Patterson made Harbaugh's fourth-down gamble pay in Michigan victory

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan's Shea Patterson runs the ball as Illinois' Tony Adams (6) and Oluwole Betiku Jr. (47) close in during the second half.

Champaign, Ill. — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was confident that when the Wolverines needed a big play Saturday, quarterback Shea Patterson would deliver.

Illinois had scored 25 unanswered points to pull within 28-25 in the third quarter on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, and Michigan started its next possession from its own 21-yard line. Facing 4th and 2, Patterson got the call to make the conversion and extend the drive. He delivered with a 4-yard run to the Illinois 9-yard line.

“Just trusted the play call,” Patterson said.

Two plays later, he connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 5-yard touchdown.

The 16th-ranked Wolverines defeated Illinois 42-25, overcoming the scare and improving to 5-1, 4-1 Big Ten.

“A touchdown would have beat us, so wanted to give our offense a chance to make a two-score game,” Harbaugh said, explaining why he chose to go for it on fourth down. “Lost a game once like that in my past — I did kick the field goal.

“This time we put the ball in Shea Patterson’s hands. He’s tenacious in those kinda situations and those kinda big moments. Felt really good he could pick it up for us. The offense was hungry to do it. Made the decision to go for it on that fourth down, and the guys came through.”

More: Illinois' two-point conversion shakes Michigan's defense from third-quarter fog

Patterson was 11-of-22 for 194 yards, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another against the Illini. It was the second time this season he has accounted for four touchdowns — he ran for three and threw another in the rout of Rutgers. He also had 17 yards on five carries in the win over Illinois, with his most important yards coming on that fourth down.

“Shea Patterson had a great game,” Harbaugh said. “That was tough throwing the ball today (into the wind) and he came up with big throws. He’s got a very strong arm, throws a very tight spiral and made some big plays when we needed them. Ran the ball extremely well, so did Zach Charbonnet. I felt our offensive line gelling up front.”

Patterson has thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for four this season.

He said the wind was an issue early but didn’t affect him.

“I don’t think it was too much a factor,” Patterson said.

While Michigan slumped defensively in the third quarter, allowing Illinois to score 25 unanswered points, Patterson said it was one of those gut-check road games that builds a team.

“That third quarter we had a little bit of a swing,” Patterson said. “Roll with the punches. Call it adversity or whatever you want, we just have to be ready for anything. I was just proud of the way we were up early, there was a momentum swing, and we hung in there and stayed true to ourselves."

Twitter: @chengelis