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October 29, 2012 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-10-29

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28 - October 29, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

SPOrTSMON DAY COrMN
Borges, Beilomy and offensive predictability

INCOLN - Al Borges is
no fool.
The Michigan football
team's second-year offensive
coordinator is an avid history
buff by night and a kingpin of
quarterback developmentby day.
He groomed
future
NFL first-
round draft
picks Cade
McNown
at UCLA
and Jason
Campbell at STEPHEN J.
Auburn. NESBITT
The jour-
neyman coach
Borges came
to Ann Arbor with Michigan
coach Brady Hoke 22 months
ago tasked with perhaps his big-
gest challenge yet: Transitioning
the Wolverines from the spread
offense back to its pro-style roots
while still catering to the skill set
of dynamic quarterback Denard
Robinson, a speedster built for
the spread.
That duality birthed what
Borges dubbed the "hybrid
pro-style offense," a temporary
mish-mash of shotgun, sweeps
and I-formations that nobody is
built for.
And nobody is built to watch
it, either. It's been a painful split
between elation, when Robinson
slings a perfect screen or dodges
between defenders, to anxiety
when he tries to settle in the
pocket, tries to set his feet and be
a regular quarterback.
Has it worked? Sure, it's
worked some. Michigan has
managed a 16-5 record since
Borges took the reins of the
offense.
But it's hard to ignore that
something isn't there.
Michigan has failed to score a
single touchdown in three games
this fall - losses to Notre Dame
and Nebraska and a victory over

room at halftime to regroup.
His first drive of the second
half followed the same pattern:
Rush, pass, pass. So did the next
one. And the next one. And the
next one.
That sequence spanned the
entire third quarter, when the
Michigan defense was somehow
keeping game within a score.
That "unpredictable" rush-pass-
pass pattern is only unpredict-
able if you've got the defense
over-guessing on Bellomy like on
a multiple-choice bubble sheet.
(I've had like six 'C's in a row, so
this one can't be a C, right?) Gee
dangit, it was a C every time.
The fourth rush-punt-punt
drive, though, broke the pattern
because the incomplete pass on
third down was salvaged with a
pair of 15-yard penalties against
the Cornhuskers. That 30-yard
penalty equated to Michigan's
second-longest offensive play of
the game and was twice as long
as Bellomy's longest gain.
In the fourth quarter, Borges
decided to shake things up. So he
ordered up a deep ball to catch
Nebraska sleeping. Well, the
defense had been doing nothing
but bringing pressure on Bellomy
and sticking somewhere in the
same zip code as his receivers.
Bellomy lofted a pass down-
field, a few yards short of his
intended target and straight into
Nebraska safety Daimion Staf-
ford's arms.
The game plan didn't work. It
just didn't.
But on Tuesday, when Borges
sits down for his weekly press
conference, he'll likely say that
he wouldn't go back and change
anything, like he says every
week. He'll say the players just
didn't execute.
Borges is no fool, and that
would be foolish.
- Nesbitt can be reached
at stnesbit@umich.edu.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Bellomy struggled in his half under center for the Wolverines, though the play-calling and receivers didn't do him favors.

Michigan State. Yes, thank your
lucky brunettes that redshirt
junior kicker Brendan Gibbons
powered a touchdown-less
Michigan squad to victory over
the Spartans.
The last time the Michigan
football team went without a
touchdown in three different
games was in 1962. That quarter-
back was Bobby Timberlake, not
Denard Robinson.
The Michigan offense has
carried drives into opposingter-
ritory six times in each of those
touchdown-less games this
season. That's 18 optimal drives
for the good guys. None of them
have finished in the end zone,
and only half of those drives have
ended with field goals.
The drives have entered the
red zone nine times, penetrated

the 10-yard line six times. But
none got further than the three-
yard line, that's where you'll find
the brick wall.
You can criticize the players,
you can praise the defenses and
you can make excuses. But at
some point you have to take a
look at the play calls.
There was a simple pitch
to senior running back Vin-
cent Smith at the 10-yard line
against Notre Dame. Smith had
a man open in the end zone, so
he tossed it ... well behind the
receiver and into the arms of a
defender.
There was Michigan run-
ning 10 plays in five trips to the
red zone against the Fighting
Irish and only passing once. If at
first you don't succeed, run, run
again.

