Shea Patterson's 'infectious energy' gives Michigan a jolt

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson talked to everyone on the sidelines during the Northwestern game, trying to motivate his teammates to rally from a 17-point deficit. It worked.

Ann Arbor — With the team trailing by 17 points, Michigan pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton looked from his perch in the press box at Northwestern’s Ryan Field at the sideline and saw quarterback Shea Patterson rallying his teammates.

All of them. Defensive and special teams players included.

Patterson led a late touchdown drive for the 20-17 win to improve the Wolverines to 4-1, 2-0 Big Ten. Michigan plays Maryland at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.

“At no point in time did Shea and his teammates blink,” Hamilton said Monday night on the Inside Michigan Football radio show. “I saw (Patterson) come off the field after one series where we went three and out, and it was probably the most animated I’ve seen him, and I’m up in the box.

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"I’m just looking down and observing and see what’s going on the sideline, and I saw Shea grab all the guys and really say something to them to help them keep their focus and know that he’s going to find a way to get us back in the game and ultimately go out and win the game. And it happened. There was never a doubt in my mind that he could get us back in the game and win the game for us, but his teammates have the utmost confidence that he gives us a chance to win any time you put the ball in his hands.”

Patterson transferred to Michigan last December from Ole Miss, so this is his first time playing a Big Ten schedule. He grew up in Toledo and attended many Michigan home games when he was a kid, though, and believes the Wolverines must embrace an every-week approach that resembles the team’s preparation for the regular-season finale against arch rival Ohio State.

“This is the Big Ten, there’s talent everywhere, and that Northwestern team, I don’t care what anybody says, they were solid, and whenever a team has a week in advance to prepare for you while you’re focusing on another team definitely gives them a certain edge,” Patterson said, referring to Northwestern’s bye the previous week, just as Maryland had a bye last week before coming to Ann Arbor.

“We’ve got to understand we have to play the same every week and approach every game like we’re playing Ohio State. Just come out firing, not starting slow on offense or defense. Just trusting ourselves and trusting the game plan and going out here and playing.”

Jon Runyan Jr., the starting left tackle, said Monday that Patterson motivated his teammates throughout the game.

“He’s a very vocal guy in the huddle,” Runyan said. “Before every drive he was getting us all fired up saying, ‘Hey, this thing is not over.’”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, a former quarterback, could relate to what Patterson experienced last Saturday at Northwestern.

“It’s a great feeling as a quarterback to have a comeback win,” Harbaugh said Monday at his weekly news conference. “His energy was infectious on the sideline and in the game. As the game got tight and needed a spark, he gave it. When it got closer, he gave more energy and took plays into his own hands at times. That intangible. He was chasing the victory in rallying his teammates. Not everybody has that. He showed it.”

Hamilton has repeatedly praised Patterson’s playmaking ability. During the touchdown drive, Patterson ran nine yards to convert on third-down-and-six and two plays later completed a 22-yard pass to tight end Zach Gentry to the Northwestern 6-yard line.

“One thing that makes Shea Patterson exceptional in my opinion is just his competitiveness,” he said on the radio show. “His ability to make plays when the plays break down, the off-schedule plays. That’s an instinct. That’s not something you necessarily coach and rehearse in practice.

“Can’t say that we’ve had the drill where he spins out and rolls to the left and then juke two guys and throw it back across the field on a deep post. That hasn’t been the case. It’s just something that over the years of having played the game and really playing it at a high level for a long time, he’s developed a skillset that makes him exceptional.”

Patterson said since his arrival at Michigan, he has drastically improved his knowledge of the game.

“Coach Pep has just been an awesome coach and role model toward me,” Patterson said. “I think after the first week I really learned how much I was going to learn about the game of football.

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“Since I stepped on campus, within the first month or two I learned about football than I have my whole entire life. Just comforting knowing I have a guy like that coaching me and just calling the plays that gives me confidence.

Patterson is 15th nationally in completion percentage (68.5 percent) and has a strong, accurate arm but can use his legs to get out of trouble. He also has learned from Harbaugh and Hamilton that while he shoulders the responsibility of carrying the offense, he’s got the nation’s top-ranked defense on his side.

Knowing that, the coaches want Patterson to understand he doesn’t have to do everything.

“I’m getting a good idea of you don’t have to do too much just when you need it and when you actually have to, then extend the play,” Patterson said. “Just growing up, playing with my brothers, that’s kind of how I was raised to play. It just comes natural. I understand I have a great defense on my side, special teams and all kinds of players around me that I don’t necessarily have to do that to a certain extent.”

Since the opening season loss at Notre Dame, Hamilton said the offense has grown and considerably improved.

What has remained consistent is his belief in the type of quarterback Patterson is and can become.

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“He has the skillset and the instincts and talent that makes him an exceptional player,” Hamilton said. “It started when he was (a kid), just going out and playing ball. He’s been the best player on all the teams he’s ever been on in any sport. He played in the Little League World Series when he was 12. He just got drafted to Major League baseball (by the Texas Rangers) and never played college baseball. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, he won the Elite 11.

“Those intangibles are … you hear people talk about the ‘it’ factor and what does that mean? Instincts and talent, and that’s what he has. And now, I feel like the time he spent with Donovan (Peoples-Jones) and Tarik at one point, but Donovan and Nico (Collins) and Zach Gentry – holy smokes, right? Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks. We’re a formidable offense. We’re still a work in progress. We have a little ways to go. We have a lot of things we need to clean up, but we have some special playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and there’s still room to grow.”

Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and the Wolverines were down 17-0 early in the second quarter before rallying to beat Northwestern last Saturday, 20-17.

Patterson echoed those comments and singled out his supporting cast on offense – from the offensive line to the running backs, receivers and tight ends.

“As long as we come out ready to play, prepare every week in practice, I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do. I don’t think there’s any team in the country that we can’t beat,” Patterson said. “It was so cool to see (running back) Karan (Higdon) day in and day out work and see how well he does on Saturday. I couldn’t be more thankful for (the offensive line). I need to take them out to dinner soon. Our receivers and tight ends it’s so comforting that you’ve got guys like Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, we haven’t had him back yet, I’m so excited for his return, Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon, I could go on all day.

“It’s just awesome to not only have them as teammates but to have that relationship off the field with them, that brotherhood, that makes our chemistry that much better off the field. It’s different when you really invest in a friendship off the field and that carries onto the football field because you just play that much harder for one another.”