EVANSTON, Ill. –?Michigan trailed Notre Dame by 17 points in the first half of its season opener. On Michigan’s final drive, it was a touchdown away from completing the comeback and tying the contest. Instead, in his debut as a Wolverine, Shea Patterson fumbled, following a resilient Irish pass rush. Notre Dame would knee the ball and go on to win.
On Saturday, the same situation presented itself to Michigan’s junior quarterback. Early in the second quarter, Northwestern running back John Moten IV converted a 3-yard touchdown capping off a 52-yard scoring drive for the Wildcats.
Once again, Michigan trailed by 17 points in the first half, and needed a spark from its offense that couldn’t manage a trip inside the 30-yard line until late in the first half.
“You either lay down and take a beating, or you come together and fight through adversity,” Patterson said following Saturday’s contest.
That’s exactly what Michigan did on Saturday at Ryan Field as Patterson and his unit marched down the field late in the fourth quarter and did what it couldn’t against Notre Dame — win the game.
With under five minutes remaining following consecutive failures to score in two previous drives, Patterson stepped up in the pocket and arrowed a bullet to his 6-foot-8 junior tight end, Zach Gentry. Through a window of ball-hawking defensive backs, Gentry used his big frame to high-point the ball, make the game’s biggest play and give Michigan a 20-17 lead — the game’s final score.
“I just saw (the defense) dropping back … (Northwestern) had two high and two show, possibly cover 4,” Patterson said. “I had Gentry, 6-foot-8, over the middle … and he made a good play coming up with that.?
Patterson’s failure to capitalize on the team’s final opportunity against Notre Dame continues to resonate in his mind.
He wasn’t going to let that same opportunity slip through his fingertips again.
“You move on each week, but just being the competitor I am, I had a sour taste. I had the same chance to do that against Notre Dame and couldn?t,” said Michigan’s starting quarterback.
An offense that looked settled in previous weeks — including three consecutive weeks with over 45 points — had to find its groove again.
It took a while, but Patterson and Co. made it happen before it was too late.
“Our character got better and stronger tonight. We?re never out of a game,” Patterson told the media on the concourse of Ryan Field. “We learned tonight that we can accomplish pretty much anything if we have confidence in ourselves and believe in our teammates.”
That confidence was instilled throughout a trial-and-error second half that showed more noise during Michigan’s big plays than it did Northwestern’s. Patterson posted just 65 yards in the first half but would go on to finish with 196 passing yards, completing 62.5% of his passes.
“You play the game for these moments. I?m just proud to be a part of this team,” Patterson added. “I’m?so proud of my brothers and ours fans for showing up today. I love my brothers on this team; I love my coaching staff; and I love the fans.”
In college football, you take any win you can get. With no room for error, Michigan did what it had to in Evanston on Saturday — win.
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Relive Michigan’s victory over Northwestern