There was a third-down give
to Smith with Michigan down 10
points that ended ina loss of four
against Nebraska.
Some of the calls just make
you shake your head.
And then there's the Bellomy
matter.
After Robinson was knocked
out of the Michigan-Nebraska
game in the second quarter
on Saturday, Hoke and Borges
turned to little-used redshirt
freshman quarterback Russell
Bellomy to lead the offense.
It got ugly fast. Like turn-off-
the-TV ugly.
Bellomy completed three
passes to his receivers and three
to the Nebraska secondary. His
final stat line read 3-for-16 pass-
ing for 38 yards and three inter-
ceptions.

Borges, also the quarterbacks
coach, didn't have a game-
ready quarterback behind the
injury-prone Robinson. A one-
possession deficit never felt so
insurmountable.
Granted, Bellomy got no help
from his receivers, who came
down with a case of the dropsies
as they are wont to do with Bel-
lomy at quarterback. But the
Michigan offensive scheme, com-
pounded by the limited playbook
with Bellomy under center, was
downright predicable.
Hoke swore it wasn't.
"I don't think so," Hoke said.
"I know what Al changes up for-
mationally, and, no."
I beg to differ.
Bellomy's first drive: Rush,
incomplete pass, incomplete pass,
punt. They went into the locker

Bellomy struggles
at QB in primetime TT

4

I

By LUKE PASCH to do well, studies. He does all the
Daily Sports Editor things that a quarterback should
do. He's going to be fine."
LINCOLN - This past off- Regardless of how Bellomy
season, Michigan backup quar- wanted to play, he was miser-
terback Devin Gardner started able in the spotlight. He finished
lining up at wide receiver in the contest a horrendous 3-for-17
practice, and a redshirt freshman passing, with three interceptions.
quarterback named Russell Bello- Granted, a few of his throws
my was thrust into the limelight. were dropped - redshirt junior
With memories of his solid receiver Jeremy Gallon dropped
spring game performance still two passes and freshman tight
fresh (and Gardner's abysmal end Devin Funchess dropped
performance), there was specula- another - but on others, happy
tion that Bellomy would move up feet led to throws that were well
the depth chart to the spot behind off the mark. The running game
behind starting quarterback didn't help out much, either, as
Denard Robinson, especially if redshirt junior running back
Gardner wasn't practicing under Fitzgerald Toussaint continued
center full time. to struggle this season.
Sure enough, early in the sea- Some credit has to go to
son, Michigan coach Brady Hoke Nebraska's defense, which
tapped Bellomy for possibly the brought a lot of pressure, and Bel-
least desirable job promotion this lomy doesn't have the experience
country has to offer: backing up nor the speed that Robinson has
one of the most dynamic players to counter that.
in the history of college football. Still, Bellomy lacked any sem-
Yes, the safety valve for the Wol- blance of pocket presence, as he
verines' all-time leader in total was sacked twice and made some
offense is now Bellomy, an unher- questionable reads on the option.
alded recruit out of Arlington, The quarterback is supposed to
Tex. who Scout.com ranked the be a viable backup option, yet he
39th-best quarterback in the high crumbled under pressure.
school class of 2011. Excluding the series in which
Basically, if Bellomy is in the he entered the game for Robin-
game for any moment that isn't son, Bellomy didn't complete a
garbage time, it's bad news for an single pass over the next four
offense thatrevolves almost com- drives, not until the final min-
pletely around its quarterback. utes of the third quarter. And
Still, coaches sang Bellomy's the 12-yard reception by fullback
praise in the preseason. Offen- Joe Kerridge was only possible
sive coordinator Al Borges was because a pair of Nebraska penal-
unwavering. Bellomy is apparent- ties on third down the previous
ly a bright kid who understands play extended Michigan's drive.
the offense and hits his throws in Bellomy's teammates didn't
practice. say a whole lot after the game.
Robinson went down in the It's hard to find the rightwords to
second quarter against the Corn- sum upa performance like that.
huskers on Saturday, aggravat- "I'm sure it's not the situation
ing nerve damage in his elbow that he would've dreamed of for
that was affecting his grip on the him in his first significant playing
football, and Michigan's offense time," said fifth-year senior Pat-
became stagnant immediately. rick Omameh. "But he stepped up
In the red zone, Bellomy kept the when he had to and did his best
ball for a one-yard gain and then when he was in there."
threw a pair of incomplete passes, Hoke said after the game that
and Michigan had to settle for a he expects Robinson will be
field goal before the half. ready to play next week. And for
"He seemed like he was pretty an offense that has not scored for
good," Hoke said. "I mean, Russ is its last eight quarters of football,
very competitiveoHe really wants that's good news. %)

