View from the sidelines: This is what Michigan is capable of, and it has Shea Patterson to thank Comment Count

Ethan Sears September 9th, 2018 at 10:42 AM



There’s always the caveat, and that has to come first.


Western Michigan was the victim of an onslaught Saturday afternoon. The Broncos are a middling team in a middling conference with a defense that, after two weeks, we can safely call outright bad, and an offense that never really stood a chance.


It was Chase Winovich who provided that caveat after the game, nearly teetering over the edge of PR-friendly quotes.


“This is my personal opinion, I thought they were pretty predictable in the stuff they did,” Winovich said. “Their offense, I think, going into the game — I’d have to go back and watch — but I felt like they came in and basically said, ‘Whatever happens, we’re just gonna try to not give up that many sacks.’ Lot of max protection, lot of chipping on both sides. That’s a way to play football. Just, obviously, you see the results. I think they had like 200-something yards of offense. I just think, they were, well, I’m gonna stop myself.”


Western Michigan is the kind of team that Michigan is supposed to beat down at home in September. But 49-3 is 49-3. And if you’re nitpicking, good luck finding something to nitpick.


Shea Patterson wasn’t the biggest part of this game, but he was far and away the most important — at least as far as looking ahead is concerned.


[After THE JUMP: Why this is the case]


Last Monday, when asked about Patterson’s performance at Notre Dame it took four sentences before Jim Harbaugh mentioned how well he managed the game. To be clear, the Wolverines would happily take a strong game manager after last season. On Saturday, despite a modest 12-of-17 for 125 yards, we saw so much more than that.


Patterson, running to his left, found Oliver Martin near the sideline and deposited the ball into his hands — the kind of throw you reflexively think is incomplete because it’s so tough. Later on, it was Donovan Peoples-Jones on the receiving end of a corner route in the end zone that required a perfectly placed ball with the exact right amount of arc.


“We worked on (the concept) all week,” Patterson said. “And we have a slant outside, under, Nico Collins, trying to create the corner from the back of the end zone. (Peoples-Jones) ran a heck of a route, stem inside and then get to the back pylon. … It was kind of a routine throw.”


No, it wasn’t. But Patterson seeing it that way tells you all you need to know.


Again, perspective matters here — this was against Western Michigan, and a loss at Notre Dame probably says more about Michigan, and Patterson, than a home win against a Group of Five team. That said, the last quarterback the Wolverines had who could do stuff like that was … Chad Henne?


“The throw to Donovan probably stands out in my mind as the one that really puts an exclamation point on it, because it looked like a zero blitz — the all-out blitz, man coverage, no free safety — to start the play,” Harbaugh said. “And we thought we had really the right play called, we were bringing Nico (Collins) in from the outside receiver position from the boundary. And thought that was gonna be where the ball would go.


“And, as the play developed, I saw a linebacker drop off into that space. For him to calculate that, and then change the channel — if I was playing quarterback, that’s where I’d have been going with the ball (to Collins), reading the initial coverage. To change the channel, and go to the corner, and throw it to Donovan — make that split-second decision and then make that accurate of a throw — I mean, you’re really seeing things well.”


That’s a whole lot more than someone who manages a game well.


There are other aspects of Michigan’s game worth lauding — its defense was typically great, Karan Higdon played one of those games that makes you think he might have a solid NFL career in front of him, the Wolverines’ offensive line was atypically solid.


But two of those elements have been there for a while now. The third probably won’t show up against better competition. As for Patterson?


“In terms of how our offense played, and how Shea looked, I’d say it’s as good as any quarterback I’ve seen (at Michigan), personally,” Winovich said. And it was rare, just being on the sideline, they’re just scoring touchdowns. ... I just remember (Josh Metellus) sitting there. He’s like, ‘Man, this is nice!’ And I think the feeling is mutual on my half.”


The Wolverines won’t play a game better than this, because it’s almost impossible to do so. Saturday was the 99th percentile — it’s irresponsible to come away thinking that’s indicative — or even close to indicative — of what Michigan, or Patterson, will be.


We did get a glimpse of what Patterson can be though — and not just when the Broncos were easily beatable, letting Nico Collins take the top off their defense like it was a tupperware container.


“Second week in a row, so thought he was more in the (groove), more in charge, and look to expand that next week,” Harbaugh said. “He’s ascending.”


Watching From Afar

September 9th, 2018 at 11:20 AM ^

I mean, he was 20/30 at 7+ YPA against a good ND defense while getting pressured on 50% of his drop backs.

That's not amazing, but it's significantly better than anything we saw last year and most of 2016 and anything prior to 2nd half Rudock as well.

