Five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan's 42-7 victory over Rutgers on Saturday.
Patterson is the right fit
Not that anyone needed yet another example of why quarterback Shea Patterson was the missing link to taking the Michigan offense to a level that complements the Wolverines’ defense, but he provided another. Patterson was 18-of-27 for 260 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of fourth-ranked Michigan’s 42-7 victory at Rutgers on Saturday. He performed admirably in tough, windy conditions, making big throws.
“Just does everything you ask him to. You ask him to throw the ball, he throws it,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “He made some throws that were just unbelievable, put in the right spot with the wind blowing, swirling.”
Patterson had touchdown passes of 36 and 10 yards to Nico Collins and a 16-yarder to Oliver Martin. The added element Patterson brings to the offense is his ability to run. He has 187 yards rushing on 51 carries this season, but Patterson did not run against the Scarlet Knights. This time he showed he can do what’s necessary and if that means not running the ball, he’s OK with that.
Gary showing guts
Defensive end Rashan Gary stood, with some version of a shoulder brace dangling from under his uniform and demonstrated the heath and flexibility of his right shoulder by throwing air punches and windmill moves. He had missed three games because of an AC joint injury but returned for the Penn State game, and has played in the last two. There had been some speculation that Gary, a junior, might not be able to return from the injury and would choose to prepare for his next step. Gary last week said that was never a consideration.
“I’m out here with my brothers, man, I’m having fun flying around,” Gary said. “Like I said, being around these guys, they give me energy. You tell me how it looks. I’m feeling good, man. Just happy to be out here with my brothers playing football.”
Rashan Gary demonstrates how healthy his right shoulder is and Shea Patterson praises Gary for working through the injury Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
As the backup turns
When redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey, the backup quarterback, suffered a broken collarbone against Penn State, that put the Wolverines in an interesting situation regarding Shea Patterson’s backup.
Harbaugh said during the week that Brandon Peters and freshman Joe Milton would compete for that role. When it was clear Patterson would sit after the third quarter, Peters and Milton warmed up side by side on the sideline. Peters was the first in and on the first play handed off to Chris Evans who ran 61 yards for the game’s final points. Milton was next in. Sounds like this will be the approach going forward, although Harbaugh has said he would prefer not to burn Milton’s redshirt. The freshman has now played in two games and can play in two more if he wants to preserve his redshirt under the new rule.
“Wanted to get them both playing. Get them those reps,” Harbaugh said. “Brandon’s series was only one play because Chris popped the long (61)-yarder. They both need game reps as we move forward to get them ready before you need them.”
Harbaugh did not specify who is the backup. “I think the way we’re going, we like things that both can do,” he said. “We’re in that situation, just keep getting them both ready and getting them both ready to play and be ready to have them both when that need arises.”
Indiana looms next for the Wolverines, the final regular-season home game and with that comes distractions like Senior Day and players having to embrace the fact their college careers are coming to a close and this will be their final time playing in Michigan Stadium.
Then there’s the matter of facing the Hoosiers, a team that can be pesky. There’s also the matter that Indiana is the final game before the Wolverines travel to Ohio State for the annual rivalry game. Michigan has plenty on the line, a Big Ten East Division title and a berth in the conference championship game, not to mention keeping alive national playoff hopes, but could Indiana be the proverbial “trap” game? Sure, but something about the way the Michigan players have been talking and carrying themselves for weeks makes that seem unlikely.
Players stepping up
The “next man up” mantra might sound a little tired, but the Wolverines have found they have the ability to plug in players when needed with little drop off. When it was clear safety Josh Metellus couldn’t play, Brandon Hawkins stepped in to start. He was tied for second in tackles with five and was credited with a share in a tackle for loss. Running back Tru Wilson, the former walk-on who has shown this season his toughness in pass protection and his ability to run hard and gain tough yards, did so again at Rutgers. He had the second-most carries behind Karan Higdon, and finished with 58 yards on eight carries. This is what a team needs in a late-season run and that’s the type of opportunity a game like Rutgers provides. It gives veteran players a chance to rest before the final push while giving the younger players much-needed experience in the event they need to be called on.