You weren't alone if you found yourself cursing at Al Borges during the game. I've questioned Borges many times in the last two years, but I was pushed over the edge during the Ohio State game. It was 2nd and 2 with 13:46 left in the fourth quarter, and Devin Gardner had just completed yet another curl to Jeremy Gallon. Michigan could go with anything in the playbook and justify it. It's second down, and you've only got two yards to gain. Run that trick play we've been waiting for. Better yet, simply fake another curl and hit Gallon deep off of play action. Think of this, Al Borges:
That's a gorgeous play call, and unfortunately Michigan has been stuck with offensive coordinators who don't have the creativity or balls to call a play like this. Ohio State had that coordinator and consequently won the contest in 2006. The point is this: don't do something predictable on a favorable down.
Seconds later Denard Robinson trotted into the game and I grinned. I pictured a box stacked full of Buckeye defenders eagerly awaiting a run, only to be sucked in and beat deep by a 5'9" ninja named Jeremy. Robinson took the snap and.. ran up the gut for one yard. That, my friends, is the definition of predictable. Ask a third grader what he thinks a team will run on second and short, and he'll tell you that they'll run up the middle.
Michigan was still ahead of the sticks on third down, and then this happened:
Which, in turn, caused this to happen to me:
WHAT ARE YOU DOING RUNNING UP THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD WITH A RUNNING BACK BUILT LIKE A WATER BUG? WHY DID WE DO EXACTLY WHAT OHIO STATE WAS EXPECTING ON SECOND DOWN, AND THEN DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY EXPECTED ON THIRD DOWN AGAIN?! WE HAVE NOT ONE, BUT TWO EXTREMELY TALENTED AND MOBILE QBS, AND THESE ARE OUR PLAYS ON SHORT DOWNS?! WHERE ARE THE TRICK PLAYS TO ROBINSON AT TAILBACK?! ARGGGHHHHHH.
That about sums it up. Al Borges decided to play directly into the hands of Ohio State's defense, and for this he should be punished.
Greg Mattison and his defenders
The Michigan offense handed Ohio State the ball four times, yet the Buckeyes could only muster up 26 points. Braxton and company were 4-13 on third downs! The Buckeyes went into the half with 20 points, and came out with a total of 26. If Borges is fired we should take his salary and put it in a college fund dedicated to the grandchild responsible for bringing Greg Mattison to Ann Arbor. Then Mattison will reverse his defensive genius to construct an indefensible offense. All of college football will bow.
Seriously though, the defense showed up to play. Were there some mistakes? Yes. Did Jake Ryan, Jordan Kovacs and the rest of the defense play well enough to win despite those mistakes? You bet your bottom dollar they did.
The defense loses Kovacs, Demens, Campbell and Roh. Kovacs' tackling will be missed but he'll surely be replaced by a better athlete, Demens is already backed by a four-star freshman, and Campbell wasn't that good to begin with. Roh's departure will hurt the most, but Greg Mattison has replaced stellar defensive lineman before and he'll do it again. With Countess replacing Floyd and players like Ondre Pipkins and Joe Bolden developing, expect this defense to be solid again in 2013.
First half Gardner-Robinson
The two-headed monster was explosive in the first half. Gardner did things like this:
Holy crap, look at what happens when we attack on short downs!
And Robinson added this:
Gardner also had a rushing touchdown, and Michigan had itself a 21-20 lead heading into the half. Al Borges happened in the second half.
I'm not going to sit here and act as if Michigan should have won this game. They were outplayed and consequently lost. I will say this: Michigan's roster will grow more talented with each passing year, and Brady Hoke is far from done with Urban Meyer. Devin Gardner was moved from quarterback to wide receiver and back to quarterback all in one season, only to match Braxton Miller's Big Ten statistics in half as many games. Hoke, Mattison, Gardner and the rest of the team will be ready for the trash known as Ohio in 2013.