'll see how things shape up down the home stretch of their schedule. Their next two games are at home against Michigan State and Minnesota, and they wrap up the year at Indiana, at home against Ohio State, and then on the road at Penn State.