'A whale of a game': Wolverines wallop Spartans behind Shea Patterson's big day
Ann Arbor — This one is always personal. For both sides.
There was plenty of extra hitting, an abundance of penalties, but Michigan got the knockout punt early and never let up.
Michigan, favored by two touchdowns, pounded rival Michigan State, 44-10, on Saturday before 111,496 at Michigan Stadium. The 14th-ranked Wolverines are 8-2, 5-2 Big Ten, while reeling Michigan State has now lost five straight. The Spartans are 4-6, 2-5.
BOX SCORE: Michigan 44, Michigan State 10
The Wolverines have won six of their last seven games, and coach Jim Harbaugh is now 3-2 against his in-state rival.
“Happy. Really happy,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “It’s a big game. It’s for the state championship, 112th version. Now our team, everybody that’s in the locker room has the advantage. The fifth-year seniors are 3-2, the seniors are 3-1, the juniors are 2-1, the sophomores are 2-0 and the freshmen are 1-0. That’s a big program win. Makes me very happy.”
MSU coach Mark Dantonio has had a frustrating season. The Spartans must win their final two games to be bowl eligible.
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“We work on this game all year long, to some degree, because it's an important game, but after it's done, whether you win or you lose, you must let things go and you must move to the next challenge,” Dantonio said. “And so that's what we've always tried to do. And that's what we've done in the past and will continue to do. You have to be able to do that. Otherwise, things start to weigh you down.
“Obviously you come down here to Michigan to play and it's a big game for us and we approach it that way. We always will approach it that way. We hung in there initially, and then the third quarter hurt us with the first interception and then it turned and we had an ugly, obviously, very ugly fourth quarter.”
Michigan outscored MSU 27-3 in the second half, including 17-0 in the fourth quarter.
Shea Patterson, the Wolverines’ quarterback, had an enormous day, completing 24-of-33 for 384 yards and four touchdowns. It was his first 300-yard game in two seasons as the Wolverines’ starter. He threw touchdown passes to Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Nick Eubanks and Cornelius Johnson, who gave the Wolverines their final score on a 39-yard reception.
Nine players caught passes from Patterson.
“He broke a record for the most passing yards by a Michigan quarterback in a Michigan State game, 384 and the old record was 285 by Tom Brady,” Harbaugh said. “By 99 yards. I call that a whale of a game. That’s a heck of a game by the kid. He was really good all day. Sharp in every way, seeing the field, making the throws.”
Patterson, who transferred to Michigan from Ole Miss, has been the starter for two seasons and finishes his career 2-0 against the Spartans.
“Just wish I had two more shots at them,” Patterson said of MSU. “Wish I could have started here and had four shots at them. It was a lot of fun today.”
Harbaugh told Patterson to keep the game ball, but Patterson told him he had another plan.
“I go, ‘What?’ he said, ‘You’ll see,’ and he came over and gave me the ball,” Harbaugh said. “That was neat. Went back to the locker room and it’s now in his backpack. I shoved it back in his backpack. He had a great game. That was a great game by a quarterback. It was a real gem.”
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Receiver Ronnie Bell had a big day, as well, with 150 yards on nine catches. Although he is Michigan’s leading receiver this season with 37 catches for 621 yards, he still has not had a touchdown.
Michigan had two second-half interceptions, the first coming on MSU’s first series of the second half. Ambry Thomas got his third interception of the season when he picked off Brian Lewerke, who was 17-of-30 for 166 yards and one touchdown. Four plays later, Peoples-Jones scored on an 18-yard catch for a 24-7 lead.
The Spartans added a field goal their next drive, their only points in the second half.
Michigan responded with an 11-play-drive that included a 27-yard completion from Patterson to tight end Sean McKeon to convert on third-and-23. But the Wolverines went backward and Quinn Nordin, who made three field goals, kicked a 49-yarder.
The Wolverines’ defense came up big the next MSU. On fourth-and-1, the Spartans were penalized for a false start and the Michigan defensive players launched into a celebration. Khaleke Hudson blocked the MSU punt, giving Michigan the ball at the Spartans’ 22. It took one play for the Wolverines as Patterson connected with Collins for a 22-yard touchdown.
Lewerke and MSU responded with a 22-yard pass play on the first play, down 34-10, and then threw his second interception, this time picked off by Lavert Hill. The Michigan players celebrated wildly.
“That was a big moment for us just being able to get the ball back for our offense and give us another chance to put even more points on the board,” Hudson said. “Our defense, we pride ourselves on getting turnovers and putting the offense in situations where they don’t want to be in. I feel like we did that today. We played our best ball today, and we feel great because we came out with the victory.”
Michigan converted the turnover on a 33-yard field goal by Nordin and a 37-10 lead.
The Wolverines travel to Indiana next Saturday and return home for the regular-season finale against arch-rival Ohio State. Michigan has outscored its two rivals, Notre Dame and Michigan State, 89-24, this season.
Harbaugh praised offensive coordinator Josh Gattis for the game plan.
“Josh Gattis and the offensive staff really had this game-play wired,” Harbaugh said. “They had predicted what some of the adjustments were going to be in this game and just about everyone was right. They called the plays that worked into our advantage. Josh called a great game. Same with (defensive coordinator) Don Brown.”