The takeaways from Michigan’s 49-3 victory over Western Michigan on Saturday are few and far between. Chief among them, though? Michigan has a quarterback. Junior quarterback Shea Patterson showed his array of skills, throwing for three touchdowns in three quarters of work. The Daily breaks down five of Patterson’s best throws from the win:
10:15 1st quarter
It was clear from the outset of Saturday’s game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and the offensive coaching staff wanted to get Patterson on the move more. That had plenty to do with his elusiveness and knack for playmaking outside of the pocket. But what really became clear Saturday was Patterson’s elite arm talent on the run, as well.
This throw came on the second drive of the game on a designed play-action bootleg. The defense, though, stays true, not buying the play-action look. Patterson uses his speed to get outside of the well-positioned edge rusher, but still faces an awkward predicament running to his left with his eyes downfield.
For Patterson, that’s not a problem.
He fires a dart across his body to sophomore receiver Oliver Martin, who’s draped on the sideline after finishing his comeback route. It’s a prime display of Patterson’s arm strength and accuracy on the run — one that makes clear why Patterson was a consensus 5-star recruit coming out of high school.
9:59 2nd quarter
On first glance, this appears to be a basic throw. There’s not much in it. Onlookers might be more impressed by sophomore receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones’ run and stiff arm after the catch.
But watch Patterson’s head move as this play continues to develop. There’s a linebacker bearing down, and Patterson is calmly going through each of his reads before delivering to Peoples-Jones in stride. He changes his arm angle to fit the throw around the leaping defender. Patterson gets hit immediately after releasing, but stands in the pocket and makes the throw anyway.
There are lots of qualities in quarterbacks that are unquantifiable until they’re revealed on the field. Toughness — the fearlessness to make a play at any physical cost — is one of them. From all indications, Patterson has that in droves.
7:02 2nd quarter
When’s the last time you saw a Michigan quarterback hit a receiver in stride on a deep route? Wilton Speight’s game-winning throw against Wisconsin in 2016 springs to mind.
That was two years ago.
This throw to Nico Collins is a relatively standard play. The safety bites on a play-action, Collins uses his speed to break free through the secondary, Patterson delivers the 44-yard pass. It sounds easy. It’s been awhile since any Michigan quarterback made it look easy.
This — as has been well-publicized — was the first touchdown from a Michigan wide receiver in 364 days, and there’s a reason for that. The Wolverines scored two more wide receiver touchdowns on the day, and there’s also a reason for that.
Patterson represents a changing of the guard at the position, from limited signal callers who require game-planning around to one who can now control the game. It’s just Western Michigan, and that certainly matters. But Patterson’s skill and command of the team jump out on film and in any conversation with players and coaches.
2:08 2nd quarter
Once again, Patterson’s mobility is on display here. It’s a designed rollout to Patterson’s right, and Western Michigan times a blitz perfectly. Patterson shows an innate ability to get the right angle to skirt onrushing defensive linemen with this play from the shotgun.
But what’s most impressive about this play from Patterson is his ability to keep his eyes downfield. The snap comes from the left hashmark, and Patterson sprints all the way across the field — nearly ending on the sideline — before releasing a dart to Peoples-Jones. He’s able to scan the field, direct traffic and complete the third-and-four all while evading multiple defenders.
There continues to be an entirely fair plea to pump the brakes on any drastic takeaways from this game, against a Western Michigan team that allowed 55 points to Syracuse.
But this — as with many of the throws on this list — is an NFL-caliber throw. For the last time before this becomes a rhetorical sentence: nobody’s doing this last year.
6:28 third quarter
Forget my words. Here’s what Michigan coach and former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh had so say about this play.
“It was really good, 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. And we thought we had really the right play called, we were bringing Nico 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, 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.”