Al Borges: Fitz Toussaint 'helped us win the game like a guy who has a sacrifice bunt'
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan unveiled a new offensive game plan against Purdue that seemed to be geared toward eliminating the risk for turnovers, especially in the passing game.
The Wolverines, coming off a four-interception game at Notre Dame, ran on 14 of their 17 opening-drive plays. They rushed 28 times in the half, and when they did pass, it was typically short to intermediate attempts.
There was only one longer attempt, and Devin Gardner scored a 23-yard touchdown on it.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges wouldn't say whether the game plan was intentionally "risk averse," nor whether that will be the game plan going forward. He said he simply was taking what the defense gave him.
"I just know this: At the end of the day, we have to have enough equipment in our offense to counterpunch," Borges said Tuesday. "It's hard sometimes -- as a playcaller this comes up a lot too -- you can see pretty quickly what's being overdefended and what's being underexecuted. And that's where your bottom line is, with regard to adjustments in playcalling.
"If it's overdefended, you need to counterpunch. But if it's underexecuted, you have to stay with your plan. You have to hope, 'OK, we missed this block,' but you can't just go south on what you practiced all week, otherwise it turns into helter-skelter."
One example of this philosophy is Michigan's usage of tailback Fitz Toussaint.
The junior is in a season-long slump, and had one of his worst games against Purdue. He finished with 17 carries for 19 yards, and eclipsed 1 yard only five times.
But Borges said that was a product of Purdue overdefending Toussaint, which allowed quarterback Denard Robinson to rack up 235 yards.
"There's no doubt," Borges said of Purdue overdefending the tailback. "If you watch the tape, they were following Fitz all over the field. Fitz had very few good running opportunities in 17 carries.
"It was a good news and bad news, to be honest with you. We pulled a couple zone reads for Fitz and Denard was wide open up field. It wasn't like it was bad, it just didn't make Fitz's numbers look very good.
"He helped us win the game like a guy who has a sacrifice bunt to help you win the game. That was kind of the way they decided to defend us."
Toussaint rushed for 170 yards last year against the Boilermakers, and were determined to prevent a repeat, Borges said.
And that's OK with him. He'll take what the defense gives him.
"We're best when we can threaten two ways," Borges said. "Now that doesn't necessarily mean both guys have to rush for big numbers every game. That seldom happens. But if one guy doesn't get big numbers and another guy does, usually it is a result of how they decide to defend you, at least in part.
"People will overdefend certain phases of your game and make you play left-handed. That's how most people defend, is they say, 'OK, let's see what they do best, let's take away what they do best, or what scares us the most, and then make them play to their weaknesses.'
"And I think that happened a little bit. Not that running Denard is a weakness, but from their perspective, from what happened a year ago, they were just keenly aware of Fitz."
Borges said he was "a little bit surprised" Purdue elected to prioritize the tailback over Robinson -- the league's all-time rushing leader at quarterback -- but he doesn't care much about that.
His goal simply is to churn out yardage, and Michigan racked up 304 of them on the ground, a season high.
"Everybody comes back, 'Well (Toussaint) didn't run very well,'" Borges said. "He ran fine, the opportunities to run just wasn't much there. But there was a lot for Denard.
"The reverse could happen this week."