4

Michigan coach Red Berenson and the Wolverines wonon Friday and lost an overtime finish to Miami (Ohio) on Saturday at Yost Ice Arena.
Early-season home games need
to turn inopoints for Michigan

ed Berenson's not the
type to call a game a
ust-win if it isn't one,
and that's exactly how the
Michigan coach referred to his
team's 4-3 loss to Miami (Ohio)
on Saturday.
"We're in the CCHA right
now. We're
playing for-
first place,"
Berenson
said. "We're
trying to be
as high as
we can, and
Miami is too.
These games MATT
are huge. We SLOVIN
split these
games at
home. You can't do that. You've
got to win your home games....
It's not acceptable."
The three crucial league
points that the Wolverines are
going to so badly need in a mat-
ter of months slipped away ina
matter of seconds in the series
finale - 161 of them, to be exact.
"We can't get these points

back in March," junior defense- season, the Wolverines finished
man Mac Bennett said. "Every with a sub-.500 record in true
weekend we play ... we want to away games. This was a major
take all the points that we can. missed opportunity for Michi-
That's goingto sting a little bit gan to become the pacesetter in
but, like I said, we've just got to the CCHA. Instead of staring
pick it up." down at all but lone conference
It wasn't so much the fact that unbeaten Notre Dame, the Wol-
the third-peri- verines are
od lead evapo- now jockeying
rated - the for position
2-1 advantage "W e can't get with, well, just
never felt safe about every-
- but rather these (lost) one.
the alarming Michigan's
speed with points back in schedule is
which it did. front-loaded
Michigan M arch." with home
hardly had games this
time to react year. That
before it's one- means the
goal advantage turned into a Wolverines can't afford many
two-goal deficit. It wasn't insur- missteps like they suffered Sat-
mountable, but it would've taken urday night. If they can't hold
the firepower that the team serve, they can't possibly expect
across the rink showed instead to make up the necessary ground
to overcome. in the second half whenthey
As Berenson noted, Michigan play a stretch of four out of five
has to protect its home ice. If his- series on the road.
tory is any indication, this bunch Next weekend gives Michigan
won't be road warriors. Last a chance to do what it couldn't

last year - win on the road.
Marquette, Mich., where the
Wolverineswill face Northern
Michigan twice, is a strange
place. Goaltenders turn into box-
ers like Shawn Hunwick did last
season. Points are hard to come
by. Last year, the Wolverines
took only two out of six in Mar-
quette. And this year, Northern
Michigan is much improved
from the mediocre team it was
last year. There are no easy
points the rest of the way.
And when the road games are
a crapshoot, split weekends just
don't get the job done at home.
Split series don't win CCHA
titles. Ferris State, last year's
champion, lost just four games
at home all year. And this is the
earliest Michigan has lost two
games athome since 2001-02.
The Wolverines simply aren't
accustomed to losing at Yost.
If they make a habit out of it, it
could be a long first half to the
season.
- Slovin can be reached
at mjslovin@umich.edu

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