Getting somewhat lost in the 38-13 trouncing Michigan delivered to Wisconsin at the Big House on Saturday is that fact that it might have been junior quarterback Shea Patterson’s worst passing game as a Wolverine.
Thanks to the long-awaited pull, it was his best as a runner, but 14 completions are his second-fewest (12, Western Michigan), 124 yards passing are his second-fewest (120, Nebraska), a 66.7 completion percentage is his second-worst (62.5, Northwestern), plus no touchdowns and a season-low 116.3 passer rating, all coming against a Wisconsin secondary that was decimated by injury.
On top of that, Patterson didn’t seem particularly comfortable in the pocket, bailing out of good protection and running into at least a couple sacks against a Wisconsin D that’s struggling to get to the quarterback this year.
Granted, Michigan wasn’t throwing much in the second half, maybe depressing some of Patterson’s counting stats, but he can probably play better, and he knows it.
“It’s a day-to-day thing. Every quarterback in the country has something they need to work on,” Patterson said about scrambling away from clean pockets. “That’s something I need to harp on, and ball security as well. I’ve got to protect the ball, and each day work on something. I’m still learning, taking it play by play. The majority of the season they’ve (coaches and teammates) done a great job of giving me comfort just to stay in the pocket. That’s just part of my game, who I am as a quarterback. If I think something’s breaking down, I’m going to try to make something happen.”
It should be mentioned that Patterson at his worst is still better than everything the Wolverines were getting out of the quarterback position last year and that no one is really concerned–his game before Wisconsin, against Maryland, was his best at Michigan, but Patterson does seem to be having some difficulty separating himself from his scrambling instincts.
“Growing up, I was always trying to be a big-time play-maker,” Patterson said during media availability Tuesday night. “Since I’ve gotten here, I’m surrounded by so much talent. We’ve got an incredible defense, incredible special teams and amazing players around me, so just managing the game (is what I need to work on). The biggest thing Coach Pep (Hamilton) says is to manage the bad plays. Don’t make a bad play worse. If you can make it happen, make it happen. If not, just live to the next play. It’s just natural instinct sometimes. I threw a couple away last game. That’s progression. Understanding the situation, field position, just being a manager of the offense, that’s one thing I’m focusing on now.”
Sophomore wide receiver Nico Collins echoed what Patterson said about his commitment to improving.
“I didn’t really know all that much about Shea (when he first got here),” Collins said. “I knew he was a good quarterback. I knew he played at Ole Miss and played against some big-time teams and what he could do with the ball. I feel like he’s improved on everything. He watches film and finds things that he can do better.”
Patterson does think he’s made significant strides since arriving from Mississippi.
“Just being around our players and our coaches who have so much knowledge and have been around the game for so long, and you’re just around them 24-7, it’s definitely an advantage,” Patterson said.
Patterson got five stitches in his left, non-throwing, hand after Saturday’s game. He says the injury isn’t from impact and that it’s not limited him at all, but it was wrapped heavily with ice Tuesday, and it all points to a QB that needs to avoid hits.
But if Patterson is 100 percent healthy and playing at his best, the sky is suddenly the limit for Michigan football in 2018. With play-makers all around him (even at fullback!), an offensive line that has gone from bad to good in 365 days, the best D in the country and only one loss, Wolverine fans are dreaming big.
“I think there’s always room for improvement,” Patterson said about the offense as a whole. “We’ve grown so much as an offensive unit since week one. Early in the year we were just trying to figure ourselves out. You try to have an identity and you grow on it each day in practice and in the film room.”
If that identity keeps growing, the rest of the Big Ten, and maybe the NCAA, needs to look out.