Patterson's career at UM crests with 5-touchdown performance at Indiana
Bloomington, Ind. — Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson is not one to boast or draw attention to himself, but he is often the first volunteering to shoulder blame.
These last two weeks, though, when his stat line has screamed from the box score, Patterson has essentially shrugged the praise from himself and talked up the offensive line and his receivers, his coaches, his running backs, and pretty much anybody else.
But there’s no way to escape what he’s done recently, in particular Michigan’s last two wins, including the 44-10 victory at Indiana on Saturday. Patterson was 20-of-32 for 366 and five touchdowns, three to Nico Collins, and connected with nine receivers. He had an interception late in the third quarter, his first since the first half of the Penn State game.
In the last two weeks, he has thrown for 750 yards and nine touchdowns. His five touchdowns against Indiana are the most by a Michigan quarterback in regulation and second most behind Jake Rudock’s six at Indiana in a double-overtime victory in 2015. Patterson threw for five touchdowns in a game at Ole Miss.
“He's just really talented,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We're riding him. His play has just been outstanding. He's really seeing the field well, he's taking care of the football at all times. It's rare that it's even close to turnover. He's doing a great job in that regard, really playing really disciplined football. Doing a great job going through his reads, he's getting really good protection from our offensive line, and running backs, a lot of blitzing there today.
“I thought our offensive line did an extremely good job, so did our backs in their pickups. It allowed us to make some big plays. We hit some big plays into the teeth of the blitz today, and some big conversions. And the receivers have been outstanding. Ronnie Bell, another really good game for him — it was good to see him in the end zone. Donovan Peoples-Jones, really, really playing extremely well. And Nico was just ridiculous out there today. I think the play of the offense has really gelled and all position groups are playing really well. And we're riding the quarterback. He's playing great.”
Patterson admitted to “growing pains” this season as first-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis installed the new system.
“But we made some adjustments and we’re starting to finish the way we want to,” Patterson said after the win at IU.
Left tackle Jon Runyan said Patterson is making all the right reads.
“We’ve got RPOs and he’s getting the ball out on time, not holding onto it too long,” Runyan said. “It’s kinda unfortunate we’ve had two intentional grounding sacks the last two weeks. Receivers going downfield making 50-50 balls look easy. Running game has been a little lacking, but when Shea and Nico and the rest of the receivers are on page like that, nobody can stop us. It’s awesome to watch.”
Collins had a record day with 165 receiving yards on six catches and the three touchdowns. He was targeted seven times.
“Shea believes in me, and I believe in him,” Collins said.
Like Patterson, he credited the offensive linemen for stepping up their protection.
“They’re giving Shea time for him to go through his reads, and we know when Shea has time like that we know what he can do with the ball,” Collins said. “We’re just out there having fun today. I feel like we’ve been having fun as an offensive unit since the second half of that Penn State game. I feel like we’re finally clicking. We’ve got one more game left and it’s time to finish strong.”
Harbaugh said they have put more on Collins’ plate. Ronnie Bell entered the game leading the team in receiving with 621 yards and no touchdowns, and against Indiana he finally got in the end zone with a 6-yard reception, his only catch of the day.
With his performance against the Hoosiers, Collins now leads the team in receiving with 649 yards, just ahead of Bell’s 627. Collins also leads the receivers with seven touchdowns.
“It's good to get Nico on some crossing routes, some slant routes, some deep ins,” Harbaugh said. “He's very good at it, he's a very — got a big target, big catch radius. So his assortment of routes that he's running has clicked up quite a bit. He's coming through. A lot of the deep balls, they were kind of grabbing them pretty early. He's high-pointing the ball as well as you can, doing a tremendous job on the posts, high-pointing those balls, and he's getting separation. He's just doing a lot of great things as a receiver.”
Linebacker Josh Uche, sitting to Collins’ left after the game, was asked his impressions of Collins after the three-touchdown performance.
“Man’s a beast, you know what I’m saying?” Uche said. “Everyone in the organization, we knew that. Anybody can be a practice All-American, but to see it come to fruition on game day is, like, magical. Just knowing what somebody is capable of doing and then seeing them execute is great. It’s great to see.”