Derrick Green had 11 carries against Central Michigan and 10 against Minnesota, but just one in the Notre Dame and Akron games. (Tony Ding / Associated Press)
Ann Arbor Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges took two days during the Wolverines' bye week and examined every bit of the offense, from personnel and scheme, to play-calling and coaching.
Borges wanted to find ways to improve after a 4-0 start that featured 12 turnovers and inconsistent offense.
He liked what he saw from the offense, particularly the lack of turnovers, in last Saturday's 42-13 victory over Minnesota. And as the Wolverines prepare to play at Penn State, he knows there's plenty of room for growth.
"We took a step in the right direction," Borges said Tuesday before practice. "We're not anywhere close to where we want to be still."
The top priority was eliminating turnovers, which the Wolverines accomplished.
Then he wanted to take pressure off quarterback Devin Gardner by developing support from the running backs. Fitz Toussaint and freshman Derrick Green took care of that.
Michigan only ran 52 plays Minnesota had a time-devouring first-quarter drive and as far as Borges can remember, this was the first time in his career he's never called a pass in a first quarter.
The Wolverines ran the ball also to give the newly reconfigured offensive line a chance to settle in after Graham Glasgow moved from left guard to center and Chris Bryant entered the lineup at left guard.
"(We) wanted to give the line a little inertia, get 'em going," Borges said.
He also wanted to give Green a chance to get going early in the rushing attack. The coaches wanted to get Green into earlier games, but the Akron and UConn games were too close to insert a player with little college game experience.
"We had to take pressure off Fitz -- he was carrying too much of the load," Borges said. "He's in fabulous condition, but even at the end of the UConn game, he was running out of gas. We've got to get Derrick in the game and get him in early before it gets tight. If the game gets tight we get scared to put a guy in there who maybe doesn't understand the blitz pickup as well or does something any young guy would do. We decided we were going to put him in early. We committed to doing it."
Toussaint has said he wanted to share carries.
"I've always liked the featured back, (but) we were almost over-featuring Fitz because of the way the games were going," Borges said."To get another kid in there, and see what (Green) can do, particularly a talented kid like that, there's nothing wrong with that.
"He's a big ol strapping kid who can run. He has great feet for his size. He's a powerful guy. You have not seen the best of him yet."
Michigan ran for 113 yards on 35 carries against Minnesota.
"We ran the ball efficiently," Borges said. "We ran the ball better than we showed in the statistics. It was a point of emphasis."