Looking back on the 35-31 win over Notre Dame in 2011, what stands out to most is the fourth quarter. The offense was able to get going just in the nick of time to erase a 17-point deficit and come up with the last second victory. Ask Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges and he’ll focus on what he remembers.
“I’m hoping its better than that,” said Borges. “Holy smokes that was awful.”
“They were so keenly aware of what Denard had done the year before they restructured their defense to kind of stop him and force the issue with the passing game,” added Borges. “We made a couple adjustments at halftime with the run game that helped a little bit but they played good too. We were still so unpolished at that time, not that we’re real polished now but we did not play at all well and they played well.”
Expect a similar defensive game plan out of the Irish Saturday in South Bend as a better than expected front seven will look to put the clamps on Denard, this time hoping he doesn’t slip out for yet another dramatic finish in this storied rivalry.
“They’ve got a really strong front seven,” said Borges. “It won’t be easy but we’ll see where we are.”
“They certainly looked good last week against Michigan State and I think they’ve looked pretty good and they looked good against us last year,” said Borges. “We’ve got to assume that we’ve got to come in with a good plan. That they’re going to be formidable and do all the things right.”
What the Wolverines do know is that having two 6-4 plus receiving targets in freshman Devin Funchess and junior Devin Gardner, as well as a productive receiving corps, will be vital to the passing attack if they hope to back the Irish off and out of the box.
“Going into camp I think that the perception was that we had lost some key players yet we knew we were working Devin Gardner at that position because we had done so much of it in the spring,” said Borges. “Then Devin Funchess kind of manifested himself. We knew he was a good player but we didn’t know to what degree, and he didn’t play much in the first game. But it became increasingly evident that he had to be a part of our passing game, and as Devin Gardner developed more in the position he would hopefully supplement some of the things that Junior had done.”
Scoring 63 points against Massachusetts and spreading the ball out the way they did should be an offensive coordinators dream. For Borges, no matter who the opponent is, it’s important for the Wolverines to focus on the Wolverines as much as possible.
“As a coach you kind of got to get away from, well, that wasn’t a strong opponent,” said Borges. “You’ve got to kind of look at Michigan and say, well, are we taking the right steps, are we putting a hat on a hat, are we fundamentally sound --- are we doing all of those things? And if they are, and I think we made some headway that way, you've got to say we got better.”
To watch video of Borges, press play below.