Al Borges won't shy from run game against Michigan State's league-best rush defense
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan's offensive game plan the past two weeks hasn't been hard to figure: Run a lot, and pass short when going to the air.
It's been highly successful.
Also, somewhat predictable.
Purdue and Illinois weren't able to counterpunch, even though they knew what was coming. Perhaps the Big Ten's No. 1 defense -- and No. 1 rush defense -- will be more capable of stuffing something they know is coming?
Offensive coordinator Al Borges doesn't care. He plans to stick with what's working Saturday against Michigan State (3:30 p.m., BTN).
"We're going to do what we do best," Borges said. "It's a coordinator's job to make sure there's never a situation where a defense can literally say, 'Here it comes.' Whether it's disguising your looks, disguising the action in the backfield, whatever.
"But the one thing you don't want to do is get away from what you do best, knowing at times you will have to add some counterpunches to that. But we are what we are."
What 23rd-ranked Michigan (4-2, 2-0) has been is a nightmare for defenses the past two weeks.
The Wolverines revamped their offensive game plan after the five-interception, six-turnover debacle against Notre Dame, and proceeded to score 44 points two weeks ago against Purdue, then another 45 last weekend against Illinois -- and they did it methodically, running the ball straight at both defenses.
Michigan rushed the ball 105 times in the two games, after rushing 144 times in the first four games combined. Defenses knew what was coming -- and the Wolverines still averaged 6.3 yards per carry in the two games, and racked up 657 rushing yards.
The ground assault means Michigan also is passing less -- quarterback Denard Robinson has attempted just 27 passes the past two weeks -- which has enhanced ball security. Robinson has zero picks in the past two games after throwing eight in the first four.
The flip side of that steady run game: Michigan is hanging onto the football, racking up a 68:25-51:35 edge in time of possession the past two weeks. That means, of course, its defense is not on the field nearly as much as it was early in the season.
Michigan allowed 13 points against Purdue and zero against Illinois.
"We are not an uptempo team," Borges said. "Although we can facilitate that, we are not an uptempo team. I won't say never, but it's not likely we're going to average 500 yards a game. We don't play that way. We want to make sure there's a balance in the game, keeps our defense off the field.
"Our philosophy is we want to possess the ball as much as we can, score as many points as we can, but not to the point where we're obsessed with running 80 football plays. ... That's the way we play, that's the way we're going to play, and hopefully we can keep doing it well."
Michigan State, though, should prove to be a tougher challenge than the Boilermakers or Illini. It is allowing a league-best 91.3 yards per game on the ground.
Strength on strength.
Borges isn't backing off, even though the Spartans have had success shutting down Michigan in recent years, including the past two against Robinson. He averages 3.3 yards per carry as a starter against the Spartans, well off his career average of 6.2 yards.
"Michigan State does a good job as anybody does, but you still can't abandon what you do best because of the other team," Borges said.
"You study their schemes and work on how to attack their schemes. I don't know any other way to say it, without giving anything away. ... You got to study, study, study, and hope your players understand what you're teaching them and go get 'em. Don't overevaluate, don't underevaluate.
"Let the kids play fast -- that's really the key."