Healthy, 'locked in' Shea Patterson has Michigan offense up and running

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — As Michigan heads into its final three-game stretch, beginning with Saturday’s annual in-state clash with Michigan State, quarterback Shea Patterson doesn’t have time to give any thought to his legacy with the Wolverines.

Patterson transferred to Michigan from Ole Miss and has been the starter for two seasons. He started this season suffering an oblique injury on the first play but in recent weeks has been fully healthy and that has allowed him to offer an added dimension to his game as a runner.

Shea Patterson's running ability has give Michigan an extra offensive dimension in recent weeks.

Michigan is ranked No. 14 and is 7-2, 4-2 Big Ten. Michigan State is 4-5, 2-4. Patterson helped lead the Wolverines to a 21-7 victory at East Lansing last season.

With games against Michigan State, then at Indiana a week later and the regular-season finale against Ohio State, Patterson hasn’t had time to think about legacy here. There’s still plenty of football left to add to that.

“Just been so locked in in the moment,” Patterson said Tuesday night after practice. “Hasn’t hit me that I have a few more games left here. Just focusing on this game and the next and got a big one at the end.”

He has thrown for 1,773 yards, 12 touchdowns and had four interceptions this season. Patterson also has five rushing touchdowns.

Now that Patterson is fully healthy, and really has been since the Penn State game, when, even in a loss, the Wolverines said they felt the offense finally turn, he has been an added threat as a runner.

“He’s playing winning football,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday night on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show. “Been very accurate throwing the ball, he’s been a very timely runner, picking up first downs, avoiding sacks, negative pays, getting our offense into the right plays.”

Patterson is not one to talk much about himself, but he said his improvement the last few games is directly related to his health.

“I think maybe running a little bit more,” Patterson said, when asked where his game has improved. “Even if it’s not a designed run. It’s a drop-back pass and see a lane, just getting out and making something happen with my legs.”

He didn’t need to push offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to allow him to run more. This ability is purely a function of his health.

“I was a little banged up the first part of the season trying to do what I could do and that was whatever I could do to help the team win,” he said. “None of this really changed. Started to execute more and feeling a little bit more healthy.”

There’s been the added ball security, as well. Michigan was so plagued by fumbles early in the season that Gattis joked he was going to bring in a “voodoo doctor” to rid them of this turnover curse. The Wolverines haven’t had a turnover the last 10 quarters and that has certainly allowed the offense to find its rhythm.

“Just being disciplined and not getting ourselves in bad situations, not third and long,” Patterson said of the recent upward trend for the offense. “Just taking care of the football. The run game has really helped that out and opened up the pass game a little bit. Our guys are really getting in open space.”

Michigan’s run game has steadily improved and relies on Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet as a one-two punch with Tru Wilson right there. Then there’s Patterson’s ability to draw the attention of the defense, not knowing what he will do, because he can be a threat either way.

“We know he can run and throw so that’s an added benefit,” right guard Michael Onwenu said. “If they bite down hard on a run, we can pull it and run. It makes defenses think twice.”

Patterson knows Michigan State’s front seven can be stingy and unforgiving. This is one of the more physical games of the year and with Michigan State coming off a discouraging loss to Illinois last Saturday, the Wolverines know how hungry the Spartans will be on Saturday.

“It’s definitely the most intense (game),” Patterson said. “Both sides of the ball, they’re going to get our best game, and we’re going to get theirs. The way their season is going right now, they still have a lot to play for. They’re playing for their coach, they’re playing for their fans, they’re playing for that logo on their chest, and we’re doing the same. It’s going to be a well-fought game.”

Twitter: @chengelis