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Posted on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges knows Virginia Tech's defense well, and identifies a weakness

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team might not be that familiar with Virginia Tech, but offensive coordinator Al Borges knows exactly what he'll get from the Hokies' defense.

All he can handle.

After all, he already matched wits with Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster while at Auburn, and not a whole lot has changed since that 2005 tilt — which came in the Sugar Bowl, of all places.

Foster got the better of Borges, whose high-powered Auburn offense was held to 16 points, well off its season average of 33.4. The Tigers won, 16-13, but a message was sent by Foster.


Cornerback Detrick Bonner, left, and Virginia Tech are 14th in the nation in total defense.

Associated Press

"They’re a sic-'em type defense," Borges said last week. "By that, I mean they come after you. They come after you and try to force the issue. Very athletic.

"His defense (remains) very similar. He’s changed some things, but still very similar."

Much like his Michigan offense this year, Borges' Auburn offense in 2005 relied heavily upon two prolific runners in tailbacks Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. They rushed for 1,165 and 913 yards, respectively, that season.

Against Foster and Virginia Tech, they managed 61 and 68, respectively.

Could Foster do the same to the Wolverines' top-two rushers, quarterback Denard Robinson and tailback Fitz Toussaint, when the teams square off Jan. 3 in the Sugar Bowl (8:30 p.m., ESPN)?

Virginia Tech (11-2) is 14th in total defense this year and ranks 17th against the run, giving up 107.8 yards per game.

Conversely, Robinson and Toussaint already are 1,000-yard rushers and the Wolverines (10-2) average 235.7 yards per game, which is 11th nationally.

It'll be a battle of strength against strength.

"They’re a good team, well coached, and they’re going to give us all we want," Borges said. "Hopefully, not more than we want.”

There was one team in particular, though, that was able to find the soft spot in the Hokies' defense, and that was the lone team that beat them this year.

Clemson defeated Virginia Tech twice, and did it in impressive fashion. The Tigers won 23-3 on Oct. 1, and again, 38-10, in the ACC title game earlier this month.

Borges said he's dissected the game film from those routs, and saw one significant weakness he plans to attack.

“(Clemson) got on the perimeter a few times," Borges said. "They got in the open field on them, and Clemson’s got some pretty athletic kids. With anybody, if you can get some athletes in space, you have a good chance for success."

That could bode well for Michigan, which has excelled this year at getting to the perimeter. Robinson, in particular, could be effective in such a strategy because his terrific speed allows him to get to the outside, and Virginia Tech has lost two starting linebackers to injury.

But it won't be easy.

Foster has been at Virginia Tech since 1995, and he built that defense into the nation's best overall unit in 2005 and '06. The Hokies also led the nation in scoring defense in 2007, and have been in the top 10 in six of the past seven seasons.

They likely will add to that total this year after finishing seventh in the regular season. They tied with Michigan at 17.2 points allowed per game.

This season perhaps was Foster's best coaching job to date, considering Virginia Tech is ranked among the top 12 in the nation in most defensive categories despite losing three opening-week starters to season-ending injuries.

Borges said Foster's longevity and track record at Virginia Tech gives him an advantage against Michigan, which has implemented new schemes on both sides of the ball this year.

"They know their system," Borges said. "That’s a long time to be running what is in essence the same defense. ... He’s changed bits and pieces of his defense as he’s gone on, but those kids know it, and they know how to play it. That’s a nice situation to be in.

"He can do a lot of stuff because he’s got the kind of kids that have been in his system.”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 2:57 a.m.

The problem with Michigan they have played nobody,except Michigan State.Michigan better worry about stoping VT QB.He the Biggest QB they have ever played.They have some very good skilled people.Watch there special Teams.Should be a very good game,but Michigan better Strap it on.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 5:35 a.m.

Who did Va Tech play??


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

Something for the Michigan defense to consider.. Logan Thomas. Not an all star QB, but if the run game is successful... he'd be lethal <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Borges keeps mentioning athleticism and speed. I thought Michigan was converting to a Lloyd Carr offense and defense. Drop back converted tight end John Navarre at QB and a defense that gets rolled by Appalachia State. My Christmas wish is that Hoke and Borges have learned to appreciate speed and athleticism this year and we never ever field a team that's slower than my grandmother.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

*sigh* ... let's go over this one more time ... Of COURSE speed and athleticism are appreciated and valued. But NOT when that comes at the expense of size and strength ... particularly when playing in the Big 10. Even Urban Meyer acknowledges that. The SEC (and in particular LSU and Alabama) show how it's done -- big, strong players with speed and athleticism appropriate to the position. Appalachian State beat Michigan because Michigan sleepwalked into that game. That 2007 team thought it had all the parts to be a national champion and they took that first game for granted ... and they paid for it. Hoke won't allow sleepwalking teams.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

