ANN ARBOR, Mich. ???In a 49-3 dismantling of Western Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor, two names stuck out most in the passing game, Shea Patterson and Nico Collins.
Patterson, in the second game of his Michigan career, had more hype to live up to than any other Wolverines player, following his polarizing transfer from Ole Miss to Michigan.
Collins, though not like Patterson’s, had his fair share of expectations to live up to. That outside noise hit a million hertz when the Alabama native, slated to be a rotational receiver, had to replace the injured Tarik Black and become Michigan’s top deep threat.
Both individuals took the field against Notre Dame last Saturday with preconceived hype, large expectations, and a whole lot to lose.
They connected once against Notre Dame on a deep ball that felt like a promise of things to come, despite the final score.
One week later, that hype and those expectations got an answer in the form of a touchdown when Patterson found Collins for 44 yards, the first score caught by a Michigan receiver in 364 days.
— Michigan Moments (@UofMMoments) September 8, 2018
Though both players didn’t know about the drought, it was a special moment that signaled a sign of things to come from two of the offseason’s most talked about players.
“It was my first touchdown in The Big House, it’s something I can talk about forever,” Collins?said to the media following the team’s win. “Plenty more to come.”
Patterson, when asked about the play, pointed right to Collins, recognizing his 6-foot-4 target’s ability beyond just his frame.
“That one felt good, that one felt really good,” Patterson said. “Nico did a great job taking the top off and getting over the safety … the safety bit and Nico did his job.”
A connection that’s already becoming a deadly one, Collins has caught four passes for 110 yards and a touchdown from Patterson so far in the young, two-game season.
Though they connected just once on Saturday, that was mostly due to Michigan’s consistent effort to pound the run game, which finished with 308 yards on 35 attempts to Patterson’s 125 yards on 17 attempts.
The QB-WR duo should continue to connect, as Collins trusts they have a special chemistry. It all stems back to January, when Patterson first arrived on campus.
“When Shea came here in the spring, that’s when we started connecting. We were trying to find chemistry since spring ball … ever since then, we’ve become closer and closer,” Collins said. “We just have fun. We’re teammates, we have a brotherhood connection. On the field, off-the-field, we have fun.”
According to Collins, their chemistry isn’t going anywhere, and neither is his confidence in Patterson.
“Shea is always comfortable, but, today he knew the o-line gave him time,” he said. “He stayed back, and put it in there.”
That connection, along with a 451-yard day for Michigan’s offense, has the defense noticing that the offensive woes of past might stay there thanks to its quarterback’s improved play.
“In terms of how our offense efficiently played, and how Shea looked, I’d say it’s as good as any quarterback I’ve seen here,” Senior defensive end Chase Winovich said. “He’s?the?guy. Today was just another day at the office for him.”
Michigan will play another lowly non-conference opponent next week at home in 0-2 SMU. Again, it should call for a game where Jim Harbaugh keeps it simple and pounds the run game in what should be a rout.
Make no mistake, when the big games come — Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State — the Wolverines will need a big play. It’s something Harbaugh teams have been missing in the big games, especially the ones they’ve lost.
When it comes time to dial up that deep pass, surely, it will be drawn up to go from Patterson’s right arm to Collins’ two gloves.