The Wolverine

October 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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66 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2018 O ur initial impression of Shea Patterson came last spring in Paris, of all places, our first chance to interact with the former Ole Miss quarterback. Patterson had just gotten word from the NCAA that he'd be eligible for the 2018 season, and the junior was extremely relieved, even somewhat emotional, after receiving the news. While standing near him and listening to him speak while covering the team on its trip to France, two things stood out: 1) He wasn't very tall. And 2) he really seemed to "get" Michigan and what it meant to have the opportunity to lead wearing the winged helmet. "How's he going to see over his linemen?" one re- porter said under his breath with a laugh, noting Patterson (listed at 6-2, but looking closer to 6-0) was shorter than advertised. Turns out he does just fine, the way he did in high school, at Ole Miss and everywhere else he's been. His ability to move the pocket and — especially — to throw on the run is uncanny, and something we haven't seen in Ann Arbor since his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, was do- ing it in the mid-1980s. One play in particular proved to be a "wow" moment, and it came in a win over Western Michigan. Pat- terson, chased left from the pocket by a defender, threw across his body on the run and found redshirt fresh- man Oliver Martin sliding on the sideline for a first down. "The feel, the depth perception, the ability to throw different types of passes … that was a dead sprint on the run to Oliver Martin, and a really nice catch by Oliver. He stayed with the route the entire way and came back and did a great job on the sideline," Harbaugh said. "But Shea drilled it in there on the dead run, to his left … that's plus- plus-plus." Patterson has proven since it was no fluke. The junior completed 70.8 percent of his passes through three games, ranking 17th nationally, and had a quarterback rating of 171.2. Harbaugh's Michigan teams have lost only one game in three years in which his QBs had an raw quarterback rating of 40 or more (after three games, Patterson's was 62.2), and it's understandable why there's still optimism about this 2018 team, even after a disappoint- ing 24-17 loss in South Bend and is- sues that still need fixing on offense. And yes, there are at least a few. The offensive line remains a work in progress. That group made strides against an overmatched Western Michigan squad, paving the way for 308 rushing yards, but struggled at times in a 45-20 win over SMU. The Wolverines had allowed six sacks in three games, a bit less than last year's pace when they gave up 36 in 13 contests, but Patterson's es- capability had a lot to do with that. He's a wizard at not only avoiding pressure, but also making some- thing happen when it looks like he's in trouble. More than anything, though, he's a leader, and he "gets" Michigan. Born in Toledo, Ohio, less than an hour from The Big House, he grew up listening to bedtime stories from his father about U-M and its tradition. His first home win, the 49-3 drubbing of WMU, was special. "It really didn't hit me until I was on the bus driving over here. I remember just being at tailgates and talking to my dad," he said. "When I ran out of the tunnel with all my teammates, I can't describe that feeling. It was emotional, but exciting as well." Harbaugh ran behind him just to watch him touch the banner for the first time. "He looked like he did a lit- tle reverse dunk, a little sugar on the flakes going up to touch the banner," Harbaugh quipped. "That was good. I wanted to see that. It's awesome when it means something to somebody." Because that, as much as any other attribute, is what it takes to win championships. Some call it old fashioned, overrated, whatever, but in a day and age in which inches literally separate wins from losses, caring about what you represent matters more than ever. We've seen it before with Tom Brady vomiting on the sidelines from exhaustion in insane heat before lead- ing the winning touchdown drive against Alabama in the Orange Bowl, and Chad Henne playing through a separated shoulder in 2007. Patterson appears to have some of the same qualities. Between that, his immense talent and defense with great potential, the Wolverines are going to have a shot to contend in a tough Big Ten East. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Shea Patterson Gives U-M A Shot Through three games, Patterson had completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 589 yards with six touchdowns and two intercep- tions while compiling a 171.2 quarterback rating. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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