Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson looks to stay hot as Wolverines battle Crimson Tide
By Joseph Salvador, Florida Citrus Sports
ORLANDO, Fla. — Back on Aug. 31, the Michigan Wolverines played their first night opener in school history. The weather was ideal, the expectations were high.
Senior quarterback Shea Patterson was poised to start the season off strong in front of 110,811 fans in Ann Arbor, against Middle Tennessee State.
On the first play of the season, Patterson took the snap from the shotgun; he was flushed out of the pocket and ran it up the middle for the first down to Michigan’s 45-yard line. Then he fumbled.
“You know, we can laugh about it now,” Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said here on Sunday morning, a full season and several months later.
Patterson ultimately led Michigan to victory that night, but the fumble was a sign of volatility to come. He was reportedly hurt on the play, and he was held under 200 passing yards on four separate occasions over the course of a 9-3 season under the first-year offensive coordinator Gattis.
“Anytime (you have a) new offense and Coach Gattis had to come in and adjust to new players and we had to learn new schemes, there’s going to be some growing pains,” Patterson told the media on Sunday ahead of Wednesday’s Vrbo Citrus Bowl against Alabama. “Right now, it’s going really well.”
“Going really well” might actually be a little bit of an understatement.
Patterson caught fire to end the regular season. In his last three regular season games, he totaled 1,055 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. And the Alabama defense — which allowed 393 passing yards to No. 1 LSU earlier this year — has shown occasional vulnerability this season.
The last time Patterson played Alabama, however, as a member of the Ole Miss Rebels in 2017, vulnerable wasn’t the right term.
“It didn’t exactly go my way,” cracked Patterson, who transferred in 2018.
The then-sophomore threw for only 165 yards along with two interceptions as No. 1 Alabama crushed his Rebels 66-3. But Wednesday has a chance to go differently, as Patterson feels he has honed his game in multiple ways since his last run-in with the Tide.
“I think the big thing is accounting for him, obviously in the run game,” Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Pete Golding said Sunday. “We’ve got to be able to contain him and keep him in the pocket.”
Patterson only rushed for 46 yards in 2019 — a chunk of which came on that very first play of the season — but he racked up 273 yards on the ground in 2018. He can gash Bama in a few ways, and Gattis, who came over from Alabama this season, probably has a few tricks up his sleeve.
A win against his old SEC foe with his new Big Ten team would punctuate Patterson’s career in a very satisfying way. It wasn’t all smooth, but he withstood injury and criticism to lead his team to the doorstep of a 10-win season. He’s the team MVP for 2019.
“I’ll go to battle with him any day out of the week,” Gattis said, “versus any team in the country.”