Michigan football: If you game-plan to force Shea Patterson to beat you, he will
Rutgers didn’t really have a chance to beat Michigan on Saturday. There’s such a huge disparity in talent between the two programs right now that the outcome was never going to be in doubt.
But it was interesting to see the approach the Rutgers coaches took when assembling the game plan. They chose to load up the box with eight — and sometimes nine — defenders, dead-set on stopping Karan Higdon and the Michigan running game. It was a pick-your-poison kind of thing.
The plan worked, sort of. Higdon, who had seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games prior to Saturday, was held to just 42 yards on 15 carries, good for a 2.8-yard average, his lowest mark of the year.
Basically, the Scarlet Knights were throwing down a challenge to Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. They were basically saying, if you want to beat us, then YOU beat us.”
Be careful what you wish for. Because that’s exactly what Patterson did.
He was very accurate all day, which is saying something considering how windy it was. He was 18-for-27 passing for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns in the 42-7 win. He was cool, calm and collected all day, and never missed a beat.
Get real, people. He’s that good. He really is.
“Shea was really playing tonight,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said on Saturday. “He looked (as) good as he’s ever looked tonight in the pocket. He wasn’t panicking, was moving subtly to get to the quiet spot. He just does everything you ask him to do. You ask him to throw the ball, he throws it. … He made some throws that were just unbelievable.”
Patterson’s first touchdown pass was a thing of beauty to Nico Collins and went for a 36-yard score midway through the second quarter to give Michigan a 21-7 lead. It was so beautiful because the Rutgers defense goofed on coverage and Collins was wide open. There wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of him.
Miscommunication in the Rutgers' secondary leaves Nico Collins wide open for a 36-yard Michigan touchdown. pic.twitter.com/ALYUgyU3SH
— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) November 10, 2018
Collins’ second touchdown showed why Patterson is so important to this team, the best quarterback they’ve had in a long, long time. He rolled out to avoid trouble, kept his eyes downfield in the end zone the entire time, broke free a second time and finally found Oliver Martin open for a 16-yard score. That’s what it showed, that he doesn’t panic and he can make plays with both his feet and his arms.
“It was good protection,” Patterson said. “We had two guys out on routes. The first one was Nick Eubanks, he had double coverage. Oliver did a heck of a job, just playing with me. Stuff broke down and I was able to get out of the pocket and Oliver made a great catch.”
“The throw he made to Oliver was great,” Harbaugh said.
In 2013, Oliver Martin helped lead an underdog Team Iowa all the way to the final four teams vying for a FBU #NationalChampionship.
— FBUNC.com (@FBU_NC) November 11, 2018
The third TD pass was also to Collins, a nice back-shoulder throw to the left corner of the end zone against single coverage. He read the defense perfectly, knew the look he was going to get and made a perfectly accurate throw that only Collins could catch.
Nico Collins caught 3 passes for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns against Rutgers.
Here's him reeling in a back-shoulder catch for his 2nd touchdown pic.twitter.com/hZRROY40Z9
— Bruce Matson (@MetricScout) November 11, 2018
The Ole Miss transfer has fit in immediately, and that camaraderie keeps getting better and better every week. His teammates love him, and so do his coaches. His physical skills pale in comparison to his mental attributes. He gets what it takes to win football games.
“You do the same drills with some guys and they don’t ever get it,” Harbaugh said of Patterson. “You do those drills with guys that really have the spatial awareness and feel and the innate ability and they can get really good.”
It also helps that Patterson never finds a moment to be too big. That’s partly because he started 10 games over two seasons in the SEC. He’s seen it all. He really, really, really wanted to be a part of this 2018 Michigan team, because he saw its potential. No one was more thrilled that the NCAA approved his request to transfer without having to sit out of a year because of Mississippi’s NCAA violations.
Rutgers tried and failed to game plan him.
Others may try, too, in the next few weeks. And the results might very well be the same.