The Wolverine

October 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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26 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2018 BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan's offense was ex- pected to improve dra- matically this season with junior quarterback Shea Patterson at the helm, and in many ways it has. The Ole Miss transfer was as good as advertised in the non-conference portion of the schedule, completing 46 of his 65 pass attempts for 589 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in three games. He also proved mobile when needed a num- ber of times in the early going. Patterson is his own worst critic, and he was the first to admit his mis- takes after games. He was tough on himself for taking a sack that knocked U-M out of field goal range in the first half of a 24-17 loss at Notre Dame. He also lamented an interception at the goal line against SMU, noting he had redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry open earlier if he'd just pulled the trigger. On the flip side, Patterson's five touchdown passes to wide receiv- ers in wins over Western Michigan and SMU (redshirt freshman backup Dylan McCaffrey also added one against WMU) were the team's first to receivers since Sept. 9 of last year, indicating great progress in the pass- ing game. Seven different players caught passes in the victory over SMU — and that's actually the season low through three games, another great sign for an improving aerial attack. "He's seeing the field really well," Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said after Patterson completed 14 of 18 passes for 237 yards and three scores in the win over SMU. "He's making really good decisions. Receivers are helping out a lot. … Ev- erybody was running good routes for him and catching the ball. "He's getting out of trouble and cre- ating plays when sometimes there isn't one there. He's playing the position re- ally well and making the throws when they present themselves. "He's hitting the short ones, he's hit- ting the intermediate ones and he's hitting the deep ones. … Good quar- terback play." Patterson's 70.8 completion percent- age (McCaffrey's 5-of-7 effort put him at 71.4) helped put U-M at No. 13 na- tionally through three games (70.8), and the team quarterback rating of 170.74 ranked 17th. The Wolverines weren't close to that in either category a year ago, finishing 113th in completion percentage (53.5) and 116th in passing efficiency (110.32). While there are bigger tests to come, it's clear there's been an upgrade at the position. Teammates and coaches talked throughout fall camp of Patterson's ability to escape pressure and keep pays alive, and that's one of the biggest differences from a year ago. The junior signal-caller also brings a swagger to the position that's been lacking. He knows he's good, and he plays like it. "You can tell just from walking around, he has a presence," sopho- more fullback Ben Mason said. "He's not afraid of anything, which is some- thing very important you need in a quarterback. He just has this swagger that spreads throughout the team and gives off positive energy, which is very good for a quarterback. "It's not a cockiness. He's just a very confident kid." UP FRONT IMPROVEMENT Patterson and Company know they still have a lot of work to do, but the numbers compared to last year's show improvement in plenty of areas. The Wolverines were 46th nation- ally in scoring with 37.0 points per contest through three games this sea- son — though it's worth noting last year's team averaged 32.7 in its first three games on its way to 25.2 overall (tied for 91st nationally). The biggest difference, though, is on third down. Michigan ranked 35th nationally in third-down conversion percentage at 46.0 in the non-con- A MIXED BAG The Offense Still Has Improvements To Make After The Non-Conference Slate

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