Yes, our level of acceptance has been dropped into a well over the years (Gardner wasn't great because he had no ribs left and Denard couldn't hit the broad side of a barn half the time) but if Shea avoids the big mistakes he is clearly capable of hitting the open guys unlike he who shall remain nameless.


September 9th, 2018 at 11:35 AM ^

I don't think you understand. Nobody is disagreeing with you that WMU blows and was not a definitive test.

There are two places you're being negged from:

1) the "just let me be happy dammit" sentiment

2) there's a lot this game can tell us. Did the OTs pick up stunts correctly? How did the safeties do on slot fades? Etc etc. Basically,  did we win the game because we did good things, or did we win just because WMU couldn't stop us even when we did bad things? And if you can't see how that's a valuable discussion, nobody can help you.


September 9th, 2018 at 2:17 PM ^

Exactly. I went into this game expecting a comfortable win (I was thinking 17-21 point win at worst) but I came away pleased.

Not because we beat up on a lesser team, but the way we did it. I wanted to see Shea making difficult throws and extending plays. I wanted to see Michigan overpowering their opponent on both lines of scrimmage. I wanted to see the OL pick up a stunt and open some holes. I wanted to see the WRs take the top off the defense and the QB hit the deep ball. 

I wanted to be able to look back at this game and see progress. See potential. I didn’t want to look back and see a repeat of Cincy or Air Force.


September 10th, 2018 at 7:23 AM ^

Yet, if Michigan had come out and struggled to score against Western, you would have been all over this board with pessimism.  Sorry, you don't get to have it both ways.

Michigan did exactly what a team with championship aspirations should do to a team of WMU's caliber.  We shook off the ND loss, came out and handled our business from the start.  That has not always been the case in games like this in recent years.  Expectations should remain tempered until we see another team of substance, but this was an encouraging performance.

Obvious troll is fucking obvious.


September 9th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

I don’t think you did that Oliver Martin play justice. It was running to his left, across his body with a Bronco in his face and it was a dart where only Martin could catch it. I am pretty sure it was third down. I was impressed he even got a throw off, I don’t remember a Michigan QB ever making that play. 

Durham Blue

September 9th, 2018 at 6:05 PM ^

The closest we’ve had in the last 30 years to a QB throwing a perfect dart on the run like that is Tate Forcier. And Shea is way better at it. I’ll say it again, Shea will be our best QB since Henne. Not gonna say better than at this point but he’s got a full season to prove it. I like his chances. 


September 9th, 2018 at 10:57 AM ^

My wife may have said it best.  After the sideline completion to Martin, she said “so we have a quarterback who can, like, do stuff now?”   Yes Babe, yes we do.


September 9th, 2018 at 2:07 PM ^



Though arm arm strength always perplexed me. I’ve lifted all my life and in my youth was pretty decently strong. If I could throw a ball over 20 yards it was essentially a mortar. 


Always thought it cool to to see a QB who doesn’t seem to have super big arms launch a ball with touch. 

Watching From Afar

September 9th, 2018 at 2:20 PM ^

I played QB growing up and baseball too. Could throw a ball about 35 yards in the air in high school but it was inconsistent and usually a duck.

Went to college, rowed for 4 years and got in the best shape of my life. Picked up a ball my senior year and I could rip it 60-65 yards with a tight sprial. 5 years later, struggling to get it 50 yards now.

If you don't have the natural ability to just launch footballs, it takes a lot of strength in your hands, shoulder and core that takes a while to develop and can vanish quickly.

Watching From Afar

September 10th, 2018 at 5:04 PM ^

I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not, but this wasn't bragging. It took me 4 years of constant work outs to get to a point where I could throw a football to a level that some 16 year olds can do without much of a problem... at the age of 22/23. Would have been nice to be able to do that in HS, but I didn't have the natural ability.

And now I can't even do that anymore.


September 9th, 2018 at 11:10 AM ^

You can 100% nitpick that Western was getting free runners at the QB all afternoon. The pass blocking was decidedly mediocre and still stands out as a problem against a real team. But like you said, take 49-3 and enjoy it in a game that a blow out is the only positive outcome.


September 9th, 2018 at 11:13 AM ^

Highlighting the sexual assault victim Brenda Tracy is a direct shot at MSU and OSU.  Too bad we don't have home games this year with those scumbags so we can't make it more personal.

Bo Nederlander

September 9th, 2018 at 11:40 AM ^

I guess I'm going to be the one with the hot take here, but Dylan McCaffrey is absolutely the future at QB and I think we'll severely out-perform Shea in college and the NFL. Seeing him play, even in the limited minutes, I can see that the kid definitely has it.