Shea Patterson has only been at Michigan for two years, but that didn’t seem to matter.
The question — What went wrong in the third quarter — lingered in the air for eight seconds, then nine, before Patterson muttered his response.
“I don’t have anything for that,” he said, his voice cracking as he shook his head. As Patterson held back tears, it was hard to feel anything but sympathy. He grew up in the epicenter of this rivalry, a Michigan fan from birth. When he transferred two years ago, it was with the promise that he could be the one to lead the Wolverines past Ohio State — something they hadn’t done in six tries up to that point.
Now, that streak is at eight, with Patterson’s two shots at the Buckeyes ending in blowout losses. Michigan’s traditional seniors at least had victory within their grasp as freshmen and sophomores, but they too leave winless. Only a meaningless bowl game now separates them from the end of their college careers.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” Patterson said, sitting beside sophomore running back Hassan Haskins at the podium postgame. “What we do all year leading to this game is for them. We know it’s an emotional game. Luckily Hassan’s got a few more shots at them.”
Implicit in his comments is that Patterson and the rest of Michigan’s seniors don’t.
That doesn’t, in and of itself, make their college careers a waste. Patterson has 19 wins in his two years here. The four-year seniors have 37. Those, like fifth-year senior Jordan Glasgow, who have been here for Harbaugh’s entire tenure have 47.
“I don’t think this result should have been the result that we should have seen,” Glasgow said. “But it’s the one that we have. We just gotta live with that.”
On Saturday afternoon, though, living with that was easier said than done.
All week, these same seniors emphasized the importance of this game. The national championship and Big Ten title hopes that they arrived with four years ago were gone, but beating Ohio State — just once — could cure all.
“I just love playing in these big games,” senior guard Ben Bredeson said Monday. “There’s no bigger stage in college football than Ohio State-Michigan. That’s why we all come to the respective schools is to play championship football and with that, play each other, be a part of the greatest rivalry in college football.”
A week later, that opportunity has been evaporated into history, joining relinquished championship hopes in Michigan’s latest lost season.
It’s a feeling that five generations of seniors have now had to put into words. For five years, they’ve taken to a podium — whether in Ann Arbor or Columbus — and been asked how it feels to leave Michigan without a win over their biggest rival. And for five years, there hasn’t been anything new to say.
“Wish I could’ve got a couple wins in it,” safety Tyree Kinnel said after last year’s 62-39 loss. “That’s the toughest part. I’m gonna have to sleep on that the rest of my life, that I was not able to win in this game.”
A year earlier, John O’Korn fought through tears to deliver the same message.
“The hardest part for me is that you come here to win this game,” O’Korn said then. “And our senior class wasn’t able to do it.”
Now, it comes from Patterson and Glasgow and Bredeson. All took different paths to get here, but all entered Saturday with one chance to etch their names in Michigan history.
Instead, they leave with an eight-game losing streak in their wake.
“Definitely really frustrating, especially for the seniors,” said senior tight end Sean McKeon. “It’s just kind of the same thing every year.”