Michigan's Patterson ignores opponents' jabs, keeps victory in his sights
Ann Arbor — Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson was driving and clawing for the 1-yard score on fourth down, fighting to keep the Wolverines’ hopes alive at Penn State last Saturday. But in that scrum as he plunged into the end zone, there was some other clawing going on.
Patterson, coming off his best performance of the season in the 28-21 loss to the Nittany Lions, shared his experiences from what he described as the most “violent” pile he’s ever been part of in a football game. He emerged with the touchdown with 8:48 left, and also with watery eyes and double vision.
He doesn’t know which Penn State player had his finger in his eye for what he estimated was a “good 10 seconds," but it was clear he had a miserable experience.
“That was not fun at all,” Patterson said Tuesday night after practice. “I was trying to reach the ball across the plane, and I know for a good while I was screaming for my life. I wasn’t too happy about that.”
He was asked if he felt that was intentional. Patterson sighed heavily before answering.
“Uh, yeah,” he said, making light of the moment and drawing laughs. “Yeah, anything you can do to help win, right?”
Patterson said the Penn State defensive players were not nasty players and said they were a “really well-coached team, very talented,” and praised the white-out environment at Beaver Stadium, but that moment was memorable.
“I’ve never been in a pile as violent as that one,” Patterson said. “Got the touchdown, but that wasn’t fun. Kid had his index finger in my eye socket for like 10 seconds. That wasn’t good.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday described Patterson’s play this season, his second as the Wolverines’ starter, as “heroic.” His teammates saw him on the sideline with his eyes watering after the touchdown and shared that sentiment.
Patterson was 24-of-41 for 276 yards and an interception and had 34 yards on 12 carries and the touchdown. He led Michigan from a 21-0 deficit and the Wolverines had a chance to tie the score late on a fourth-down play when Patterson found Ronnie Bell in the end zone, but the pass was dropped.
“Shea played lights out that game,” left tackle Jon Runyan said. “I love his composure, his leadership.”
Runyan was also impressed with Patterson’s play on that quarterback sneak.
“Shea was getting his eyes gouged out in the scrum over there, and he was still fighting away even though people were digging his eyes,” Runyan said. “Came to the sideline with tears all in his eyes because it was ridiculous people were trying to gouge his eyes out, but he kept fighting for us and we appreciate it. Awesome leader. We’ll do whatever we can to protect him because we know he has the ability to make those plays.”
Harbaugh also was impressed with Patterson’s presence in raucous conditions at Beaver Stadium. This was the first game Patterson said he was fully healthy. He had suffered an oblique injury on the first play of the season and in the loss at Wisconsin looked to have tweaked his shoulder a bit.
“I think Shea has been playing great football, heroic, even,” Harbaugh said. “Been really pleased. He’s into it. His whole demeanor in the game — confident, excited about it. He likes being in that atmosphere and playing in that big type of game. Sense it from everything about him.”
Michigan has another big game Saturday night against Notre Dame under the lights at Michigan Stadium. Patterson made his debut as the Wolverines’ starting quarterback last season at Notre Dame Stadium, a 24-17 loss. Michigan also has games at home against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State.
“I look at it as another opportunity just to go out there with this team,” Patterson said. “Only got so many of them left with these guys, and I’m going to cherish every single moment. We still have some stuff ahead of us, goals that we set out for ourselves at the beginning of the season that are still out there. Just looking forward to going out there, especially in the Big House, just go out and play another game with my guys.”
With two losses, especially the one to Penn State in a critical East Division game, Michigan is essentially out of the running for a Big Ten title. So what are the Wolverines’ goals as they sit 5-2, 3-2 Big Ten?
“Our goal is to win every game the rest of the season,” Patterson said. “I love this team. We’re all so close and we trust each other, and we love playing together. Now I don’t think there really is any other goal than to just win for us.”