Interesting that there were originally comments criticizing this match up - questioning that EITHER team be playing in the Sugar Bowl this year. Seems like that particular bowl committee did a fine job with the selection of Michigan and Virginia Tech. This is one of Kyle Meinke's best articles of the 2011 season (and now post season). Just the kind of information we Michigan fans are interested in seeing about upcoming opponents. So glad that Coach Borges brings his experience and acumen to Michigan. That's not to discount that Michigan also has Mattison and Hoke - from the article, we can see that it will take all these coaches and players have on both offense and defense to ensure a victory. VT will be a worthy opponent, this looks like it will be an exciting game.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

I truly believe that this will be an exciting game. This game may get the best rating amongst all the BCS bowls, and then the haters will know why these two teams were picked.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

Okay, let me put it this way, game plans are vital of course, however if we show up and execute the game plan then we will win. Again, show up focused and we will win. I like U-M's chances a lot, A LOT! We will win this game, I can feel it, Go Blue!!!


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

I live in VA and from the first football season 20 years ago it was clear Tech had a much more loyal fan base than UVA. I don't even know if I had even heard of Tech before I was assigned here. I admire them and their team for their consistency and athleticism. Coach Beamer comes from the small town hill country of Fancy Gap, where one of the mountain tops carries his family name, &quot;Beamer Knob&quot;. He's done a remarkable coaching job there. In short I am sick of hearing about Tech every year and it would become near intolerable forever as a Michigan fan if Tech beats UM. Go Blue, stop their run, hope Denard connects his first 8 passes and really opens up their D without throwing INTs and fumbling. I'll be there in the end zone corner sec. 122, I think left of the Michigan bench as they face the field. Really UM, part of our 15,000 was end zone corner seats?


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

&quot;I'll be there in the end zone corner sec. 122, I think left of the Michigan bench as they face the field. Really UM, part of our 15,000 was end zone corner seats?&quot; That is one reason many VT fans don't buy from the university. When I went to the Chick Fil A Bowl in 2009, I bought the ticket from VT, 5 minutes after they opened. I got tickets in the EZ corner. I have heard the same from those who went to the Orange Bowl as well.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

I am a Hokie fan and I live in A2. I desperately want my Hokies to win, for fear of all the non stop trash talk I will get from my neighbors, colleagues, bosses etc. Having said that I am hoping for a good competitive game. I am worried about Denard and his athleticism, but I can assure you that Foster will try to confuse him with different looks. I keep telling my Hokie friends, that if we give Denard more than 2 minutes &amp; 1 score to win... he will get it done. The reason Clemson beat us that badly in the ACC championship was because we lost our starting corner Jayron Hosley 5 minutes into the game, and had to play a R-FR Bonner. Clemson picked on his all day and quickly went ahead. They also figured out our play calls, and shut down the run game. So, we had to abandon the run game and became a passing team, where Logan Thomas was not good enough. If Michigan does those 2 (shut the run &amp; go ahead by 2 scores) then Tech will lose.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

I'm from Virginia and yes, VT has a much larger and much more strident fanbase than UVA. But having lived there since the '70s, I only remember their fanbase becoming that large and strident around the late 90s when VT went to the championship game. Compared to UM's fanbase, they are only in their adolescence, while UM's fanbase is in its late adulthood. And both bases' act like it - VT's is younger, smaller, but louder than UM's. But UM can easily overwhelm the younger VT fanbase when needed. And on a related note, I seriously question VT's football tradition - it's potent when compared to UVA's, but quite impotent when compared to UM's.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

My wife went to the University of Virginia. She tells me Virginia has always been blase about its football team. It's never been very good. They treat football as a kind of low-brow distraction. UVa has its nose pretty high in the air about its history -- the whole &quot;founded by Mr. Jefferson&quot; and all -- and its supposed academic superiority. Virginia Tech is viewed by UVa as low-class hillbillies. I think that makes VT all the more motivated to prove the snobs in Charlottesville wrong. I agree with you -- VT has a good football tradition, and Beamer has done a remarkable job coaching there. I'm pretty sure nobody on Michigan's coaching staff is taking them lightly.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

In order to win, U-M is going to have to match the intensity of Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is a good team who is using the &quot;Nobody thinks we should be here&quot; mentality to get fired up for this game and they will be ready to play their best game of the year to gain respect. I bet they've watched the U-M at MSU game and feel they have the athletes to slow down U-M. I am rooting for U-M and think U-M will win if they come prepared and can match the inetnsity of the Hokies. It won't be easy, though.


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

Mmmmmmmm........very peculiar Meanie!! Come to think of it, there is a strinking resemblance between coach Carr and &quot;AL Borges!&quot;


Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

Good morning kids and Happy MEANday! Well, I hate to tell you but things ARE NOT what they appear to be. Is it any coincidence that Borges runs an offense called the NasCARR! Is it then possible that Al Borges is really COACH Carr in disguise? watch carefully and I'll let you decide. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football has returned from afar!! Will They roll in the big easy using this thing they call Nas-CARR!!