Brown appreciates how ‘alley fighter’ Patterson helps Michigan defense

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Shea Patterson

Ann Arbor – Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is the local purveyor of toughness, so way back in August while the Wolverines were in preseason camp, he was asked his thoughts on quarterback Shea Patterson.

Patterson had transferred to Michigan in December from Ole Miss and won the starting job in camp. Brown said at the time that Patterson had earned his respect, appreciated his starting experience and ability to extend plays, and added he was “excited” to see him play defenses other than Michigan's in practice.

Michigan is ranked No. 5 in the AP and College Football Playoff rankings and, since losing at Notre Dame in the season opener, has won seven straight. The Wolverines are unbeaten in Big Ten play and are atop the East Division standings and will face No. 14 Penn State on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

Patterson has been a big reason why the Wolverines are having a successful season.

He is ranked 18th nationally in completion percentage (67.2) and is 22nd nationally in pass efficiency. He has thrown for 1,523 yards and 12 touchdowns against three interceptions. He also has run for 145 yards, including an 81-yarder in Michigan’s last home game against Wisconsin.

But it was Patterson’s reaction after a fumble in the third quarter at Michigan State that caught Brown’s attention.

“Guy’s a warrior,” Brown said Wednesday of Patterson. “He came up and got in my face, said, ‘You get me the ball back and I’ll fix it. I promise you I’ll fix it!’ I said, ‘You got it,’ and he took care of his business. He made good on it.

“I kinda like guys like that, that’ll fight you in the alley. If you ask me the thing that stuck out to me the most, that’s probably the thing that stuck out to me the most about the guy in our first eight games. He’s a competitive guy, and he’s accountable, too.”

Michigan is seventh nationally in time of possession, averaging 34:17. That’s an enormous boost for a defense, allowing the players to rest so they can be dominant, especially late in the fourth quarter. That’s not all Patterson, but he has guided balanced production from an offense that has seen improved production from the offensive line.

The Wolverines are averaging 212.8 yards rushing and 207.6 passing. They are 12th nationally in third-down conversion percentage (47.8 percent). That kind of production helps consume time and keep the defense off the field and fresh.

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Brown said there were some moments in the Michigan State game where he just sort of stood there on the sideline, arms crossed and nothing to do. He mentioned one time when he had linebackers Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson around him.

“And I’m like, ‘Dude, that’s five minutes off the clock,’” Brown said. “That’s huge when you can go out there and sell your soul to get off the field and you’re rewarded by the offense just dominating the clock. That’s a big deal. Don’t have to score but field position and giving you the rest so you can be 100 miles an hour, that’s a big deal.

“I did this study last year on us and when we are below 70 snaps, in the 60s, we’re pretty good now. When we get into the high 70s, low 80s, that’s when trouble starts. It’s a bad deal. We haven’t been there very often (this season). Pretty happy. In the last seven games, we’re somewhere high 40s to mid-60s. Just a heck of a deal. If you asked a couple Big 12 defensive coordinators, they’d take it tomorrow.”