Matt Charboneau, Angelique Chengelis and Bob Wojnowski discuss Saturday's Michigan-Michigan State game. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
East Lansing — When his teammates talk about Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, they invariably say he is steady and even-keeled.
Those descriptions were tossed around again after Patterson guided the sixth-ranked Wolverines to a 21-7 victory over in-state rival Michigan State on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
Patterson, making his first start against the Spartans, was 14-of-25 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yarder to Donovan Peoples-Jones. He also ran eight times for 24 yards, including a critical fourth-and-2 conversion early in the fourth quarter when he ran for 11 yards. That kept alive a drive capped by Ben Mason’s 5-yard touchdown run for the final points of the game.
“We knew this was going to be a big game,” Patterson said. “Hell of an atmosphere. Rowdy fans. We just had to stay within ourselves and knew the game was coming back to us.”
This was Patterson’s fourth multi-touchdown performance in eight games at Michigan. He completed passes to eight different receivers. The 79-yard pass to Peoples-Jones was the receiver’s longest career reception and it was the longest pass of Patterson’s career (at Ole Miss or Michigan).
“He’s a great player,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Patterson. “Love him as a competitor, love his talent. Just keeps amping. As the game goes on, he embraces all the pressure situations, just pours his heart and soul when he’s playing the game. Just the ultimate respect for him and the way he plays and who he is and how he competes. Competes like a maniac. Love it.”
Michigan had 395 yards, including 183 rushing against the nation’s top-ranked rush defense. The Wolverines were able to drain the clock, possessing the ball 41:03, allowing the Michigan defense to remain fresh while fatiguing Michigan State’s defense.
Along with Karan Higdon’s 144 rushing yards, Patterson was able to make plays behind an offensive line that performed well against its biggest test of the season.
“A lot of big plays by Shea today,” Harbaugh said. “The huge one, that throw was right on the money. Donovan did a great job at the line of scrimmage against the press coverage and created the space. Created more space after the release, made a fabulous over-the-shoulder catch. Their corner went for the tackle, he kicked out of it and he was gone. Great time for that play to happen in the ballgame.
“Shea, thought he was really good on all his reads and runs, maybe just one, the first third down, he could have pulled it in and maybe scored. I thought he did a fabulous job. Love him.”
This is the second straight road win for the Wolverines after they lost their season opener at Notre Dame. Trailing by 17 at Northwestern, Patterson told his defensive teammates to get him the ball and the offense would score. He did the same against Michigan State.
“Shea stayed composed the whole game and stayed even-keel with his mind and he trusted us,” safety Tyree Kinnel said. “One time he poked, right after the fumble, into the defensive huddle and told us, ‘We’re not losing this game,' and we had his back and he had our back. He played really well.”
Patterson said the keys were the long scoring drives. The Wolverines drove 84 yards on 14 plays for the first touchdown — a 6-yard pass to Nico Collins — and the final scoring drive went 84 yards on 13 plays.
“Coming into it we had a lot of confidence but when you have those long drives and you keep the defense off the field and give them time to rest, it gets you in a rhythm offensively and gives you momentum,” Patterson said.